One day in her automotive technology class at Johnson County Community College, Jennah Kring heard her instructor talk about air fuel trims. She had a good idea where the lesson was going.
That’s because Kring already had experience on that subject, acquired while working as a technician apprentice at Hendrick Lexus Kansas City.
“A lot of things can affect that so you have to diagnose,” Kring said. “Is the fuel line blocked or is there a crack and it is getting too much air? When he was talking about it in class, I thought this was awesome. I know exactly how this can happen. It was manifold leak.”
She said it is exceptionally helpful when a lesson in school coincides with something she just saw at work.
Kring is the beneficiary of Hendrick Lexus partnering with Johnson County Community College and Longview Community College in Lee’s Summit to bring in students to do on-the-job training. She is one of four students in the program.
“We approached her instructors,” said Teresa Holt, service manager at Hedrick Lexus. “We asked for the best of the best. She came in and applied. Obviously, being a female, we were very interested in her from the beginning, and seeing her grades and scores, we were even more interested.
“I like to think we are a good starting ground for technicians. Jennah came in without any experience in the field. We were willing to train her. We have great technicians in the shop to help her along the way.”
Hendrick Lexus, at 6935 W. Frontage Road in Merriam, takes pride in having many women working in different areas of the dealership. Kring’s boss is Holt, and Holt’s boss is a woman.
“It is really awesome,” Kring said. “I came for the interview and I had two female managers interviewing me and one male. This is a little bit opposite of what I expected. I expected all guys when I was coming here.
“It is nice and reassuring. Sometimes it is more comforting talking to someone of the same gender. I am sure it is the same for guys.”
Kring, though, is the only woman working on cars at Hendrick Lexus. She started nine months ago, and earlier this week she moved up from apprentice to lube technician.
While Holt called Kring a trailblazer, Kring doesn’t see herself that way.
“I don’t want to say being a female is a detriment or a benefit,” Kring said. “You are concerned. There are people who have more traditional ways, who might not accept me.”
Kring feels very welcomed at Hendrick Lexus. In fact, when Girl Scouts visited Hendrick Lexus last fall, one of the stops at the dealership was where Kring works, and she explained things like tire pressure, tire treads and other things.
“They thought she was a rock star,” Holt said.
This spring, when more Girl Scout troops tour Hendrick Lexus, the time spent with Kring will increase because of how popular she was in the fall.
“She has been very well accepted in the shop, which is a little bit of a concern just because I think they are all gentlemen back there, and if she is struggling with a big wheel and tire set, I didn’t want them to feel like they had to drop what they were doing to go help her,” Holt said.
For Kring, working on cars was simply in her blood.
When she started college, Kring wanted to work in the medical field. She quickly learned the hospital wasn’t for her.
“I knew I wanted to be able help things, fix things,” said Kring, who graduated from Shawnee Mission West.
“Both my mom’s side and my dad’s side had had experience in shops. My dad worked at a shop with his dad. My grandpa still rebuilds old cars. I watched him do it as I was growing up. I thought I could do this. It seems right up my alley.”
So over five years, she has been taking a few classes each semester at Johnson County Community College’s Automotive Tech school while working other jobs. She wanted to put herself through school without being stuck with student loans.
The opportunity at Hendrick Lexus fit perfectly for Kring, and now she is excited about entering the real world. She plans to receive her Associate of Applied Science degree at Johnson County Community College this spring.
“I am so excited,” Kring said. “I am ready to move out of college and into real life. It doesn’t feel like it while I am still in school.”
In reality, Kring is working harder than a lot of people in the real world. She goes to school Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 6 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m. She also works 40 hours a week at Hendrick Lexus.
On many occasions, she wears her Hendrick Lexus uniform to class because immediately after class, she heads to work.
“She is proud to go to school in her uniform,” Holt said.
When Holt said that, Kring’s face lit up with a nice smile of contentment.
Kring accepts that even after she receives her degree, she has many more tests to take and learning to do.
The next step, Holt said, will be Automotive Service Excellence testing. There are eight tests necessary for a master certified technician. They are not required at Hendrick Lexus but recommended. It is part of the pay plan.
They are tested on things such as air conditioning, electrical and brakes.
“There are at least 100 questions on each test,” Holt said. “Once she passes those, she becomes master certified technician. Those expire every four years so you have to keep taking them.
“She will start her Lexus training as well. We provide training at our area office in Naperville, Illinois. There are about nine different classes. Each class is different. One might be one or two days long. One class is a five-day class.”
Kring is ready for these challenges.
“It just kind of fits, and now that I am here, it feels really natural. I couldn’t imagine doing some of the other things I thought I would be doing in college as a career,” Kring said.
“I like working with my hands. I like having an active job where I get up and do stuff.”