Change Your Tactics for Hiring and Mentoring Next-Gen Technicians

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devin purcell
Devin Purcell, Professor, School of Transportation Technology and Apprenticeship, Fanshawe College, London, Ont. PHOTO Devin Purcell

We need to change the way we hire and mentor the next generation of technicians—the future of our industry depends upon it.

If we rewind the clock 20 years and find an eager, young person with an insatiable appetite to learn everything about fixing cars who has just been hired by a service repair shop, the scenario would appear a dream come true.

A different outcome

If we fast forward again, we discover the same person has spent years sweeping and mopping floors, washing cars and shuttling customers.

Their once eager mind and unbridled enthusiasm, has slowly ebbed away, leaving them often feeling jaded and perhaps a little resentful. If this kind of scenario sounds familiar to you, it is to me as well.

You see, it was something I witnessed during my own apprenticeship. In an era where mechanical apprentices are supposed to be mentored by senior technicians so they can follow in their footsteps, why is it so many of these young people, end up doing the odd jobs nobody else in the shop actually wants to do?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in the importance of everyone paying their dues in our trade, but I hear from some future apprentices that when they start out, it will be years and years of thankless, low-paid work.

Maybe this is part of the reason why it can be so hard to find new people to come into our trade. And who can blame them?

young technicians
Many apprentices get stuck doing menial tasks, robbing the shop of new talent and robbing themselves of a solid career opportunity. PHOTO Shutterstock

Dreams crushed

I have heard so many stories of “future technicians” who have had their hopes crushed by being stuck on the lube rack or changing tires in the hope that they are next in line for an apprenticeship.

Add in the fact that none of us are getting any younger and it paints a very discouraging picture for the future of the industry.

So, what can we do about it? One way is by looking at our own career path and apprentice experience.

Did we receive formal training such as being mentored by a Red Seal Technician, or was it more informal learning we got, perhaps from shadowing a senior service advisor on the front counter?

Looking back on your own experiences, what do you think could have been done better and what do you think needs to be changed or improved upon?

Looking outside the box

Over the next few months, these are topics we are going to be discussing in detail.

We’re going to look at ways we can improve the experience for the next generation of automotive technicians to ensure our businesses and our industry has a future.

We will also look outside our sector to successful practices being implemented in other trades—perhaps there is something we can learn from this that can be applied to our sector as well.

On a final note, with an ever-declining number of young people signing up to become apprentices and choosing to get involved in the automotive service repair industry, it’s arguably never been more important to examine what can we do better to both attract and retain these talented young individuals.

Future tradespeople need to remember—there is no unpaid internship in our industry and that we need new blood to replace the ranks of senior technicians that are retiring from our industry each and every day.


Click here for Part 2: An Employer’s Perspective on Apprenticeships

Devin Purcell is a Red Seal Automotive Technician with over 20 years of experience and a professor at Fanshawe College, London, Ont., in the School of Transportation Technology and Apprenticeship. You can reach him at [email protected]

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