Perhaps a baby picture of Northern Maine Community College student Candace Whitmore sitting on a toolbox with a wrench in her hand was an indication of what the future would hold for her. A 2015 graduate of NMCC with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology (AT) and a current student in the Diesel Hydraulics (DH) and Automotive Collision Repair (ACR) programs, Candace has many childhood memories of being around tools, cars, and heavy equipment. For several years, Candace and her father have worked on automotive projects together including repairing engines and restoring an antique truck. This interest led Candace to enter the Automotive Technology and Large Equipment Maintenance and Operation (LEMO) programs at the Caribou Regional Technology Center (CRTC) when she was in high school.
While participating in the LEMO program at the CRTC, Candace had the opportunity to complete various projects for businesses in the community including Cary Medical Center, local farmers, and area schools. These experiences sparked Candace’s interest in diesel hydraulics. “I loved operating the equipment.” Candace knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the AT/DH field and believed that receiving an education at the CRTC would help prepare her for college.
Candace chose to study at NMCC because the college offered the programs she wanted to pursue. Candace recently decided to study ACR where she hopes to demonstrate her artistic abilities. “I love to draw. I want to learn how to airbrush; I want to paint a car and make it look good.”
In regards to career goals, Candace would like to open a shop with her father, who is also a student at NMCC studying Automotive Technology. Candace believes that having knowledge and skills in AT, DH, and ACR will increase her marketability with potential customers. “People need car repairs. I can do the internal work, but would have to refer the customer to someone else for the outside work. Why not learn ACR and do both?” Candace would also like to own a truck for service calls.
Currently completing a two-year internship at the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) in Caribou where she fixes trucks, plows, and other road equipment, Candace reports having a positive experience.
When discussing her experiences in her programs, Candace speaks very highly of her instructors. “My teachers are very understanding. They want to genuinely help their students and are passionate about what they do.” She reports that her instructors will show students tasks in a way that meets the student’s learning style and needs.
Candace is a hands-on learner. Not only does she enjoy working on cars, but she also likes the knowledge she is acquiring about new technology that is being used in the field. In April, Candace had the opportunity to travel to Detroit, Michigan where she and her peers toured many different facilities. “It was a great experience. There are a lot of opportunities there.”
Throughout her studies, Candace has earned inspection licenses in automotive, commercial, and trailer, as well as a heating and air conditioning 609 certification, an OSHA 30 card, and seven automotive service excellence (ASE) certifications from the Automotive Technology program.
Candace recognizes that there are challenges that come with being a female working in a trade. “The most difficult thing about being in a non-traditional field is that people will doubt you.” Candace has become discouraged when people question her ability to perform tasks, reporting that men have asked her how much she weighs and if she is able to do a job. “I learned very early on that you have to assert yourself if something bothers you, but to do so in a professional way.” Candace enjoys demonstrating her abilities, especially if someone is doubting her. “There is nothing more satisfying than when people are surprised by what I have accomplished.” Candace also offers advice to those who may be taken aback when seeing a female in a trade. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Candace considers her size to be both a challenge and a strength. She reports that sometimes it is difficult to reach objects, however, being small has its benefits. “I have small hands and I can fit where a man can’t.” Candace feels that women are detail-oriented when completing projects, another strength that women can bring to the field.
Candace offers advice for females considering a trade or technical career: “Choose something you are passionate about. If you enjoy what you do, don’t let anyone take that away from you. Don’t give up on your passion. If someone is doubting you, prove them wrong. There is no better feeling.”