WALKER — Livingston Parish school officials recently rolled out an event for high school girls to encourage them to consider nontraditional career pathways in the automotive industry that may offer them greater employment opportunities after graduation.

Student ambassadors and high school counselors from each of the nine high schools in Livingston Parish were invited to attend an information session at the parish’s automotive learning center, which is in the Livingston Literacy and Technology Center in Walker. They were presented with an assortment of pink accessories for the occasion, including reflective vests, headbands and protective eyewear.

The girls and counselors heard from local professionals and academic leaders who shared their desire to enroll and hire more women in automotive certification programs. Those speakers included the automotive program directors from Baton Rouge Community College and Northshore Technical Community College, representatives from O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and Neighbors Credit Union in Walker, and Eric Lane, CEO of Gerry Lane Enterprises in Baton Rouge.

“Our goal is to better educate and create greater awareness of career opportunities that women have in those career fields that are now male-dominated. There is now a high demand for women in many of these fields; but for many girls, these opportunities are not even on their radars,” Career Technical Education Coordinator Staci Polozola said.

“We hope events like this will expose girls to the required skill sets for nontraditional jobs and to professionals in the field, and create an interest to pursue available opportunities,” Polozola added.

Polozola noted that automotive industry professionals say that women in the industry have proved to be very good employees, often exhibiting more patience to finding solutions than their male counterparts. And as the mechanic and service work becomes more digitized and computer-based, it has become less dirty and less dependent upon physical strength to manage many of the jobs, making the work more appealing to women.

Polozola said the student ambassadors and counselors are encouraged to share information about the district’s automotive program with freshman and sophomore girls on their respective campuses. The district will survey those grade-level girls next semester to determine if there is enough demand for a girls-only automotive class. She said, depending upon the response, the district is considering offering courses during the 2020-2021 regular school year, during the summer, and/or as a night class.

She also said the district is developing partnerships with local businesses to provide students with paid internships, job shadowing opportunities and on-site externships for district teachers to become better equipped and trained to instruct the students.