Attracting the Next Generation

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Jean-François Champagne is the President of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada which represents the interests of the auto care sector across the country. Photo AIA Canada

Collaboration, education and resources are all key to successful recruitment and retention

A topic we tend to hear a lot in the automotive aftermarket, is how our industry can attract and retain the next generation of talent. The answer is multi-faceted. The combination of changing customer expectations, skills, market dynamics, technological advancements and other factors means that there is no single solution to this issue.

It is often said, that in order to take action, you need to have the right mindset. And in the aftermarket (as with many other industries) that starts with creating the right cultural environment. This means looking for ways to improve hiring practices, eliminate bad habits and ensure that those we hire are welcomed, encouraged, as well as properly mentored and trained to reach their full potential.

Active engagement

All too often we see apprentices hired, only to become discouraged because there is no direct career path or development plan open to them. 

Another factor the aftermarket needs to consider is that there is a shortage of qualified labour, not just in our industry but countless others across the country. That’s why it is so important to actively engage with the population and to showcase our industry and the incredible opportunities that are available. AIA Canada has been doing this through outreach programs and partnerships with technical colleges. A good example is the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket (YPA) program in partnership with the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College. This program has been growing, with more active engagement and more people wanting to participate. It provides us with the opportunity to connect with students and show them the career paths and opportunities available to help them make a decision about a future career in the aftermarket. This type of active engagement is proving to be very successful, and AIA Canada has now launched a similar program with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). 

Another initiative we’ve recently launched has been the AIA Canada Ambassador Program. Through this program, recently retired aftermarket professionals who are strong industry and AIA Canada advocates have the opportunity to reach out to schools that offer technical trade programs and provide a direct link to our industry. It allows the ability to provide tools, information and resources to help build a pipeline of future talent for the aftermarket. 

Government collaboration

To further assist in addressing labour shortages faced by our industry and others, we’ve also actively been working with the government, both at the federal and provincial levels to promote skilled trades. There’s also the issue of public perception of our industry and often there is a big disconnect between that perception and reality. That’s why it’s so critical that we accurately present ourselves to the world and tell our story. And a good example of that is how the aftermarket is adapting to changing technology, such as the electrification of the automobile.

To help with this, AIA Canada has partnered with the Ontario Government on the Skills Development Fund. Through a partnership with St. Lawrence College in Cornwall, Ont., we’ve developed an Electric Vehicle program that allows people to develop the skills necessary to service and repair EVs. We’ve already reached the halfway point for the first round of funding on this initiative and are hard at work securing additional funds.

This is just one example of how collaboration can really make a difference. By leveraging partnerships with the government like this, we can ensure that funding is available to provide people with the skills, tools and equipment they need to not only get excited about this dynamic and fast-changing industry but to pursue a truly rewarding career. As a recent graduate from the St. Lawrence EV program stated; “we [now] have the tools and vehicles to provide us with a practical, hands-on introduction to a new industry. This is the future knowledge that is needed.”


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