|Reader Letters: Apprentices, steering and more|
|News - Collision Repair|
|Monday, 13 August 2012 10:10|
Toronto, Ontario -- August 13, 2012 -- We’ve got a really interesting slate of letters this time around. Many people are discussing recently released figures from the Ontario College of Trades showing that eight out of 10 students in collision repair technician programs don’t get into an apprenticeship.
First, though, we’re going to revisit a previously discussed topic. A few weeks back, Robert Dumais of Streamline Collision wrote us to ask what happened to recommendations based on quality, service, honesty and integrity? You can read his original letter here. Since then, Dumais has received many calls and emails regarding his letter. He responds below.
Thank you for the phone calls and emails of encouragement. Nice to see that there are a lot of people with some passion and fight in them. My letter about insurance companies directing work obviously struck a chord with many of you. However, some have gotten the wrong idea, so let me clarify. I do not hate insurance companies, DRPs or networks. My letter was about frustration towards them making assumptions that my shop is not trustworthy or up to the job because we are not a DRP or part of a network.
Slander and scare tactics are sometimes used to steer a customer in another direction for cost control and the betterment of the insurance company, leaving the insured with the feeling that no shop should be trusted but the one they recommend. I don’t tell customers to change insurance companies or use scare tactics towards DRP shops or networks. I have always tried to maintain professionalism when dealing with an insured, no matter which insurance company they are insured with.
All I am asking is the same in return. Treat my shop with respect, professionalism and dignity when speaking to someone that wishes to use us for repairs vs. the DRP or network. Finally if you want change and to be recognized, then speak up! The more the better! Some may say it’s crazy or stupid. You are shooting yourself in the foot. You know what’s really stupid? Doing the same things over again, expecting a different result.
New apprentices are the lifeblood of the industry. However, many students never make it that far. Of those that do, many leave the industry shortly thereafter. We recently asked readers to weigh in on why so few students secure an apprenticeship.
I had the opportunity to meet a very enthusiastic young man, in the top ranks of his class in collision repair technician training at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. Part of the course requires that he have eight weeks shop experience, and even though a good portion of his salary is subsidized by the program he was unable to raise any interest or additional referrals from local shops. The college had a limited list of contact shops, he created his own list and I added a number of contact names which he followed up on.
We all know that we had a mild winter this past season and collision repairs were down, however, the lack of support and encouragement at this stage from the college, from the college's network, and from the other doors he knocked on, left this young man less than enthusiastic about a future in the collision industry and as a result he has opted out of the program. However, the good news is that he still has a desire to make a future within the automotive industry, and as such he is reregistering into the automotive mechanical repair program, where he hopes to receive a better reception from the grass roots of the industry, and a more confident feeling for a more productive future.
Editor's Note: Terry Jarvis sent in an update just before this story went to press. Here it is: Actually, the young man was able to secure a hire/apprenticeship at a local mechanical repair shop where he will get exposure to both auto, light duty and some heavy duty, plus he is reregistered.
The system as it now operates is doomed for failure. First of all, the hourly rate imposed unilaterally by an assortment of different companies will not allow for replacement of equipment, training of staff and replacement of staff in the future.
Why would a young person want to take on an apprenticeship for the wages now paid when they can go into some other field and make almost a third more money starting out? In 1970, an acquaintance of mine started an auto body apprenticeship making a gross wage of $20,000, while a younger brother started in the transportation industry at a gross wage of $32,000 in the same year, which also included a pension paid for by the transportation company.
Today in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a body repair technician with experience of anywhere from 10 to 20 years makes approximately $23 per hour plus benefits, while a ticketed electrician starting out in his first year of work will be compensated with a package of $35 per hour plus benefits. With the present hourly rate structure for repair shops no shop owner in his right mind could possibly entertain paying a technician $35 per hour, but the sad reality is eventually the rates will have to increase or there will be no more qualified repair people. Time and time again I have been told by shop managers and owners, “We have advertised for weeks for people,” but their clarion call goes unanswered. It’s a struggle to replace with qualified people. It is to the point of being panic driven.
I stopped to talk to an old acquaintance of mine who is a painter; this man has worked at the occupation for 40 plus years. He is magic when it comes to finish coating. A sense of overall disappointment and a feeling of not being worthy exude freely from our conversation – what a shame! But this feeling of unworthiness pervades throughout the industry because of less than fair treatment by participating so-called partners.
Town & Country Appraisals
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
We personally work with all our local high schools and tell them we are interested in employing anyone that wants to become a body technician, painter, etc. Through the co-op program, we are able to choose those that meet our standards. Upon completion of high school we hire the successful applicant for one year and review them quarterly to establish where they want to be in the industry. If in that one year they show promise, we work with the apprenticeship branch to sign them up and we pay for their schooling. We have hired four excellent young men this way. Many, many more have not made the grade. It is a lot of work but very rewarding when you have an excellent young employee at the end of your efforts.
Industrial Park Collision ~ CSN
I am seriously concerned about the future state of the collision repair industry in general, with respect to availability of apprentices, skilled journeypersons and the aging work force.
I personally had the opportunity to speak to first year apprentice classes for many years. I was alarmed to hear first hand from the students that many had no interest in staying in this field but rather it was an open seat until something better came along. Unfortunately, I have seen apprentices and seasoned certified collision technicians migrate to other industries for better wages, and I cannot blame them. We need to pay our technicians what they deserve. We all know that vehicle technology and repair methods are changing and the need for qualified technicians is paramount.
Employers have to apply a ratio of two to one under the apprenticeship program, meaning you can have a maximum of two apprentices to one journeyperson. How will this work when the journeyperson has left the industry? Who will be available to properly repair vehicles today, let alone the vehicles of tomorrow?
Last year, I was equally alarmed to find out that under the apprenticeship program the decision was made to remove Human Relation courses from the curriculum. I find it interesting that it’s felt that people skills are not important in this trade. I did send a letter to the appropriate division expressing my views.
I do not believe in sweeping problems under the rug, they can only get worse on their own, not better. That which you can confront, you can control; that which you cannot confront will control you.
St. John's, NL
|Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2012 10:35|