Milwaukee, WI, March 15, 2012– Working in a field dominated by men, Margie Stewart has proven she can get her hands dirty, too. According to the Department of Labor, there are about 799,000 automotive technicians in the United States—only 1.8 percent of them are women.
Stewart is among them.
Currently employed at Milwaukee Area Technical College, she is the only female Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) instructor in the nation.
The ASSET program consists of a partnership between Ford Motor Company, local dealerships and participating community schools and colleges. Students receive on-the-job training while earning an associates degree in automotive technology.
Stewart first learned about the program from her shop teacher, a Ford enthusiast, while in high school. After graduating from ASSET and working at Gordie Boucher for nine years, she began teaching the program full-time at MATC.
The choice to become a Ford ASSET instructor was a natural one for Stewart. She grew up around Ford vehicles and her father was also a mechanic. When her parents urged her to attend a traditional college, Stewart insisted that she wanted to turn wrenches instead.
While most of the workforce might groan as their professions evolve over time, Stewart said it’s one of her favorite things about her position.
“I am always rewriting the curriculum from year to year because technologies are constantly emerging,” said Stewart. “We are training students to work in dealerships that can fix today’s cars.”
Some of those technologies include SYNC—Ford’s voice-activated system to keep the driver’s attention on the road—and inflatable seat belts, designed to cover five times more of the body than traditional seat belts, just a few features she covers in her favorite accessories class.
Stewart says the evolution of fuel-efficient vehicles has also become a core component of her instruction. Ford’s Ecoboost feature, which receives up to 20 percent better fuel economy and releases fewer CO2 emissions than other engines, requires a specific training, as the fuel pressure is significantly higher.
“The engine management is a little bit different to get the fuel economy consumers are demanding,” Stewart said.
Students are required to receive certifications in both hybrid and diesel models. Stewart’s students got a first-hand look at the hybrid design in 2004 prior to its release in 2005 in preparation for the technology’s fuel-saving popularity. ASSET is also one of the few programs that teaches students about diesel.
For those young women thinking about following a non-traditional career path such as Stewart’s, she advises they just go for it.
“The stereotype of the traditional greasy mechanic needs to change. There are women out in the industry now making that change. Women have several advantages over men—they appeal to their female customer base, in general, have smaller hands to get in tight spaces.”
“And pink nail polish covers up any dirt that might be under your fingernails,” Stewart joked.
“Yes, you might have to deal with a prejudice or two, but it is so rewarding to see a vehicle being hauled in on a tow truck, and when you are done with it, the customer drives it away.”
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit http://corporate.ford.com.
Contact: Elyssa Shapiro