Women mechanics are becoming an increasingly familiar sight in the automotive industry. It’s about time. For years, automotive repair work has traditionally been dominated by men.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 there were 19,236 female auto mechanics (2.1 percent of all auto mechanics) and a total of 130,174 women in the automotive repair and maintenance field. In addition, women account for 9.7 percent of the 1,342,000 total employees in the auto repair and maintenance industry in the United States.
In contrast, in 1999 there were only 12,000 female auto mechanics out of 837,000 total mechanics. So, in 1999 only 1.4 percent of auto mechanics were female, while in 2018, 2.1 percent of auto mechanics were women.
Now, as the doors slowly open for women in the profession, many women are putting the pedal to the metal and blazing their own paths not just as mechanics, but also as repair shop owners.
They include women mechanics, technicians and auto repair business owners like Patrice Banks, founder of Girls Auto Clinic in Philadelphia, PA, Stephanie Lopez, a 29-year-old mechanic and owner of Woosters Garage in Weston, WI, Gwendolen McCloud, founder of the website My Pink Garage, which is designed to help women learn about car repairs as well as training schools, and Angela Blumer, a former diesel truck mechanic who currently works as a Program Representative III Supervisor for the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s (BAR’s) San Diego/Oceanside Field Operations and Enforcement Division.
Each of these women have found the automotive and repair industry a rewarding profession on many levels. “I’m encouraged by the uptick of female automotive technicians and women-owned businesses in the industry,” said Blumer who worked in the automotive field for eight years and for 25 years at BAR. “Women are realizing they can earn a good living in the automotive profession.”
Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow six percent between now and 2026 as the number of cars on the road increases too. Even with the proliferation of electric vehicles—which generally are lower maintenance–service technicians will still be needed to provide brake pad replacements, oil changes, tire rotation services and the like.
It just makes good sense for the automotive industry to reach out to women who are qualified and want to enter the profession, particularly when you consider women account for nearly 53 percent of all new cars purchased each year. That’s more than a $200 billion market for new cars and vehicle maintenance.
Women interested in pursuing careers in the automotive industry or opening a repair shop have many training and licensure options. Several community colleges throughout the country offer training classes. You can find more information on Trade School Future’s website.
BAR, which licenses repair shops, also offers specialized license options for businesses and individuals who perform Smog Checks and brake and/or lamp inspections.
Here are some tips courtesy of Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) that can help put you in the driver’s seat and on the road to success in the automotive repair industry.
GET CERTIFIED: You’re not required to have Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification to own a shop, but without it, you might find it substantially more difficult or expensive to obtain liability insurance and find financing for your new business. ASE certification gives car owners confidence and can be an especially important marketing tool. Before you qualify to take the certification test, you’ll need a minimum of two years of work and educational experience combined, with at least one year obtained on the job.
TO SPECIALIZE OR NOT TO SPECIALIZE: ASE certification is broken down into 16 different specialties with Master Technician status available in: Automobile, Collision Repair—Medium—Heavy Truck, School Bus and Truck Equipment. You can also specialize in repairs for specific car manufacturers or types of repair. If you specialize, you might earn a reputation as the best garage for brakes, but you lost out on a lot of other business. Before you open, you need to know the scope of the services you plan to offer. If you want to specialize, you’ll need to do some serious market research to make sure there is enough demand to support your new shop. If you plan to perform Smog Checks and/or or brake and lamp inspections, you’ll also need to obtain the proper BAR license(s).
KNOW THE STARTUP COSTS: Before you spend a dime opening your shop, you need to know the total projected cost to get up and running. If you don’t, you might run out of funds before gaining your first customer. While it is impossible to project certain costs ahead of time, the most common and expensive line items are easily predicted. According to Appointment-Plus, the total cost is right around $47,000, in equipment, insurance, and rent. Buying a building and making alterations can significantly change that number, depending on construction costs. Choosing to buy an existing auto shop can also affect the bottom line.
GET LEGAL ADVICE: A lot more goes into opening a business than just finding a location and serving customers. You’ll need to obtain a city/county business license, look into the regulations surrounding liability insurance requirements, open accounts to handle payroll and tax reporting, file your articles of incorporation, and other pre-sale steps. A lawyer is invaluable during this process, helping you ensure every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed. You don’t have to retain a lawyer, but it can save you from a lot of mistakes along the way.
SET UP INTERVIEWS: If you have a small shop, you might do all the work yourself, but you will probably still need at least one employee to handle telephone calls and customers. If you have a couple of lifts and want to maximize your capacity, you’ll need additional mechanics to help service vehicles. The hiring process should start at least a month before your grand opening. You’ll want enough time to check references, find the best candidates, and negotiate compensation packages.
GET THE WORD OUT: Marketing is another big part of opening the doors. Be sure to schedule a Grand Opening, so locals can stop in and see the shop. You might want to advertise special discount pricing for that first day or week, just to bring customers through the doors. You’ll also want to have a standard service list of pricing and a shop rate finalized, so you can estimate your revenue potential.
To learn more about training and licensure requirements for automotive repair businesses and professionals, visit BAR’s website.