There was a healthy discussion recently on our website about a young woman who was debating whether to pursue a career in collision repair or graphic design. She said she loved art but also cars, so she reasoned that perhaps she could combine the two by doing auto body work. But she was afraid of how she might be received in a male-dominated profession, and she was also concerned about the health risks.
The comments that were doled out as advice to her ran the gamut, from “run as fast as you can in the opposite direction” to “you can still make a great living in this industry.”
It brought me back to my own concerns at the tender age of 19 when I applied for a parks job. I think I had read too many Stephen King novels at that point, because being that it was a blue collar job, I thought most of the guys probably wouldn’t have college degrees and thus would harass me as a “college boy.” When I expressed these concerns to the boss, he said, “If anyone ever does that, you come to me.” Fortunately, I never did have to come to him.
I was also concerned about the danger of working with heavy machinery. Again, probably because I read “The Mangler” by Stephen King where a guy gets dragged into an industrial drycleaning machine.
In the end, everything worked out fine, and I look back at it now as one of the best jobs I ever had.
One thing I know for sure: if this young woman does decide to work in auto body, she’ll make a heck of a lot more than I did as a park maintenance worker. And as long as she wears her personal protection equipment, she won’t have to worry about her health. She’ll have to roll with some of the jibes she’ll get as a “newbie,” but that sort of comes with the territory.
I tell young kids all the time what a great opportunity this industry offers. But it’s going to take involvement and commitment from shops to nurture them along.