Published on Friday, 16 March 2012
One of the highlights at the Canadian International AutoShow each year is the skills competition among automotive students, which is produced by Centennial College for the Toronto Automobile Dealers’ Association (TADA).
This year, the winning team of Jonathan Goldhar and Peter Romeo of Central Technical School in Toronto earned top honours among 19 other Toronto-area high school teams. The pair will go on to represent Canada at the National Automotive Technology Competition in New York City in April.
In 2008, a team from Central Tech triumphed among all of the U.S. teams and earned prizes worth $250,000, and in 2009 a team from Northern Heights Secondary School placed second.
These impressive showings speak to the quality of automotive training and education available at the high school level, and demonstrate a high level of competence and commitment from students interested in pursuing auto tech as a career. These are the same men and women who will one day be servicing your vehicle.
TADA is actively involved in supporting the next generation of automotive technicians and the post-secondary schools that prepare students for this in-demand profession.
For all of the TADA’s efforts in promoting careers in the automotive service sector, however, recruitment efforts remain an uphill battle. The secondary and post-secondary schools that offer automotive technician courses would be the first to concur with this view.
Unfortunately, the automotive tech sector still suffers from a negative image, which affects the career decisions of young people. In Canada and the U.S., an automotive service technician isn’t considered as sexy as other professions, such as law, medicine, engineering, computers or banking. That’s just a cultural reality.
I’ve traveled extensively throughout Europe, and there is a huge difference in public attitudes towards automotive technicians, and tradespeople in general, compared to attitudes in North America.
In Europe, young men and women are encouraged from an early age to pursue careers in the trades. Apprenticing to be an electrician or auto technician — and earning master class or journeyman status — is a highly commendable thing to do. Young Europeans enter those professions with a profoundly different mindset than children on this side of the Atlantic.
Although public attitudes towards the trades in North America have improved slightly in recent years, we still have work to do in convincing students, parents and educators that a career as an automotive technician, carpenter, plumber or welder can provide a fulfilling and rewarding life.
Our industry — comprised of new car dealerships, independent garages and aftermarket shops — needs enthusiastic young men and women to fill the ranks of those who are retiring and moving into management positions. According to the 2009 Canadian Automotive Repair and Service Council Labour Market Update Study, there are 13,000 unfulfilled positions in Canada, 37 per cent of which are service technician positions.
For those willing to learn and work hard, the earning potential of a talented automotive service technician can be considerable. There are technicians working at dealerships today earning six-figure incomes and enjoying the benefits of their chosen profession.
Some readers may assume that automotive service technicians mostly perform routine oil changes and tune-ups. In fact, because of the advanced complexity of modern automobiles, an auto technician’s job has changed dramatically in the last decade.
Today’s vehicles come equipped with sophisticated computer systems, alternative fuel and propulsion technologies, advanced braking and cooling systems, and steering/drive train components. Indeed, automotive service technicians now require an extraordinary degree of skill and ongoing training to troubleshoot and repair vehicles.
If you are a student and want to know what it’s like to work as an automotive service technician, contact your local new car dealer. Most auto technicians would be happy to share their insights.