Aimee Arredondo is a successful hairdresser who loves to get dressed up but when she got the chance to train for a new career, she was eager to prove that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty.
“I am a hairdresser and had my own salon and had been through a lot,” she said. “I kind of wanted something else to do on the side. I went down to UEI College’s Ontario campus for a tour. When I walked through the HVAC class I just lit up. The opportunity–I couldn’t let it escape me. I was going to give it a shot.”
Aimee had spent years standing by her husband’s side as he worked in mechanics and welding. She would act as his helper and pass him different tools and equipment when he asked. When the chance came up to learn some of those skills for herself, Aimee was ready to jump in.
“I love all this stuff,” she said. “It was a no-brainer. I walked into an atmosphere where I already had a foot in the door because I had been his helper, but I wanted to understand more. He didn’t do HVAC or anything like that, so this was an opportunity to learn something he didn’t know. It was kind of funny.”
Going back to school did come with challenges. Aimee was one of the only females in her class and she had always struggled with school in the past. Luckily, she had learned that she could pick up lessons quickly if she got the opportunity to work with her hands and the HVAC program at UEI allowed her to do that.
“I was a hairdresser because I didn’t learn by reading, I learned best by seeing or hearing things,” she said. “We hit the ground running doing things hands-on. I had never done it before, but I wanted to do it. I believe if you want to do something you’ll be better at it.”
Her persistence led her to making the honor roll for almost every class throughout the course. The secret to doing well, she said, was just being there.
“It was a comfortable atmosphere and it made me want to not miss a day. I wanted to show up every day and participate,” she said. “When I did show up every day, I got a lot of attention and I needed that. I was at the right place at the right time… I’m an older lady and my kids are twenty and it was fun acting like a kid again. They kept me going and gave me a lot of incentives and tools and going into the future I know all these new tools.”
“She was fun to have in class,” said Thomas Booth, Aimee’s instructor. “She’s outgoing. She’s very opinionated. We get very few women. I get one out of fifty, maybe, but she would have the bravado to manage that. She paid attention well and she has a huge heart.”
By the end of the program, Aimee felt confident moving forward with new skills that could lead to new opportunities.
“This program opened a new door I never thought of exploring and I owe it all to the team there,” Aimee said. “Everyone else was whining through COVID but I was able to go to school and do something. It built my confidence. My door is open. I could do sales, technician, there is nothing I can’t do. I was looking for somewhere to belong and now I’ve found a niche I didn’t know I had.”