Showcasing technical excellence for women in collision repair
Not too long ago, I had the privilege of attending the Team Canada meeting with Skills Canada in Ottawa, as the Director of the CCIF Skills Program. For the first time ever, we are making history by having all-female Team Canada representation. Ashley Weber from Manitoba will represent Canada in the Car Painting Competition, and Vyolaine Dujmovic from Quebec will represent Canada in the Autobody Repair Competition. These dynamic young women will be participating in the 2017 WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi in October 2017.
In his opening comments at the meeting, Shaun Thorson, CEO of Skills Canada, congratulated the competitors and also shared good advice regarding the amount of time, effort and energy training required for the WorldSkills event. He mentioned that there are two kinds of competitors— some who think they are better than they are and are surprised to see the level of talent they are competing against, and those who don’t realize how good they are and how much talent they possess. These are the competitors that often seem surprised by their success at the National level.
Ashley and Vyolaine are extremely talented, and very humble about their success. As champions at Skills Canada events, they have demonstrated their passion and skills, and they now have a great challenge ahead of them—to prepare for an intense event, competing on the other side of the world against competitors from 75 member countries and regions. I know they will both do well.
I was excited to offer my support to Ashley and Vyolaine, and see them connect to support each other on this exciting journey. I will be providing support to both of these young women, and to the Canadian experts and trainers that will be helping them prepare and train, over the next 13 months.
Over the past 10 years, a major shift has occurred. In 2008, exactly zero competitors in Car Painting and Auto body events were female. Today, female representation is up to 50 percent at some events, and at the National level this year, one-third were women. During this shift I have had the pleasure of meeting these women and, for some, to mentor, provide encouragement and support, and be a source of information and career advice. There are past Skills Canada female competitors who are now working in the industry across Canada in a multitude of roles and businesses. It’s exciting to see their careers unfold as they find their path.
As an experienced female in the collision repair business, I urge experienced industry people to take the time to reach out to young people entering our industry. Whether you realize it or not, they look up to you. You are their example and, for women in senior positions, you are proof that there is a place for women in our industry. Share your time generously, make connections and support the next generation of women. I can tell you from experience that the support you provide is invaluable, and it’s a great feeling to be able to watch them succeed and make their dreams a reality.
My advice to young women entering our industry:
Believe in yourself! Your only limits are those you place on yourself. Seek out mentors; ask for help and advice when you need it. We have great people in our industry— male and female—who are willing to provide the support you need. Dream big and make your career aspirations come true.