Planting the Seed

Autosphere » Mechanical » Planting the Seed
Rob Ingram. PHOTO Jack Kazmierski

Grassroots education is one way of attracting new blood into the automotive repair industry.

There is no question that our industry is facing a long-term problem regarding a technician shortage. And I feel a big part of that is due to a lack of awareness regarding automotive repair.

Over the last several decades we’ve seen high school shop classes dwindle.

Today, when we’re at the grassroots level of education—I’m talking Grades 8 and 9—many students have very little exposure to skilled trades.

Although there are some students in Grade 9 that can take a credit that is tech-oriented, the vast majority don’t.

A real opportunity

Yet I believe that we have an opportunity to change that and significantly increase awareness and exposure to automotive repair and other skilled trades.

One of the best ways of doing this is by expanding tech classes in our schools and making them compulsory at the Grade 8-9 level, as well as having two or three tech courses available to students in high school.

Whether it’s automotive repair, carpentry, culinary arts, the electrician trade, machinists, or construction, these skills and professions are vital to our economy and are also essential skills that at the basic level, most people need to be successful in life.

And while we recognize that not everybody is going to become an automotive technician, a professional carpenter, electrician, chef, machinist, or construction worker, a basic understanding of these skill sets are still invaluable.

I look at basic car care and maintenance as a prime example. Learning how to check fluid levels and tire pressures, change a tire on the roadside or in your driveway is a valuable skill.

And by offering basic courses like these as part of the school curriculum, we also have a real opportunity to expose students to what can be a very rewarding and lucrative career path.

Useful skills 

Every child today is supposed to be able to read, write and perform basic math, so why not provide them with the tools to learn how to prepare food, how to build furniture, and maintain a car?

Most people today will still end up driving and owning a vehicle at some point. And if you can expose them at a young enough age to the maintenance side of it, not only does it arm them with greater knowledge and a potentially much better ownership experience of the vehicle, but it can also serve as a solid foundation for stimulating interest in our trade. In turn, this can lead to more students seeing our profession as a life-long and rewarding career.

Given how automotive technology is advancing and along with it, the skills required to repair the vehicles of today and tomorrow, qualified technicians have never been in higher demand.

By planting the seed at a young enough age, our industry stands a fighting chance of alleviating a major technician shortage while at the same time providing a solid career path for students with the right aptitude. But the only way we, as an industry can find those students, to begin with, is by spreading awareness about our profession and the opportunities available within it. And that starts in school.

Rob Ingram owns and operates Eldon Ingram NAPA Auto Pro in Stratford, Ont. You can reach him at [email protected].


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