Automotive branches out

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By Heather Terry / Staff Writer

In the shop (Alejandra Rodriguez / Staff Photographer)

By Heather Terry / Staff Writer

Riverside City College offers many opportunities for students to succeed, including applied technology programs such as the Automotive Program.

When people think of automotive, they might think of ill-tempered grease monkeys in navy jump suits trying to over-charge for changing brake pads, but the atmosphere at RCC is quite different: a small, yet noisy auto body shop with an array of students working on different projects, smiling and having a blast.

But why should anyone consider taking this kind of course at RCC?

One student, Cody Anderson, said he researched programs at other colleges but chose RCC where he can earn an associate degree upon completion of the program.

“The instructors have the experience as well as the schooling,” he said. “They really know their stuff. I love what I do here.”

The enthusiasm spreads beyond the students.

“I enjoy what I do,” said Paul O’Connell, one of the program’s instructors. “I really enjoy teaching. I like to pass the information on. I like the look on a student’s face when they finally get something. It’s nuts.”

As for the average type of students studying the course, O’Connell said that the program is geared toward all different walks of life.

“It’s crazy,” O’Connell said, “I have students who have owned shops, I have students come in who have been technicians for years and then I have students come in who have never done anything more than drive a car. We promote anyone who comes into this class.”

Another student, Angelina Alcantar, was one of the few female students working in the room.

“I’ve always liked cars since I was younger,” she said. Alcantar now works for Honda, but one day wants to be a full-time technician.

“Hopefully become a master tech and then go towards the racing scene,” she said. “My long-term goal is racing and being on a pit crew. I would really love to be a crew chief one day because there are no women crew chiefs.”

“They’ve never treated me any different,” Alcantar said of being a woman in the program, “which I loved.”

The instructors have noted an increase in women enrolling in the program.

“We’ve seen a huge increase of females in the automotive program,” O’Connell said. “In my Auto-50 class there’s 40 students and 13 are female, which is pretty high. We’re looking around the 30 percent range of females being in the class. Five years ago that number was probably 10 percent.”

So why the spike of women in the automotive industry?

“Now it’s more acceptable,” O’Connell said. “The stigma with women working on cars has gone away.”

Alcantar offered her thoughts on the matter.

“In the majority of the classes I took here I was the only girl in most of them but now I see a lot more girls coming in, so it’s awesome to see that,” she said. “As time goes by it’s becoming more like, ‘oh, we can do that?’ type thing.”

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