June 1, 2006
Thomasville-- When young people graduate, they worry about finding a job they like and pays well. Unfortunately, some of them don't find one, but a young woman found a way to have the best of both worlds-- even though she gets her hands rather dirty.
In her grandparents' old home place where Stacy Poulk lives, she often plays the electric guitar all alone and sings. Music brings out her tender side. "Music is just in me. It runs through me all the time," says Stacy while turning sheets of music.
Learning how Freon runs through an air conditioner brings out her determined side, something one of her instructors noticed right away. "If your heart is in it and put your mind to it, you can do anything you want to do," says Bobby Sharp, an instructor at Thomasville Technical College.
Stacy wanted to repair her grandfather's 1965 Chevrolet truck that would not run. She repaired it, learning how on her own. The experience would launch her profession and last a lifetime. "One more thing to do to this truck," says Stacy while looking at the engine.
She sees a minor oil leak, nothing serious. At Thomasville Technical College she does everything with confidence, with never ending determination, adjusting tractor tires that weight twice as much as she does with the confidence of someone twice her age of 19. "I've been able to pull my own weight and the weight of others," says Stacy as she uses an air impact wrench to tighten bolts.
Plus the added weight of some fellow students who believe she doesn't deserve a job in a repair shop because she's a woman. "A lot of men think I'm taking their job away from them," says Stacy as she finishes adjusting the tractor's tires.
Would the real-world accept her? Questions exist. "Whether she could do it or whether a woman could handle it," says Allen Baker, the shop manager at GreenSouth Equipment Company in Thomasville who gave Stacy a chance.
She got a chance to prove herself at a dealership where a lap top computer rates almost as valuable as a wrench, where machines do the heavy lifting. "She's willing to jump on anything we've asked her to look at," says Allen who describes her as a hard worker who isn't afraid to get dirty.
Her work performance could impact hiring decisions for years to come, but Stacy believes two heads are better than one when problem solving. "I'm just another head trying to figure it out," says Stacy as she re-installs an oil pan under a big tractor.
She does it all alone, balancing the awkward sized pan while she starts one of the many bolts that hold it. About five women a year graduate from heavy equipment technology programs and the profession faces a shortage as veteran technicians reach retirement age. Many dealerships in southwest Georgia don't have enough technicians as it is.
The shortage could get worse. Stacy wants what most technicians want, regardless of their age or sex. "I want to be able to take care of myself," says Stacy, along with job security. "As long as people want to eat, I'll have a job," says Stacy as she removes a socket from a ratchet and puts them in a toolbox and closes the lid.
She hopes at the end of the work day, her co-workers will see her as a hard working technician, instead of a woman invading a man's world. Stacy continues to impress her college instructors and boss with her eagerness to learn all she can about repairing heavy equipment. Stacey finishes her technician program next year.