Girl Power: A new trend is emerging in a traditionally male-dominated industry

More women going into the auto collision field
Elissa McClure student in auto collision course at Hillsborough Community College.
Posted at 5:51 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 18:24:51-04

TAMPA, Fla. — As demand for qualified collision repair techs goes up, Hillsborough Community College is seeing more and more women signing up for the auto collision repair course.

Five out of the 17 students enrolled in the class are women, one of the highest numbers the course has seen. And that has the school's program manager excited.

"What the industry has learned through the years what we learn is women have an incredible amount of technology and services to offer," Ralph Proemm, the Auto Collision and Refinishing Technology Program Manager, said.

"They see color 250 times better than a man. Their intensity for spraying and refinishing and having the art perfected is way more than many men. So, it's great to have women in that aspect."

Proemm said customarily; the industry was primarily men, and women shied away from it. Not anymore.

"I don't feel intimidated at all," student Elissa McClure said. "Yes, it's always been a male dominating field, but I wouldn't be scared to come in at all."

McClure is one of the five women in the course. Before starting class, she sold used cars. Over time she developed a passion for something else.

"I became almost obsessed with the idea of building them," she said. "I would say the painting is probably the thing that I like the most. Painting is more focused. You know you can mess it up in a second."

McClure showed ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska the correct technique to paint the front end of a Chevy Camaro. She says one of the best features of the class is you can teach anybody how to do the work. She came in with zero experience doing bodywork and plans to start a job immediately after graduating.

"It's not just working in a body shop. You could go anywhere with the knowledge you gain from this program," McClure said.

McClure is due with her second child in August. She is excited to have a new career path to take care of her growing family.

"Elissa is an excellent student. She will be an entrepreneur in this industry," Proemm said. "She has an incredible passion in this industry, and I'm excited to see her move forward with it."