NAIT's first female Auto Body Technician instructor becomes the mentor she never had
When Cecile Bukmeier (Auto Body Technician ’15) started working in an auto body shop as a teenager, her boss relegated her to sweeping the floors and taking out the trash – tasks that taught her nothing about refinishing cars but everything about attitudes women in the trade sometimes faced.
“There were very few women at this shop,” she says, “and there were none working in the back of the garage.”
Today, after several years of proving herself in the industry, Bukmeier is the first female instructor in NAIT’s Auto Body Technician program – a program that began more than 50 years ago.
She comes to the job as one of the province’s top technicians, having earned gold medals in auto body competitions at Skills Canada Alberta (a kind of Olympics for the trades) in 2013 and later at the national level. But she also joins NAIT as one of Alberta’s strongest advocates for women in trades, and hopes to guide apprentices through the challenges she herself faced – if not to help eliminate those challenges altogether.
Bukmeier completed her apprenticeship relatively recently, but her experiences as a woman in the industry were discouraging. After working at three places where she was less than welcome, “I thought, ‘Is nobody going to give me a break?’”
"I would work twice as hard; people would notice."
She didn’t give up. Bukmeier excelled at her studies and found a small shop with a forward-thinking boss. “I felt like if I was there to work, not to flirt with the guys, and I would work twice as hard; people would notice.
“That was my attitude: You can’t tell me I can’t do something. I’ll show you.” Now, that spirit guides her as an instructor, where she’s becoming the mentor she never had.