Kaitlyn Ferrier learned a lot from her dad. He introduced her to cars and tools. He showed her what hard work looked like and always told her that she could do anything she set her heart to. Even though he has passed on, Ferrier has never forgotten his advice and has since become the first female fleet mechanic intern at Westar Energy.
Ferrier’s interest in cars and mechanics started at a young age from working on cars with her dad to taking four years of auto shop classes at Topeka High School.
“I’ve always done stuff like this with my dad and I’ve always wondered ‘what does this do?’ and I get giddy when I’m around cars,” Ferrier said with a smile.
Ferrier is a 2018 Topeka High graduate who has taken her high school auto shop classes to the next level by utilizing the partnership between Topeka Public Schools and Westar Energy.
“In my auto shop class we rebuilt engines and repaired brakes but at Westar it’s more realistic, it’s an actual work place,” Ferrier said.
Topeka High auto shop teacher, Dean Fairweather, encouraged Ferrier to apply for the Westar Fleet Services internship after seeing her grow as a student for four years in his auto shop classes. Now Ferrier repairs roadside work trucks both in the fleet shop and out in the field.
“I work on whatever is broken. If a tire breaks down on the side of the road, we can go fix it,” Ferrier explains. “The tires on the boom trucks are like 400 pounds, they’re bigger than me,” she says laughing.
Despite only interning since the beginning of May, Ferrier has notices her skills improving.
“There’s been a few things that I didn’t know existed and a few things that I have forgotten in the past that I was reminded of, so that’s been exciting. I learn something every day.”
Working in a male-dominated environment is nothing new to Ferrier.
“I was the only girl in my neighborhood when I grew up, and in my auto shop class I was the only girl for three years. It’s no different. I mean they can probably lift up something heavier than I can, but I don’t feel any difference. I love how I can get along with my coworkers so well.”
In fact, Ferrier has thoroughly enjoyed working with her Westar coworkers in the fleet shop and learning from the Fleet Garage Operations Supervisor, Mike Shultejans.
When Ferrier’s Westar internship is done in December, she will have hands-on experience to pursue her dream of becoming a diesel mechanic. Ferrier is thankful for Fairweather’s guidance and for the support from her former Trojan time teacher, Denise Heavner. She is also thankful for her lifelong remodel, the person that told her “…you can always do what you want to do, so set your heart out to it", her dad.