Annie Michalski, one of two winners of the 2016 Collision Repair Education Foundation’s Student of the Year Award, says she feels welcome in a world where she never thought she would, and she’s planning to stick around. The automotive collision repair industry is lucky to have her; in a time when demands are rising, technology is advancing rapidly, and the vast majority of employees are male and over age 35, it’s in desperate need of people like Michalski. She’s hoping to make the industry more welcoming to others like her: intelligent millennial women.
Currently, Michalski represents two minorities in the industry: women and young people. She hopes that by stepping up and setting an example, she can continue to be a role model for future generations. She said, “I’m a woman, and there aren’t a lot of women in the industry. The thing about that is, every single woman I have met in the industry is amazingly strong and pushing us further every day to equality. The thing that I still see needing much work is the age gap. There are so few technicians entering the scene nowadays.”
When she was first introduced to the collision repair program at her school, Michalski was a little intimidated. “I won’t lie, anytime I was ever approached about the industry… it was older men who were… shown as the standard in the field. I think we need to break that stereotype.” Within a few days, she decided it was the opportunity she needed to prove herself as both a young person and a woman. Michalski has studied collision repair since her sophomore year of high school, and this year, was selected as a CREF student of the year.
Michalski said, “I’d like to say I was selected because my teacher (John Warabow) saw the potential in me… I’m drive and enjoy the art and science of collision repair.”
On being selected as a CREF student of the year, Michalski said, “The Collision Repair Education Foundation helped me understand how far one could go in this industry; without them I would be a lot more lost and have a foggier future.”
The collision repair program at her school has enabled Michalski to complete several certifications. In addition, she is a member of SkillsUSA, she serves on the collision program’s Advisory Committee, and she works at a local dealership as part of the cooperative education program. Her accomplishments in collision repair have helped to shape her dream of continuing to a career in the industry, and enabled her to find a path to do it. Michalski said, “I hope to continue forward into the business aspect of the industry. I plan on attending college in the fall for management or marketing.”
Michalski was also interviewed by CollisionWeek publisher Russell Thrall. The video of that interview appears below.
Michalski, who attended Western Area Career and Technology in Canonsburg, Pa. was nominated by her instructor, John Warabow, who wrote in his recommendation for the award last year, “Anna entered my program as a sophomore and is now a senior. Her ability to communicate with fellow students, staff and faculty has made her well-known and respected. She has become a true leader in the class and her fellow students are encouraged by her positive attitude and the ability to accomplish any given task.”
In the video above, Michalski explains what attracted her to a career in the collision industry, how her family and friends reacted and supported her decision. She also talks about the support she has received from the industry, including from Petra Schroeder, chair of the Women’s Industry Network, as well as the Foundation. Michalski graduated high school in 2017 and is attending college, planning to study business. She plans to combine the business skills she learns in college with the technical skills she gained in collision repair to find a career in the industry upon graduation.