Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2004   by CARS Magazine

AARO Members Begin Career Promotion Program for Students

CARS extends a 'thank you' to AARO Executive Director, Bill Burkimsher, for submitting this article!

AUTOMOTIVE — AN EXCITING CAREER CHOICE is the repeated refrain, and it’s one that twelve AARO members will be singing to hundreds of Ontario high school students.

Garage owners are keenly aware there’s shortage of young people apprenticing as auto repair technicians. The problem is alarming, but it hardly qualifies as a breaking news item. For someone in the business to be unaware of this, either he hasn’t needed a new apprentice for years, or he’s been living in a tree, says the association’s membership services administrator Luanne Ingram.

“This problem is longstanding, serious, and it has been getting worse,” she asserted. “The real news here is that people are rolling up their sleeves to work at alleviating it. A group of our board members and industry advocates have concluded that just bellyaching about the shortage of apprentices is not going to resolve anything. So they’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and do something about it,” added Ingram.

The effort to attract future employees to our industry is a joint initiative by AARO and CARS, the Canadian Automotive Repair and Service Council. CARS has created a number of career awareness resources designed to give young people and their teachers and parents a realistic picture of the automotive service and repair field. Called “The Future Is Wide Open”, a career information kit that they’ve developed helpsto make the connection between school learning and the world of work.

Information alone is not enough, however. Research with students has shown that when it comes to making a career choice they are influenced mainly by their parents and people who actually work in the fields they are considering. A “personal connection” is where the AARO shop owner-volunteers come in. They have agreed to carry our industry’s message to principals and guidance counsellors, and then directly to the students. School Career Days and career classes will be the venue for “live presentations” based on The Future is Wide Open Career Information Kit.

Director Gino Paccione (4th Line Auto, Oakville) was the first AARO volunteer to make a career day presentation using the CARS material. He is now convinced that person-to-person contact is the most effective way to attract new employees to the auto repair field. But he also believes there will be a side benefit to the initiative.

“I think our involvement at these career classes is a chance for us to put a positive face on the industry,” said Paccione. “There are people with their own agendas out there; people that profit from always painting us in a bad light. I’m personally anxious to counteract their misinformation, and happy for the opportunity to present an accurate image of the auto repair and service business.”

Another AARO board member, James Sheilds (Tommy’s Motors Limited, London) is eager to promote our industry as an exciting career choice to students in his area.

“I’ll be using the excellent CARS material for career class presentations at two London high schools the AARO office has lined up for me. Attracting future employees is critical for the growth and development of our industry, so when he called for volunteers at our February board meeting, I told President Dave (Peck) to count me in,” said Sheilds. “I’m aware that some of the students I’ll be talking to are still some distance away from making definitive career decisions, but they do have course and program selections to make, so I feel now is an ideal time to introduce the automotive industry as an option,” he added.

James Sheilds and Gino Paccione both had high praise for the Career Information Kit produced by CARS. And according to Luanne Ingram, who is coordinating the career day presentations, the feedback from the other 10 association volunteers has been equally enthusiastic. AARO executive director Bill Burkimsher, who also serves on the CARS board of directors, is not surprised at the kudos the kits are receiving.

“The Future is Wide Open materials are very comprehensive. The kit was produced under the watchful eye of a 21-member project advisory committee. The knowledgeable industry representatives involved put in a great deal of time and effort — they were consulted at every key stage of its development. The end product is a proud reflection of their ongoing support for the project,” explained Burkimsher.

Space limitations will not permit us to cover everything that CARS has included in its Career Information Kit, but volunteer Randy Skinner (Skinner’s Automotive Service, Beaverton) thinks the Parent Information Sheet should be mentioned. “There’s something for everyone in these box sets,” said Skinner. “I think the sheet for the Mom’s and Dad’s is an excellent piece — it outlines key information about our industry and encourages them to share this with their children.”

Skinner, who is scheduled for a presentation in his home town of Beaverton, is convinced there will be business advantages for the Career Day volunteers. He feels there’s a potential for attracting new customers; people with a new-found understanding of the vehicle repairs the shops turn out, and a better appreciation for their respective employees, the skilled technicians doing the work. The best PR is a well-informed customer, because that leads to greater trust, he contends.

In addition to Gino Paccione, James Sheilds and Randy Skinner, the following garage operators have also volunteered for local Career Days and Career Classes:

Bob Anderson (Anderson’s Automotive Services, Thornhill); Ed Andrade (Beverly Automotive Specialists, Cambridge); Igor Dobric (Performance Concepts, Mississauga); Andy Eaton (AE Auto Plus, Thornhill); Rudy Graf (Graf Auto Centre, Toronto); Kurt Hillebrand (Young Street Garage, Ottawa); Nizar Mawani (More Than Tires, Mississauga); Rex Sarson (Stop “N” Go Services, Burlington) and John Sawatsky (MSJ Automotive Services, Windsor).

For his part, president Dave Peck says he “tips his hat” to the directors and industry advocates participating in the AARO-CARS career awareness program. “These guys are taking a hands on approach to influence more young people to apprentice as auto technicians. They’re serving the Independent sector proud,” he enthused.

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