Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and IGNITE Worldwide recently brought together high schools in nine states for a virtual panel featuring a group of incredible women working in the automotive and motorsports industries. As part of UTI’s effort to diversify the workforce and increase recruitment into the skilled trades, it has also been hosting in-person events for high school girls at its network of campuses, and offering $100,000 in tuition grants.
During the virtual panel, students heard from moderator Kristin Labonte, president of Breaking Limits, panelist Sophie Fox, CEO of Women & Wheels, Madison Conrad, vice president and engine builder at Roush Yates Engines, Jennifer LaFever, vice president at Roush Yates Engines, and Brooke Ulrich, regional facilities and equipment service manager for Home Depot. The women talked about their education and career paths, the future of women in STEM and some of their challenges along the way.
“When I was in high school, I applied for an automotive technician program. And my family discouraged me because they said it wasn’t for women,” said Fox. “But if you have that passion, that spark, go for it. In 51 weeks (at UTI), you will have taken that first step to fulfilling your dreams.”
“Women and non-binary people are on such an accelerated track for growth in traditionally male-dominated careers and industries,” said Ulrich. “We are closing the gap. In STEM industries, women are now being welcomed, invited and promoted, instead of just tolerated. We’re finally at a place where we’re beginning to understand what women can contribute and the future looks better than ever.”
Currently, workforce demand in the transportation sector is significant nationwide, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating there are approximately 84,000 new openings each year for automotive, diesel, and collision repair technicians¹.
“We know that a diverse workforce benefits employers, employees and the economy, and we’re constantly working to diversify our student body in order to meet the demand for skilled workers,” said Universal Technical Institute CEO Jerome Grant. “Through alliances with organizations like IGNITE Worldwide, we’re able to raise awareness about the career opportunities available to our graduates, and offer tuition grants to further help girls and women pursue a rewarding, lifelong career in the transportation industry.”
Grant eligibility is extended to any female or female-identifying student who attends an onsite or virtual IGNITE Worldwide event. Tuition grants can be used toward UTI programs at any of their 12 campuses located across Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and are offered at the following levels: a $25,000 grant; a $15,000 grant; a $10,000 grant; and 22 $2,000 grants. The application deadline is April 29, 2022.
“IGNITE Worldwide has been working to achieve gender and racial equity in STEM for more than 20 years,” said IGNITE Worldwide CEO and Founder Cathi Rodgveller. “Currently, women represent just over 1 in 4 STEM workers, but we strongly believe all girls deserve equal access to STEM education. By bringing girls together virtually and in-person, we’re promoting economic equality and workforce development, and connecting IGNITE students with role models who live and work in their communities.”
¹ Job openings include openings due to net employment changes and net replacements. See Table 1.10 Occupational separations and openings, projected 2020–30 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, viewed March 9, 2022.