Christine White has done a lot more than stand out as a leader in a male-dominated field.
After graduating from Niagara College in 2006 with her Automotive Qualifications Certificate, she would help revolutionize how Chrysler technicians across the United States could stay in line with the cutting-edge knowledge that is crucial in the hyper-competitive auto sector.
For the first decade or so after completing Niagara’s apprenticeship program, White’s career followed a steadily rising path as she applied her knowledge at ever-larger Canadian and U.S. car dealerships.
However, life shifted into a new top gear in 2019 when she was recruited by Stellantis, the Dutch-based parent company of Chrysler, to oversee operations at its New York City-area training centre. Chrysler dealerships employ an army of staff who need to keep up with evolving technology — a constant challenge in an industry that keeps introducing new generations of hybrid vehicles and technologies.
White was hired to coordinate training seminars for some 1,200 technicians across the New York City area and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. But soon after starting her new job, COVID-19 brought normal life to a screeching halt — including in-person teaching at the Training Center. Meanwhile, dealerships still urgently needed training support for servicing new models.
“It’s amazing how much the technology and makeup of cars has changed in 20 years,” says White. “There are more electrical modules in today’s vehicles than in the average house, but we couldn’t teach basic classes in person, and we needed to make training available.”
To offer basic support during COVID, White recorded a couple of training videos that were accessed online. She not only knew cars, she knew media. Years earlier, she’d watched YouTube clips about public speaking to help her prepare for job interviews. Besides gaining confidence as a speaker, White — an innovator and keen photographer — taught herself to make her own videos.
A star was born, or at least discovered.
“When we started teaching virtually, I had a leg up because I’d already adapted to videos. I knew how to light a camera, ask questions effectively, explain things verbally and visually. Then it really took off.”
What began as a temporary fix became transformational change for Chrysler. Video training was the way to go, and over the past two years White has helped write, illustrate, produce and narrate a library of instructional videos — now nearly 150 — that are accessible to 22,000 Chrysler technicians across the USA. Every day hundreds log in to view these 5-to-10 minute training tools. She’s also exploring a bilingual series for possible use in Canada.
White’s manager says microlearning would have happened at Stellantis, but “would have been rather different and taken longer to launch” without White being on the scene.
Always fascinated with cars, White attended a Niagara College open house while she was in high school and felt the automotive apprenticeship program was the perfect fit. Three years and 9,000 hours of apprenticeship work later, she achieved her certificate and also passed her Red Seal certification. These internationally-recognized credentials helped her stand out when she moved to the U.S. several years later.
White says her Niagara College instructors instilled not just knowledge but a passion for excellence. Today she is emphatic about instilling care and commitment in technicians or students, imploring them to constantly demand high standards with their skills.
“The program at Niagara prepares new technicians for their careers,” she says. “It really gave me an advantage when compared to many of my colleagues. I believe I received an amazing education and at an exceptional value when compared to similar programs here.”