Auto Service World
News   March 26, 2014   by CARS Magazine

Auto trade a solid bet for skilled workers, says CTC exec

Canadian Tire vice president Jim McCown offers a North American view on attracting skilled workers to repair industry at AIA Canadas annual Young Executive Society conference.

Canadian Tire Corporation’s vice president of automotive parts and assortment says the North American shortage of skilled trade workers may be a bigger problem in Canada than in the U.S. and Mexico.

Speaking to an audience of up-and-coming players in the Canadian automotive industry yesterday, Jim McCown said Mexico’s economy and the U.S. car culture mitigate the problem in those countries.

In North America, he said, Canada may be the hardest hit by the problem.

He said more young people think of automotive repair as a career in the U.S.

“It’s a function of more kids having worked on cars in the garage with their dads,” he said. “That also goes some way to explaining the DIY differences between the two countries.”

There is a greater level of education in Canada, he said, and that suggests more young people are going the traditional academic route.

“They’re not going into trades,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of our guys who are actually pulling people in from the Philippines. They’re sponsoring new immigrants. And it is very expensive to pull people in. But that’s the strategy.”

McCown said the skilled trade shortage may be worse in Canada compared to the U.S., but in terms of the quality of their workmanship, he sees little difference between the two countries.

“I don’t see any difference at all between Canada and the U.S. That’s not the question. But the numbers are not equal. And again, if you grow up in the garage doing it, you have a higher propensity of leaning that way for your career,” he said.

“I don’t know if we do a real good job of selling automotive repair as a viable career option. There has been a shift away from the grease monkey image, but there is still a perception that it is not perhaps as prestigious a career. And maybe it’s not, but you will never go hungry.”

McCown offered his views on a number of industry issues at the annual YES conference – intended as an inspirational springboard for the industry’s next generation of leaders.

Among them:

* His single biggest driving force for success:  “I like to win, and don’t accept anything less,” he said.

* How to preserve a healthy balance between career and home life: “Be present when you’re home. Take some time to unplug,” he said. “Remember, we’re not curing cancer. We’re not flying jets. We’re schlepping auto parts.”

* The characteristics of the three North American markets: In the U.S., they’re very aggressive in business. In Mexico, there’s a greater appreciation of tradition. In Canada, we tend to be more polished and professional in our business dealings.

* On attributes for succeeding in modern business: “Passion is important. You can’t be indifferent.”

* The biggest challenge of modern business: “You have to be prepared for change – it’s the only constant in business today.”


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