Women in the Workforce

At CSN – 427 Auto Collision, it’s business as usual.

Women have been working in collision repair for as long as there has been a collision repair industry. Today they are increasingly stepping out from behind the receptionist’s desk and coming out of the accountant’s office to work on the shop floor.

They’ve got the tools, they’ve got the talent, and progressive employers like CSN – 427 Auto Collision in Etobicoke are only too happy to give them the opportunity to show what they can do.

Heather Tonner is employed with the facility as a prepper for the Paint and Prep Department. She changed her first tire at age 11 and hasn’t looked back since.

“I think my favourite part about working here are my co-workers. There are a lot of great people who work at 427,” says Tonner. “Having a lot of girls in different departments throughout the shop is awesome. It’s a very positive environment with lots of opportunities to grow.”

Nevida Ramlochan is also employed as a prepper with CSN – 427 Auto Collision, hired through the Autobody Youth Collision Employment (AYCE) program. Like Tonner, she also credits the positive work environment with helping her find success.

“Working in the edging section of Paint and Prep has taught me so much,” says Ramlochan. “Within two months I have mastered many tasks and I am able to work alongside great people.”

It’s a fact that some people aren’t suited to desk jobs, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the jobs aren’t suited to them.

“I was always interested in the trades and using my hands to tinker with various projects,” says Olivia DiGianfelice, a prepper-apprentice at CSN – 427 Auto Collision. “I had a passion and interest in cars and couldn’t picture my future at a desk job. I took a beginner auto body course at Centennial College and instantly fell in love with all aspects of the trade.”

Love of the trade itself attracts many people to the industry, but it takes a good work environment to keep them there.

“The best part of working here is that it never really feels like you’re at work, which goes hand in hand with loving what you do,” says DiGianfelice. “The facility has a great family vibe, and the co-workers and staff are truly amazing people to be surrounded by every day.”

That’s a sentiment that Amanda Ciccone would likely agree with. Ciccone is employed at the facility as a detailer, a position that has turned a love of good looking cars into a passion.

“My favourite part about 427 is that it’s a family owned company, and you can feel it working for them,” says Ciccone. “Family is the most important thing in my life and they understand that.”

Audrey Batson is an apprentice technician working in CSN – 427 Auto Collision’s Quick Repair Department. She doesn’t hesitate when asked if she would encourage other women to enter the field.

“It’s an experience worth having,” says Batson. “There is always going to be someone out there that’s always going to think negatively about women working in this trade, but keeping a positive attitude is the best we can do. Women are just as capable as men.”

Agnes Kasza also works in the Quick Repair Department, and says one of the best parts of working at CSN – 427 Auto Collision is that the facility encourages staff to upgrade their skills.

“I have been working in the industry for over nine years, and prior to working here, upgrading my skills and possessing my license did not affect my position or salary,” says Kasza. “I was always mentioned as a ‘body woman’ not a ‘body technician.’ Anytime I wanted to upgrade my skills, I would ask for permission and sponsorship for new courses from my former employers, but the answer was always ‘Why? Is it necessary to become a bodyman?’ Working for CSN – 427 Auto Collision, I’m being trained to work on frame repairs and aluminum chassis. The owners and management believe it’s very important to have everyone trained and their skills upgraded. The facility has highly experienced foremen and supportive co-workers that guide us and want women to succeed in our trade.”

There’s a lesson here for potential employers. Kasza is passionate about her work and takes it seriously. Former employers did not treat her seriously, and now she’s brought her ever-growing skill set to CSN – 427 Auto Collision. It’s a strong message: treat staff well and with an even hand, and they’ll stick by you. Treat them like they don’t matter much, and they’ll seek an employer who values them accurately.

“My step-father has always been my first teacher and best supporter. He taught me to stay strong and gave me the confidence to believe in my ability. I am valued by my employer because of the work ethic my step-father has taught me – ‘to do it right the first time’,” says Kasza. “I love what I do.”

Hillary Noack is also employed at CSN – 427 Auto Collision, but she’s recently had to cut back on her hours to fulfill commitments to another employer. Although she’s splitting her time, the management at CSN – 427 Auto Collision aren’t upset. In fact, they’re proud. Wouldn’t you be proud if you were the employer of Centennial College’s first female auto body instructor?

“I’ve been teaching the night school program for the last three years,” says Noack. “This semester I started teaching classes for the regular program.”

Teaching is part and parcel of the working environment at CSN – 427 Auto Collision. Those with more experience pass it on to newer recruits, and the benefits show up throughout the shop.

“I really love all of my co-workers. We’ve got a really good family environment,” says Noack. “We also hire a lot of apprentices, so we’re always looking to help them out.”

Good colleagues help a lot, but it takes more than that to create a positive work environment. CSN – 427 Auto Collision has that covered as well.

“We’re kind of spoiled,” laughs Noack. “Getting to work in such an awesome facility where everything is so modern helps makes it easy for us to pass on what we’ve learned.”

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