Solidifying and succeeding in her passion: Cecile Bukmeier 

As part of International Women’s Day 2024, AIA Canada is recognizing women from across the auto care industry, highlighting their experiences, achievements, and success in their careers. Throughout her career, Cecile Bukmeier has championed women in the industry, promoted inclusivity, and aims to show why working in the auto care industry is so rewarding. 

Cecile Bukmeier, Chair of the Auto Body program, NAIT.

While working at a collision repair shop during an apprenticeship program in high school, Cecile wanted to work hands-on with vehicles. However, the shop she worked at was hesitant to have her work in the back, stating that being at the reception desk was a better career alternative. 

Despite continuously asking to work on vehicles, Cecile worked on collision technician tasks around the shop, such as sweeping floors and disposing of damaged panels. 

Following her apprenticeship, Cecile graduated from high school early and took the pre-employment auto body repair program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), allowing her to fully immerse herself and fall in love with the trade. Forming the foundational knowledge needed, Cecile entered the apprenticeship system as a first-year technician. 

“It was difficult to find employment. I was questioned as to why I wanted to work in the shop environment and if I could handle the labour involved. I was told that I would make people uncomfortable if I worked in the back.” says Bukmeier. 

“I did not let that stop me, though. I would answer technical questions and promise not to complain about labour or long hours. Finally, a small collision shop decided to hire me and allow me to work as an autobody technician apprentice. I was able to learn many valuable lessons and gained experience in a short amount of time.” 

Once she had this experience under her belt, Cecile attended her second year of auto body training and excelled in the class. Following her second year, she was invited to compete at the Skills Canada car painting competition in Vancouver, British Columbia.  

The Skills Canada car painting competition brings together trade and technologies to perform at an industry standard test project, and top scoring competitors are selected from their provincial event and brough to a national competition. Cecile competed against eight other apprentices, scoring the highest, and ultimately winning the national Skills Canada car painting competition. This validation cemented her beliefthat she was on the right career path. 

“After the competition, I continued my apprenticeship journey and became certified. I was no longer age-eligible to compete at Skills Canada, so I focused my efforts on volunteering as a technical committee member.” says Cecile. “I wanted to help other apprentices gain the skills to become excellent and promote women in the trade.” 

In 2016, Cecile started working at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) as an instructor in the Auto Body apprenticeship program, excited to share her knowledge with apprentices across the province and help build their skills to become certified. While rewarding, it was also challenging. 

“I felt like I had finally built respect at my job and established a reputation for doing good work. However, I was nervous to start teaching and exposing myself to more criticism for being a woman in the trades. Nevertheless, I pushed forward and learned a lot about being a mentor and developing skills in other people.” 

In 2022, Cecile became the Chair of the Auto Body program at NAIT, driving excellence for the program, sharing knowledge, developing the skills of apprentices, and being a small part of their journey to a successful career. 

About Cecile Bukmeier 

Cecile Bukmeier is a certified autobody technician and currently Chair of the Auto Body program at NAIT. She continues to volunteer with Skills Canada at provincial, national, and international competition levels, working with judges, trainers, and representatives to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.