A women’s organization founded at a leading automotive and diesel mechanic trade school is trailblazing in the skilled-labor workforce.
LARAMIE, Wyo., June 14, 2022 — Students at WyoTech, a leading auto mechanic and diesel technical trade school, decided that coeds needed to better support one another and did something about it. Kate McDougall and Cavin Hall — student life coordinators at the school — founded the Women of Wyotech (WOW) club on March 1 to give women at WyoTech a place to come together in what is a largely male-dominated field. WOW supports female automotive, diesel, and collision and refinishing students with shared interests to show each other that they are not alone.
“The club got off to a slow start,” according to McDougall. “The very first Women of WyoTech meeting had only three girls show up. We weren’t sure yet how we wanted to shape the club or if it would be successful. But we didn’t want to give up on it. We were determined to find a way to get the club going.”
Despite the slow start, improved organization and fund-raising efforts helped the club gain momentum and recognition, as it currently has 15 students involved. McDougall coordinated with WyoTech instructor Melissa Woodburn to schedule initial meetings and assign club officers. Today, WOW provides a place for the automotive school’s increasing population of female students to prepare for careers in the skilled labor workforce. This initiative is of particular importance to the club’s founders as, currently, men constitute 96.4% of the auto mechanic industry.
“The arena is still male-dominated, but women are beginning to see that this is an excellent career path that will allow them to follow their passion of working on cars and trucks,” said Cindy Barlow, Director of Industry Relations at WyoTech. “This industry provides amazing wages, benefits and tuition reimbursement programs, as well as tool incentives from different companies to kick-start their careers.”
The industry has taken notice of the students’ spirit. Billion-dollar transportation services company Penske has expressed plans to send representatives to meet and talk with WOW members and has invited the club to attend their dealership opening in Greely, Colorado, this summer. United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company, sponsored a dinner for the club and is arranging to send team members from its all-women-run dealership to encourage and speak with WOW members.
George Arrants, ASE Education Foundation Vice President, also met with WOW members via Zoom. He offered valuable advice to club members and presented an opportunity for students to apply for the FedEx TMC Future Tech team; four WOW members have applied.
WOW meets regularly and works to make sure members are benefiting from initiatives. The club has hosted numerous events, offered CPR and Title IX training, and is working to create a scholarship for future tradeswomen.
It’s not all work, however. Local off-road racer Jeremy Jones invited WOW to tour his Laramie shop to check out specialized automotive and automotive-repair equipment and learn about opportunities in off-roading. The club has a whitewater rafting trip planned for June.
“Stereotypes will always exist. You can either spend all your energy trying to avoid them by being something you’re not — which is a stereotype itself — or you can use them to your advantage,” said Amber McGowan, Diesel Instructor at WyoTech. “It’s OK to like baking, shopping, or whatever, as well as tearing engines apart. There are no rules saying otherwise.”
Barlow believes WOW is a sign of things to come, saying, “Women are looking at the trades in a different way and seeing the career potential they provide. We’re seeing this growth and excitement right here at WyoTech.”
For more information, please visit https://www.wyotech.edu.
WyoTech, formerly known as Wyoming Technical Institute, is a for-profit, technical college founded in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1966. WyoTech provides training programs that prepare students for careers as technicians in the automotive and diesel industry with nine-month training programs that focus on hands-on experience.