Students shift learning into high gear at Capital Region BOCES while throttling down gender assumptions

A trio of high school seniors in the Capital Region BOCES Automotive Trades Technology program are shifting their futures into high gear while reversing decades of career gender assumptions.

Three young women stand to pose together for a picture inside the school's automotive repair garage.
Katrina Graves, Alexis Barber, and Jackalyn VanWormer know their way around the CTE automotive garage.

Katrina Graves, Jackalyn VanWormer and Alexis Barber are in the second year of the program at the Career and Technical Education Center – Schoharie Campus where they are ratcheting up their futures as automotive repair specialists.

Once entrenched in the industry, the trio will be part of a small segment of the industry. In fact, only 12% of the 782,000 automotive mechanics in the United States are women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

March is Women’s History Month, and throughout the month, Capital Region BOCES Career and Technical School will be shining a spotlight on women in the trades – those women who are challenging gender stereotypes and building solid futures through their time at Capital Region BOCES. VanWormer, from Cobleskill-Richmondville High School, and Graves and Barber, both from Middleburgh, are among those to be profiled.

“I have been around cars all my life. I have been working on cars with my dad and his race team,” said Graves. “It is just what I am meant to do.”
Barber, whose father is a BOCES graduate and an instructor for the Automotive Trades Technology program, had a similar introduction to auto repair.

“I have been around cars my whole life, but I chose this program because I want to be able to repair cars instead of taking them to a shop,” she said.
The students said they not only appreciate the skills they are learning, but also the BOCES atmosphere.

“You can ask questions here and there is no judgment,” said VanWormer.
Graves added that “it’s a big family. We work off each other and ask each other for help, and it’s fun. We learn a lot from the instructors and each other.”
Barber also sounded a similar message.

“Everyone is always in a good mood, and even if someone is down, it doesn’t ruin the day,” she said.

The trio are among 100 students—approximately a dozen of whom are women—on the Schoharie and Albany campuses who chose CTE to learn the skills necessary to launch careers in the automotive repair industry. Students in the two-year program learn everything from computerized diagnostics to hands-on repairs while gaining the skills to service and maintain all types of cars and light trucks. Students are prepared to enter the industry or pursue higher education and earn professional certifications that will aid them no matter the path they choose.

Recruitment for the 2024-25 school year is underway. Anyone interested in information on attending our Automotive Trades program or any of our programs, or may go to