LAS VEGAS — Jennifer Maher's passion can't be ignored.
As TechForce Foundation CEO she is pushing hard to be sure the next generation of auto care technicians have the education, resources and support to achieve their goals.
"It's all about trying to pave the way for the next generation to try to find an education and a career that fits them," Ms. Maher said. "I also think that a big part of this is the momentum that (we) build around the message that tech and skill trades need to come back in America."
It was for the passion and dedication exemplified in her work throughout the auto care industry, that Women in Auto Care presented her with the Woman of the Year Award on Nov. 5 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. The annual awards night, which also included presentations for the Woman in Excellence and Female Shop Owner of the Year awards, was held in conjunction with AAPEX.
"All of our winners represent our community and are true role models for other women coming up and others who may not know who we are and what we are about," Olivia Newton, vice chair of WiAC said at the ceremony. "These women truly embody our mission."
Embodying the mission means being willing to champion the cause of female auto technicians every time you have the chance. And that's exactly what Ms. Maher did at a recent trucking association event. There, she said, she was talking about the fact that only 3% of technicians are female, a data point that she told those attendees at the trucking event needs to be addressed.
She told them, "If you really want to solve the technician shortage, then maybe we should start talking to 52% of the population.
"Suddenly, I looked up and realized I was talking to a room of 600 white men."
Smiling, she said her point was received as well as it was during the WiAC event: with cheers and approval. It's proof, she said, that the industry is poised to do great things if everyone pushes forward and supports young people interested in auto tech careers.
"The time is now," Ms. Maher said. "The time is now that we really can celebrate the kid that wants to take apart the car and put it back together and make sure there is a career in her hands."
In addition to her work with TechForce, Ms. Maher serves as CEO of America's Automotive Trust. She previously served on the national team of Make-A-Wish America, YMCA of the USA, and The Nature Conservancy.
Cindy Frasca honored
Kukui CEO Cindy Frasca received the Auto Care Woman of Excellence Award.
Kukui is a provider of software and websites for auto repair shops.
Ms. Frasca was recognized, in part, for helping to position the company for growth throughout the last seven years. Her work has culminated in the recent $27 million strategic funding by SSM Partners.
Ms. Frasca also is responsible for the company's financial functions, including accounting, audit, treasury and corporate finance, as well as its human resources activities.
"I am really, really grateful and overly honored to win this award, and I humbly accept it and embrace it," she said Nov. 5, adding that the award is a reminder to continue giving her best every day.
"Being excellent (is something) I don't often feel, but this is reminder to keep pressing forward," she said.
Shop owner of the year
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based shop owner Jamie Carlson received the Female Shop Owner of the Year Award for the work she has done to help grow Ervine's Auto Repair and Grand Rapids.
Her shop was awarded the 2018 ACE (Auto Care Career and Education) Award in recognition of her dedication to investing in the growth of their employees' education through access to professional development and career opportunities.
In accepting the award, Ms. Carlson noted that the success she has seen in recent years is the direct result of her involvement with WiAC and the first conference she attended three years ago.
"That meeting, with women who were so open and helpful and honest, has led to the most transformative season in our shop's 25 years history," Ms. Carlson said. "Women in Auto Care was the start to all of it. So, thank you very much. I will try to do what I can to help others achieve the same."