Workforce Wednesday: Sophia Lonnee finds being an automotive technician rewarding, fun

Sophia Lonnee working on a car engine and smiling.

When Sophia Lonnee graduated from Grand Haven High School in 2021, she had a plan. She was enrolled at two different universities and was due to begin that fall.

“About halfway through summer, I decided not to go,” she said. “Part of me was just overwhelmed. I was a decent student but I really hated high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I decided to work a lot and think about it. I started asking myself, what could I do, that I enjoy, that could make me some decent money? I have always enjoyed working on my own car so I started looking into training programs.”

Lonnee found the GRCC Automotive Tech Job Training Program and feels like she made the right move.

“I like the hands-on experience and all the of tools! I love having access to all the tools and the shop to do the work. It’s been fun to work on my car, and my family’s cars. I’ve done a lot of brakes and saved them a lot of money. I like that a lot!”

To become an automotive technician, people are required to be certified and licensed in the state of Michigan. Licensed technicians use precision diagnostic equipment, service manuals and hands-on power tools to diagnose and repair customer vehicles.

GRCC Job Training programs offer many scholarships, grants and financial aid.

“I am getting my program completely paid for, so really all it’s costing me is my time,” she said.

The Automotive Technician program is scheduled like a job. Class meets Monday to Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lonnee also works in the evening as well. “It’s kind of exhausting but it’s 100% worth it. Just to have this experience. It does take commitment but once you get all these certifications you have them forever.”

The Automotive Technician program is taught by instructor Gayl Beals, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the industry. Beals holds an Education Specialist degree, holds MOPAR level one certification and is accredited by Snap-on Tools.

“Mr. B is a very smart guy,” Lonnee said. “I like how he pushes us to figure things out on our own.  He’s a really good instructor. This doesn’t seem like school at all.” 

Students learn braking systems, suspension, electrical, heating and cooling, and computer operations. GRCC holds a partnership with both Ford and Chrysler Fiat to provide additional certifications giving students the opportunity to acquire value credentials leading to more than 37 certifications.

When Lonnee finishes the program in July, she knows that she will have many opportunities.

“Even if I don’t stay in automotive forever, I will always have these skills. With the connections that Mr. B has plus the demand, I’m sure I’ll land somewhere.”

The next section of Job Training programs begins, Aug. 8, 2022. For more information: or 616-234-3800.

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