Industry has only itself to blame for not attracting, keeping young people
The real problem in our inability to get young people into this trade is this industry has no collective and consistent plan for how to effectively attract and train the next generation of technicians...
The real problem in our inability to get young people into this trade is this industry has no collective and consistent plan for how to effectively attract and train the next generation of technicians; or how to keep them.
It’s almost a universal lament in this industry: young people are just not interested in taking up the profession of an automotive technician or becoming a shop owner. Various reasons are given, all familiar, so it’s not really necessary to repeat them.
I believe, however, the real problem in our inability to get young people into this trade is this industry has no collective and consistent plan for how to effectively attract and train the next generation of technicians; or how to keep them.
Compare our industry to the woodworking segment (one I covered for a while) and the contrast cannot be more striking. The local woodworking trade long complained it was having a tough time trying to fill every job out there with qualified persons. As the housing market boomed and new home developments across Ontario roared ahead, many building companies and contractors hired people from as far away as China and Eastern Europe to fill all the positions.
That trade could easily have continued to complain about the situation, but it decided that the time had come for a coordinated and collective response to the problem. A few years back the Ontario union representing woodworkers joined with industry leaders and businesses to jointly tackle the problem. The groups collected independent funds and raised monies amongst workers to build a state-of-the-art facility to train the next generation of skilled workers, developed programs for high schools and colleges to educate and guide interested young people into taking up the woodworking profession and then put together a comprehensive support system to help apprentices get the necessary loans for their education, job placements and work experience. Added to this, the industry lobbied the provincial and federal governments to help and soon more funds and support came in. The federal government went so far as to produce a series of television and radio ads extolling the virtues of the trades, woodworking being just one.
A lot can be learned from this approach. We as an industry can bemoan the lack young people taking up the profession, but that only goes so far. We have been woefully lacking in a nation-wide, coordinated approach to tackle the problem of pooling and mobilizing resources, industry groups and others to help educate young people about the trade and then support them when they decided to become technicians or shop owners.
At the same time, we have foolishly let too many good apprentices and technicians get away. J.D Ney has written an important feature examining why we lose so many apprentices and technicians. As before, we have only ourselves to blame for that problem. Too many of us treat our apprentices and employees poorly, sometimes to such an extent that they cannot wait to leave for something else. This has to stop if we really want to keep this industry healthy and growing.