Mom finds career fix

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Joanna Von Bon hammers a seal out of a timing cover on a British-made car. Von Bon says she prefers to work on old cars. “You never know what you’ll find under a hood,” Von Bon said.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Joanna Von Bon said she always wanted to do something hands-on.

She considered becoming a veterinarian. “But animals bite back.” She also considered computer work, but felt it was too delicate.

She settled on auto mechanics.

“I’d rather my work speak for me than how I look,” said Von Bon, the only female in Clovis Community College’s automotive technology program this semester. “And I can do that with cars. When something is broken, I fix it, and it doesn’t break again. It feels good.”

Von Bon, 28, a mother of a 6-year-old boy and wife of a Cannon Air Force Base airman, takes apart an intake manifold. Her nimble fingers take nuts and bolts off and placed them in a row so they won’t be lost. Around her waste is a belt with a flashlight and a pocket knife in a holder. She wears a CCC auto technician shirt tucked into jeans, with boots, and a rainbow tie-dye scrunchy in her hair.

She said she can’t stand it when girls don’t want to do something because they’re afraid of breaking their nails.

“I worry about my nails breaking, so I go cut them, and get right back to work,” said Von Bon as she and a classmate joked during lab.

Von Bon said she has always been a tomboy.

“I was the girl climbing trees and picking up frogs and not worrying if they (urinated) on me,” she said as she sandblasted the intake manifold.

The automotive technology program is taught by Paul Blair, who has worked in the field for 21 years, teaching and working in auto shops.

Blair said the purpose of the course is to bring students to an introductory level so they can work in the field. Blair also said he can usually place about three times as many students as he has graduate because of the high demand for mechanics.

“There are hundreds of thousands of vacancies for auto technicians,” Blair said. “The demand is incredible.”

Blair said women are just as capable of filling those vacancies, if not more.

“Women tend to have a little more patience. Sometimes, well, a lot of times, it works to their benefit,” Blair said.

“We get all different kinds of exposure from all different backgrounds,” said Blair over the sound of pressurized air coming out of a hose. “Some people literally don’t know a screwdriver from a pair of pliers.”

Von Bon said she always knew the difference between a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, but this is the first time she’s really gotten into working on anything.

“This is the first time I’ve gotten into the nitty-gritty,” Von Bon said. “And the more I’ve learned, the more I enjoy it.”