Last year, Bonnie Greenwood, a former student at WyoTech in Laramie, Wyo., and currently a diesel technician at FedEx Freight, became the first woman to win the Technology & Maintenance Council’s TMC FutureTech National Student Technician Competition.
The competition was held in September by the TMC and ATA. The annual event includes a competition for professional technicians (SuperTech) and students (FutureTech).
Greenwood’s grand champion victory wasn’t just significant in the history of the competition; it is also an indicator of the larger role women are going to play in the industry moving forward.
With technicians in short supply around the U.S., companies in the autobody and mechanical repair industries have gone to great lengths to attract, train, and retain new techs. There has also been a concerted effort to recruit more women into the field.
“Women are capable of anything, especially when we set our minds to it,” Greenwood says. “People keep asking me why I chose to enter a male-dominated industry. And to be honest, that fact wasn’t even on my radar. I wanted to enter an industry in which I saw opportunity, variety, stability and satisfaction. I am proud of who I am and if winning TMC FutureTech helps this industry to further accept women amongst its ranks, then I am also proud to represent this cause.”
“We have a massive technician shortage, and we’re not going to solve it by leaving 50 percent of the workforce off the radar screen,” says Jennifer Maher, CEO and executive director of the TechForce Foundation, which co-sponsored the competition. TechForce encourages student participation in the automotive repair trades through scholarships, grants, and career development. “Having women represented in the industry and having variety of diversity in the workforce is beneficial to companies. You think differently, and you get different points of view and different ways to solve problems.”
Winding career path
Like many women, Greenwood had not received any previous encouragement to participate in the trades, and her path into the automotive repair industry was a long and circuitous one, to say the least. The Georgia native had enough Advanced Placement credits to start college as a sophomore in 2006, and earned a bachelor’s in wildlife biology. After college, she worked as a math tutor, a substitute teacher, and a bartender before working her way up to management positions in the hotel restaurant and banquet services sector.
She then went to work with the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska before landing in Wyoming and working in the banking industry. “I eventually found myself sitting at a desk behind a computer and realized that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Greenwood says. “I talked with family and friends and figured out what I liked about each job I'd had in the past and what my strengths are and led myself to WyoTech [Laramie].”
Greenwood liked working with her hands and opted to pursue the diesel technician program. The coordinator of the diesel program asked Greenwood and two other students to represent the school at the FutureTech competition. She was sponsored by FedEx Freight (the company hired Greenwood after she completed the WyoTech program).
Greenwood won both the electrical diagrams and torque stations of the competition, in addition to being named the overall winner.