FLUSHING, Queens- There’s a first time for everything and Audra Fordin is teaching me ‘Cars 101.' She’s the owner of Great Bear Auto Repair Shop, a fourth generation family business. "In the late 70s I came to work with my dad and I really liked it so I hung around," she said. "When I was finished with high school I went into automotive trade school.”
At the time, she was one of the only women in the industry. Women now make up about four percent of mechanics, an increase from the one percent when she was growing up. “I hit roadblocks and there were always obstacles but I loved it, so that’s really what took over," she explained. "I let my actions do the talking and here I am still walking.” And for the last several years, Audra has passed her knowledge to others through a workshop called ‘Women Auto Know,' Fordin described the program saying it "started with women because of this need clearly, I saw scared people so I needed to connect.” It's a way to educate and empower female drivers.
She now holds free monthly workshops that teach all drivers the basics, in 15 minutes. She's added the program 'Drivers Auto Know' so everyone has the chance to learn basic safety and maintenance tricks. The goal is to make sure everyone is educated, confident and safe behind the wheel. “What we’ve done is broken up the car into eight essential systems and the way we separate them is we correlate the car with the human body," Fordin said. "We talk about food, sex and money.”
Audra has expanded this program across the country, aiming to implement it in schools. She's focuses on growing a person-to-person adviser formula, which encourages mechanics all over to share their skills with people in the community. It’s a passion and purpose that sometimes overwhelms her. “Why it’s so important to me is that I believe that the service that I am providing is exceptional, it does something for other people,” she said tearfully.
This wife and mother hopes it will also change the negative perception of mechanics, and bring a younger generation into the industry. She sure opened my eyes and gave me a few tips but I think everyone will feel safer if i stick to riding in cabs.
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi