This is the second column about how and why people get into the retail automotive industry. Today, I'll focus on the role of the automotive and collision repair technicians, and painters.
Based on my experiences, the men and women who establish careers in the service and parts departments usually (but not always) have some type of affinity for cars. Many technicians have a natural curiosity about how things work, and many are influenced by family members who have worked in the industry.
Today's automotive technicians are just as skilled and dedicated as previous generations - with one big difference: the training and expertise required to earn certification have evolved to a whole new level.
Auto technicians must understand complex onboard technologies, drive trains, computer and electrical systems. Becoming a licensed automotive technician requires a high school diploma and about three to five years of classroom and apprenticeship training, followed by a written examination. Community colleges offer full-time Automotive Service Technician programs, and many offer apprenticeship programs aligned with specific automakers.
The schooling component of earning an automotive technician's license is flexible in that candidates can attend school one day a week (so that they can continue working at a full-time job) or an eight-week block three times within an apprenticeship program so that candidates are eligible to collect unemployment benefits.
In addition to regular pay, automotive technicians enjoy a number of benefits, including being paid to learn; no-charge repairs on their family vehicles; and skills are transferable to do-it-yourself projects around the home (plumbing, electrical).
Another skilled trade in the technical side of the business is an auto body repair technician. The educational requirements for this profession are also a grade 12 diploma, followed by three to five years of classroom instruction and apprenticeship.
Candidates learn about body and frame repair, welding, refinishing, mechanical systems, and health and safety in the workplace. In addition to the technical skills, auto body technicians must possess a talent for craftsmanship as no two collision repairs are identical.
An auto body technician are equipped with good reading, math and computer skills, and they make precise measurements to ensure accurate placement of vehicle body sections.
Another career on the technical side is an auto body refinishing technician. According to Statistics Canada, 96 per cent of those employed in automotive painting auto body work are "experiencing earnings growth and working full time."
An auto body refinisher technician paints automobiles and trucks that have been involved in a collision and they perform custom design paint jobs. It's a highly creative trade in which colour matching and fine-finishing details are valuable skills.
Auto body refinishers deal with flammable materials, mix paints and prep vehicles and they adhere to all of the municipal and provincial by-laws governing the safe storage and removal of hazardous materials.
Many young people are attending school now have not yet chosen a career. They owe it themselves to explore the technical side of the retail automotive industry - in particular becoming an automotive or body shop technician, or a painter.
I urge you to contact a service manager/general manager at your local car dealership to enquire about earning potential. Your career path could go from auto technician/refinisher to service/parts manager to fixed operations manager to general manager to dealer principal. Or you could teach auto repair at a high school or community college.
Dealerships offer great opportunities for those with the right technical skills and work ethic to establish a fulfilling career in a dynamic industry.
For those interested in knowing more about technical careers in the retail car industry, contact your local new car dealership or a community college near you. Or check out the Careers Opportunities link on the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association website (tada.ca).
The automotive business never stops - just look at the highway.
Once again, the TADA is proud to support Prostate Cancer Canada. This year, our Association has donated a specially-modified 2015 Ford Mustang GT for the Rock the Road Raffle. For more information, visit www.prostatecancer.ca or www.tada.