It’s not just about finding and recruiting talent but providing them a proper career trajectory.
One of the topics I frequently hear is how many collision repair shops struggle to find the next generation of quality staff and technicians. I think part of it comes down to the lack of awareness of the opportunities available in this industry, not to mention cutbacks to high school shop programs and funding for technical colleges over the last several decades.
I also feel, however, that as shop owners and managers, we ourselves need to shoulder some of the responsibility. In my own shop, that gap is only widening between generations from when I began in 1977 until now. Often, when a student comes to a shop for work experience through a co-op, shop managers and owners are not prepared to give them the structured experience that would spark further passion for the trade. Without a plan in place to monitor their growth and success, these kids end up sweeping floors or cleaning machines.
When I was a teen, I apprenticed under a painter at Courtesy Chev Olds. I was passionate about cars and Donnie was one of the most talented painters in Toronto at that time. Back then, when I was young, it was easy to talk to your peers and get them excited about this business. Getting your driver’s license was the ultimate and the car culture that surrounded having one only fuelled our passion to get involved at every level. It seems today’s youth culture holds their passion in their mobile devices.
I think one way where we, at the shop level, can make a big difference is by working with our key stakeholders to create a career path for the next generation of collision repair professionals. Another way is for us to keep connecting to youth at their level of mind. It’s often said there is strength in numbers. Let’s provide a way for shops along with vendors such as industry co-operative buying groups, refinish partners, equipment suppliers and industry associations to pool our resources and come up with a suitable solution.
I feel that if we’re able to bring different industry groups together, we will find a solution that works. Consistency is also key. We need to be able to deliver a program that is standardized and consistent, one that can be put together both on a provincial and ultimately a national basis. And with the access to data that’s available today, we want to ensure that we can track the intake of students, the progress being made and the number that go on to become apprentices and technicians. If we can get young people engaged, that is the key first step.
A solid foundation
Once they’re engaged, we can introduce students to the shop environment with an understanding of the work that needs to be done and provide mentorship from senior technicians so they can carry on the path to becoming a certified Auto Body and Collision Repair Red Seal technician while at the same time continuing in the habit of constantly needing to learn and upgrade their skills.
While there are a number of shops that have developed their own mentorship programs, a province-wide and ultimately nation-wide introductory program could help ensure that training and mentorship is consistent across the country, providing both students and the industry with a greater range of opportunities for growth and success.