FLINT — Kristen Shannon has plans, lots of plans. And she says her automotive degree from Mott Community College (MCC) is the launch pad for those plans.
Shannon, of Davison, will graduate May 1 and right into a job with her Associate’s Degree in Science-Automotive Technology.
She will be working as a motor vehicle mechanic trainee at Drago’s Corvettes on Dort Highway in Flint. She was offered a permanent position after completing an externship with the company as part of her degree. Once she begins work, Shannon will prepare for the Certified Auto Mechanic licensing exams.
“Normally, as students, would get our Service Floor 1 and 2 classes (AUTO-292 Service Floor I and AUTO-293 Service Floor II) in the auto bay on campus,” she said, “but due to COVID we couldn’t hold classes on campus.” At this point, it seemed as though her plans would have to be put on hold.
“The college wanted to limit traffic flow through the Regional Technology Center (RTC) as much as possible,” said Dave Butke, Automotive Technology Program Coordinator. “To help students complete the hours to receive their degree in accordance with the program’s accreditation body, it was decided to place students in the field for a 220- hour externship to receive credit for Service Floor 1 and 2,” he explained.
MCC’s Automotive Technology Industry Advisory Board members, including Gary Drago, opened up their businesses to give students an opportunity to get the required hands-on training to complete their certification exams.
“Kristen excelled during her externship at Drago’s Corvette. Her knowledge and work ethic was noticed by Gary Drago and an offer was made and accepted for Kristen to work as an employee at the shop,” said Butke. “The industry is dominated by men and many companies are looking to hire women to create a more diverse workforce,” he added.
While the automotive repair industry does not have many female workers, Butke said Shannon never let it bother her that she was often the only woman in the class or lab. “I have always been impressed with her focus on learning how to repair automobiles, and also the comradery that she has built with her classmates,” he said.
For her part, Shannon feels right at home under a hood. “Growing up my stepdad was big on making sure I could maintain ad work on a vehicle,” she said, “he was my first teacher.”
She also genuinely loves working with her hands. “I spent a lot of years behind a desk, but I needed a career path that kept me busy and, on my feet,” she said. Automotive technology gives her that and more. “When you work on something and it starts up and works, that is amazing. It is very rewarding when you can make something run and make it safe for the people driving it,” she added.
Shannon also wanted her daughter to see a woman in a non-traditional career field and know that those options were available to her.
She chose MCC for her career change because the cost of private automotive schools was prohibitive. “I decided MCC was the better option, not only was it more affordable but you also get an associate’s degree and the degree is accredited,” she said.
Choosing MCC had an added bonus for Shannon in that she could work on campus. “I liked that I could be on campus for both work and school,” she said. Shannon worked in the Automotive Lab, giving her even more valuable hands-on experience.
She was also an active participant in recruiting efforts for the Automotive Technology Program, leading presentations on gears for Manufacturing Day and promoting the program through MiCareerQuest.
In addition to working, taking classes, and representing the program, Shannon served as the vice president of the Tech club, volunteered to be part of the Women in STEM program sponsored by the College, did Professional Trades shows at local high schools, and served as a mentor to classmates. “Other students in class called me mom because I helped them with financial aid, pointed them toward scholarships, and helped them with problems they had in class,” she said.
Shannon said she is glad she chose MCC to skill-up for her new career, for the educational quality, and for the experiences inside and outside of the classroom. “The value of my MCC degree is immeasurable,” she said, “in this day and age your earning power is limited without a degree or credential. In my last job I was stuck at a flat rate salary, this associate degree gives me an opportunity to earn more as I progress in my career,” she said.