Teenage girl breaks gender stereotype, tops automotive servicing course

When we think of automobiles and machine repair, we generally think of males getting their hands greasy. But a young woman in the Philippines is breaking gender barriers when she graduated as a valedictorian of an auto-mechanic course, besting her male batchmates.

Feli is a soft-spoken and earnest person. She hails from Antique, a province in the western part of the Philippines. She is the eldest among five siblings. Her mother who works as a teacher is already widowed after her father passed away due to a liver complication.

“My father and I were very close. I was very saddened when he passed away. During his final hours, he told me that I should step up and help my mother,” says the 19-year-old teen. “We were in a tough situation after my father died because my mother is left to fend for us,” she added.

With their bleak reality, Feli had to think of ways to help her mother to provide for their family. However, she was still a high school student back then and she couldn’t think of a job that she could earn from.

During her junior high year in 2019, an opportunity knocked when World Vision in partnership with Isuzu and TESDA, a skills development government agency in the country, announced that they will be offering scholarships for their Auto-mechanic course.

The said course is a 2-year program in which the scholars will be housed in a training center and they will learn four levels of National Certification automotive servicing courses. The program also gives the graduates job opportunities as it partners with auto companies within the country and abroad. Scholarships are offered to teens whose families are struggling financially, and to out-of-school youth.

The scholarship was offered to Feli after a World Vision staff member who works in her community learned about her family’s condition. She was hesitant at first because she thought of her younger siblings since she would be away for two years without seeing them. But the deciding factor that made her enroll was the fact that she can graduate in two years and secure a job right after.

The first few months were a struggle for the teen. She was feeling homesick all the time since the location of the training center is located in the opposite part of the country. But she didn’t let it distract her learning.

“When I would feel sad, I would confide with my roommates who are also away from their family. During my free time, I encouraged myself to study instead of thinking about home,” shares Feli.

World Vision also provided values-formation sessions where the students can share Bible reflections and also learn holistic lessons including leadership training and child rights and responsibilities.

In her studies, Feli shared that she had zero knowledge about automotive, let alone repairing it. But with sheer determination and the love of reading — she would borrow books and modules and read it in her room — she passed the certification levels including both paper and practical tests.

“I believe that if someone really wants to learn, no one can stop you. And the opposite, if you are not interested in learning, not even the best teacher can teach you,” Feli says.

On October 15 this year, Feli graduated as the valedictorian in her batch. According to her, she shares the honor with her instructors and batchmates who were a big part of her sacrifices and hard work.

“When I shared the news with my mother, she said that she was very proud of me. I also dedicate this award to my late father who was my first supporter even when I was still in elementary school,” shares the delighted daughter.

“I also feel fulfilled that as a woman who had no knowledge about automotive, I achieved this award and proved to myself that I can do it,” she adds.

After the graduation ceremony, Feli is already attending career orientations. She also started a company orientation after being hired by a car dealer shop. She will start in November as a probationary staff member.

“I am grateful that I was immediately hired after my graduation. I am realizing my dream of having a job and helping my mother back home,” says Feli. “I am excited to start my job and apply my learning in my role.”

Feli is one of the 317 graduates of the program who are already working locally and abroad. The tripartite partnership between Isuzu, TESDA, and World Vision aims to continue its mission to become a dynamic institution that provides a comprehensive training system, by national and international standards.

According to the partnership, 90% of graduates were employed within one year after completing the program. The graduates are also being recognized for their work excellence.