Nearly 80,000 people nationwide hold the certification, but only a fraction of women are certified. Issued by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, the certification ensures technicians are qualified to work on any type of vehicle.
“I wanted to have the master certification so I would have the ability to work anywhere,” said Alcantar, 23, of Riverside. She believes not many women attain the certification because young girls aren’t exposed to cars in the same way as boys.
“Parents will say you can be anything when you grow up, but they don’t teach girls about cars,” she said. “No one thinks it’s something a girl would pursue.”
Alcantar’s mentor Paul O’Connell is an automotive technology assistant professor and department chair of Applied Technology for the college. O’Connell knew it was rare for a woman to attain the master certification, so he decided to do some research. His findings confirmed his suspicions.
“She’s just one of those exceptional students,” he said.
As a child, Alcantar loved cards and often played Hot Wheels with her brother. Though she admired her friend’s parents’ Porsche, she had a particular affinity for Chevys. She confesses that she carried a pad of Post-it Notes with her on the walk home from high school and left messages on Ford vehicles telling the owner to “get a Chevy.”
She enrolled at RCC in 2006 and earned an associate of science degree in 2010, completing both the mechanical and electrical automotive programs. To earn the master certification, she had to pass eight tests covering every automotive system. She also needed two years of work experience.
Now an express technician at Metro Honda in Riverside, Alcantar plans to become a full technician. As a supplemental instructor for the automotive technology classes, she holds study sessions, attends lab exercises and assists students with in-class lessons. She said she’s glad more women are enrolling in the program.
“When I first started at Honda, I was like a zoo animal, she said. “People were coming to the shop to see the ‘girl.’”
Ultimately, Alcantar hopes to work on a racing pit crew, become a crew chief, and then return to teaching at the community college level.
“I love that cars are a bunch of systems,” she said. “It’s like different puzzles that you have to figure out. I love the challenge of it.”
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About the Desert Regional Consortium of Community Colleges: The Desert Regional Consortium consists of 13 community colleges and two community college districts in Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties. The consortium assists colleges in providing professional development opportunities and designing programs to improve workforce training and technical education. The consortium was formed to address the economic development needs of industry, government and the community.
More info: www.desertcolleges.org
Consortium members: Barstow College, Cerro Coso Community College, Chaffey College, College of the Desert, Copper Mountain College, Crafton Hills College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Moreno Valley College, Norco College, Palo Verde College, Riverside City College, Riverside Community College District, San Bernardino Community College District, San Bernardino Valley College, Victor Valley College