Jacqueline Nanney has not seen the interior of a classroom for about 10 months. But the senior at Maplewood High School in Nashville, Tennessee, is still taking classes to learn how to be an auto mechanic.
“It’s as close as it gets, this system here. You’re still working on cars, just computer-wise,” Nanney said, as she walked through her school’s virtual auto shop. “You move a mouse. , but she always guides you through the things we will learn in school. ”
Since the pandemic closed the physical workshop in Maplewood, students have been performing vehicle checks through an online simulator. It’s all part of an effort to address a nationwide shortage of mechanics, while propelling more women into auto repair.
Nanney is one of three young women participating in the Bridgestone-sponsored Maplewood High School Automotive Training Program. There are a total of 24 students in the class. They are expected to graduate in May.
Nanney also works part time at a Firestone Complete Auto Care retail store. She said she is motivated to show that women are strong enough to be mechanics.
“You don’t see a lot of women physically working on cars. That’s why I chose him, ”Nanney said. “Some people have their own opinions on why some women shouldn’t work on cars.”
Overall, with retirements and growth within the industry, the National Automobile Dealers Association estimates that 76,000 technicians need to be replaced each year.
“There are so few people in our field, or in the pool, so we have to provide that ultimate salary, as well as benefits as well,” said Chuck Bowles, regional manager at Bridgestone Automotive Company.
Bowles said it was difficult to recruit more women into the industry, but becoming a mechanic is an opportunity for them to make a lot of money, especially if they have families.
“We try to give them everything they need to function as a mom and as a teammate at the same time,” Bowles said.
On average, he said, entry-level workers at Bridgestone can start at around $ 15 an hour. At the high end, he said, employees can make $ 100,000 per year. This is in addition to the accumulation of paid leave, maternity time and vacation days.
But still, even for women who work in the automotive field, many do not work on cars.
“If you look around the dealerships, you’ll see women, but you’ll see them doing the writing of the service,” said TJ Williams, Maplewood Automotive Instructor. “There are occasions when you will see a few women working in the store.”
Williams, who has been a mechanic for 40 years, said she hopes the training program will help change that.