Training the Next Generation of Painters

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John Turner is General Manager for SATA Canada. You can reach him at [email protected]. Photo Huw Evans

Equipping them with the right skills for long-term success.

If you’ve been following trends in our industry, you’ve likely heard about the acute shortages we face in recruiting talented individuals, including technicians and painters. Where the latter is concerned, not only is it important for us to attract the right people, but it’s also important for us to train them properly, so they can enjoy a long and fruitful career. Doing so benefits both them and us.

Encouraging results

At SATA Canada, we have been working to put together training initiatives that range from introductory programs for high school students to the 410N Automotive College Painter Program—an eight-week comprehensive course in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Back in June, we ran a program for local students from the high school pre-apprenticeship auto body repair program offered by Tropicana Community Services in Scarborough, Ont. The program resonated extremely well with those who attended, and we were very encouraged to see the students so positive about a career in the trades and as automotive painters. Some showed tremendous promise and aptitude and with the right guidance, they will become excellent painters and likely enjoy a long and rewarding career.

Notice I used the word guidance. In our industry today, it’s more imperative than ever that we take these young people who are green to the industry and teach them the right way, so they learn good habits. If we teach them properly the results will speak for themselves. It’s a bit like being agents or coaches for professional athletes. We need to guide them and support them so they can realize their potential and flourish. As shop owners/managers and collision industry stakeholders we also need to ensure that we pay them a fair wage and that we create a career path for them. 

Realistically, I feel the number one problem with our industry today is that we don’t do that and instead we hire someone who has had 10 jobs in the last five years. On the surface it’s easy to look at it and say, it’s going to cost X to train and develop this young person so they can be a great painter, or we can go with Y whose been at several shops and is okay with what they do. While person Y might seem cheaper and better, in the long term, chances are you’ll end up with somebody who’s developed bad habits and will be harder to train. Person Y could also leave your business after just a few months, or their work ends up costing the shop more than it should due to bad habits and a lack of knowledge in areas such as equipment maintenance and safety. Either way, these are long-term costs that could be avoided by going with a young person with no prior experience.

Safety considerations

Besides training them for the job, we also need to teach them how to look after themselves. This means ensuring that the proper safety protocols are followed so that they can enjoy a long and productive career. Today, waterborne paints are prevalent in collision centres across Canada. Waterborne material can seep in through the skin, the eyes, the hair, and the ears, which is why it’s critical that painters using it have the proper safety equipment, including full body covering and the proper breathing equipment. Today, we still see professional painters using half masks to spray vehicles in a booth and by doing so, they are exposing themselves to hazardous materials that can cause all kinds of health-related issues. 

Ultimately, if we are going to continue succeeding as an industry and attract good quality people into the fold, we need to ensure they are properly trained and mentored to do the job both properly and safely. The future of automotive painting and collision repair depends on it.



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