As President of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), I have the opportunity to meet many dealers and managers in the retail automobile industry.
By far, the biggest issue facing dealers today is the need to recruit and keep skilled workers in all facets of our business - salespeople, administration staff, service advisors, marketing experts and automotive/collision repair technicians.
As I mentioned in a previous column, many dealers (including myself) have recruited employees from other countries because of a serious shortage of skilled workers in Canada.
The TADA has recognized this shortfall and invested in a new education initiative. The aim of this initiative is to create greater public awareness about careers within the automotive sector, and to attract more young, qualified students into our industry.
In 2014, the TADA hired an Education Coordinator (Dave Fraser) to spearhead our new education initiative. Under Fraser's leadership, the TADA recently launched a program called Career Start, which includes an educational brochure and YouTube videos (which can be viewed at tada.ca), and a revamped the TADA website with an expanded career opportunity section.
Part of Fraser's strategy includes working closely with dealers and helping them to form relationships with local high schools, community colleges and universities, meeting with guidance councillors, hosting career fairs and showcasing career opportunities at the upcoming Canadian International AutoShow (autoshow.ca).
I know how important it is to form relationships with local schools. Over the past decade, I've developed great working relationships with Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, where I've had the privilege of interacting with many teachers and students.
Our dealerships proudly employ many Durham College and University of Ontario graduates who work in a variety of professions, which is partly a testament to my ongoing involvement with these post-secondary schools and the schools' commitment to their students.
Colleges, universities and high schools can be a tremendous source of skilled workers in all areas of a dealership. We need to do a better job putting automotive culture back into the schools.
We also need to change the perception of the auto industry, which is still outdated. The retail car industry is almost unrecognizable from two decades ago. Most careers at a dealership are highly specialized and require years of post-secondary schooling and training. Continuous learning is a big part of most careers within the auto sector.
Parents should explore the opportunities that are available in the retail automobile industry, and make their children aware of those opportunities. You never know where a child will find inspiration - a busy dealership might be just the place where a young person's talents can thrive.
When students are exposed to the automotive world today, they embrace it with open arms. At the 2015 CIAS, that passion will be on display at the TADA booth, where students from Humber College, Centennial College and Waterloo High School will demonstrate their skills and discuss their areas of interest. This is an opportunity for the public to see the skills and expertise of students who demonstrated an interest in automotive.
To learn more about education and careers in the automotive industry, contact your local new car dealership, community college or the TADA website (tada.ca). Or visit the TADA's Career Exhibit at the Canadian International AutoShow from February 13 - 22, 2015.
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 (valued at over $87,000) for the Rock the Road Raffle. I've seen the car and it looks spectacular. For ticket information and to view the car, visit www.rocktheroadraffle.ca.