City College student breaks into male dominated industry

Kianna Silva, 18, in the Automotive Department with a 1972 Chevelle, Wednesday, Oct. 7, at City College in Santa Barbara. Silva is pursuing her associate degree in Automotive Service and Technology.

Kianna Silva

Swimming against the tide of expectation that mechanics are mostly male, 18-year-old Kianna Silva, a student in City College’s Automotive Technology department has found her passion and is currently pursuing her associates degree in Automotive Service and Technology.

Silva, a recent graduate of San Marcos High School, was unaware of her passion for working on cars until, almost by accident, she took a basic mechanics class her junior year of high school. She took the class as she was planning on getting her license soon and, understandably, wanted to be a responsible car-owner.

“Before I took that class all I knew about cars was that you turned the key in the ignition and the car magically turned on.” Silva recounts.

Starting out as the only young woman in her auto class, Silva quickly came to realize that despite the difficulties of being the one girl in a class of all boys, she was starting to fall in love with the industry.

“As I stared learning more about how cars worked and everything involved in the complex systems that run a car, I realized that I just love learning about how cars work,” Silva said. “It was so interesting to me!”

During her senior year Silva applied for and received an internship through Partners in Education.

Partners in Education is a nonprofit organization with local roots that go back for more than 30 years. Their mission is to connect businesses and individuals with schools and the organizations that serve them in order to help improve public education in ways that create a more vibrant economy, the health of the community and well being of local children and their families.

The program matched Silva up with local business owner Nikki Ayers.

Ayers runs one of the most dependable and reputable auto shops here in Santa Barbara and, like Silva, Nikki Ayers has faced the trials and tribulations surrounding being a woman in the auto industry.

“I interviewed several students and I actually had a lot of great potential candidates,” Said Ayers. “But [Silva] was the top candidate by far.”

The passion, focus, energy and dedication Silva brings to everything she does is mirrored in the speed at which she has learned and her love for her job.

“When I’m working on customers cars I literally feel like a car doctor. For a lot of people cars are one of their biggest investments, so cars are a really important part of peoples lives,” said Silva. “They care a lot about them and when I’m repairing something or doing maintenance. I feel like I’m caring for their cars.”

In this day and age the auto industry is slowly but surely working towards a higher-tech future. Cars are gradually becoming less mechanical and more computer-driven.

In order to stay on top of new technologies and up to date in the constantly changing environment that is the auto industry, Ayers Automotive requires their employees to attend 40 hours a year of classes.

For someone who loves to learn as much as Silva, these classes are not seen as a headache, but rather a welcome opportunity to further advance her skills.

“That’s one of the things I love most about the automotive industry, technology is constantly developing into new things,” said Silva. “There’s that constant opportunity to gain knowledge and I love learning about it. I’ll never stop learning.”

After completing her 80 hour internship with Ayers Automotive, Nikki Ayers hired Silva as an Automotive Apprentice despite the fact that she had only completed two or three auto classes during this time, a testimony to Silva’s dedication to her craft.

On top of being her employer, Ayers has become a mentor for Silva, helping her reach out towards other successful women in the community and pushing her to expand her horizons beyond the immediate reality of being a technician, towards a future that could include bigger and better things.

“I think [Silva] could get a scholarship, I think she could make good money and do great things,” said Ayers. “I think she could make a contribution to the auto industry if she chose to do so.”

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