Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2000   by CARS Magazine

Raising A Crop of Future Technicians

The hothouse approach seems to be working in a pre-apprenticeship program.

It’s as true in business as it is in farming. To raise a good crop start early, nurture the seedlings and provide plenty of nutrients, much like a specialized apprenticeship program is doing for future auto service technicians.

Attracting young people to the auto service business is a key challenge facing the industry, but a program that identifies and starts seriously training candidates while still in high school is meeting with good success.

The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program continues to achieve good results with more than 93% of people who took part in the program working full time in their chosen trade.

This innovative two-year program partners the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, The Ministry of Education, post secondary institutions such as Durham College, local school boards and most importantly businesses and industry throughout the community.

Together they provide an opportunity for young men and women to begin apprenticeships while still in high school.

High school students who get accepted divide their time into three sections. They devote one part to the traditional academic classroom work at high school. Then they go to the community college where they receive specialized training, including hands on shop work, in the trade of their choice. Finally, they go on to work in the real world, for a business whose management has agreed to provide on the job training and the potential for full time employment in the future.

Businesses and industry provide the apprentices with work experiences during summer placements and at the end of their off the job training at Durham College as well as providing program support through Local Apprenticeship Committees or LAC.

The LAC, composed of businessmen who volunteer their time, act as advisors, meeting regularly to address issues and concerns of the Youth Apprenticeship Program and the industry in general. They also act as initial employers for the apprentices when the apprentices are indentured to the industry prior to attending Durham College.

The industrial partners were instrumental in setting the criteria for admission to the OYAP. To be considered, students must show competency in English, mathematics, science and technology, maintaining an average of 75% at the general level or 65% at the advanced level.

Candidates must be recommended by a school administrator, have an employability skills portfolio including a resume and demonstrate a strong interest in the trade.

After initial screening at the school level, candidates are interviewed by a panel of LAC members who decide which students will be accepted for the program.

Candidates accepted into the OYAP sign contracts of apprenticeship before attending classes at Durham College.

This year’s indenture, held on December 9th, saw 55 young men and five young women sign contracts to begin apprenticing as automotive service technicians, general machinists or network cabling specialists.

The program, now entering its fifth year, has been very successful.

Since it’s inception in 1995, 180 apprentices have received training through the Durham OYAP.

More than 93% of those young men and women are working full time in their chosen trade. That number represents 6% of all apprentices in the region and makes the Durham OYAP the most successful program of its kind in the province.

The motive power apprenticeship program currently has 39 young men and 1 young woman working towards certification as automotive service technicians. From this group, 20 have entered their first year of training and 20 returned for the second and final year of the OYAP program.

Apprentices in the first year of the program attend regular classes in their home schools during the morning of the second semester in grade 11. In the afternoon they are bussed, free of charge, to Durham College for Basic Level (Level 1) off the job training.

This continues until the end of the school year. During the summer between grade 11 and grade 12 apprentices work in local garages and service centres accumulating hours towards their apprenticeship and valuable experience in the trade.

Jordan Vanderburdt, a student at Exeter High School in Ajax, enjoyed a summer placement at Westney Auto Repair while Steven Reed of Bowmanville High School spent his summer at the Bowmanville Canadian Tire Service Centre.

Vanderburgt said “I want to be an auto mechanic because I enjoy working on cars. I have learned a lot from Durham College and from my employer Steve McWalter at Westney Auto Repair.

“I believe the Youth Apprenticeship program has given me a leg up on other people who want to get into the trade by letting me start while still in high school.”

Steve McWalter, owner and operator of Westney Auto Repair sees the OYAP as a great opportunity to get young people involved with the trade.

He likes the fact that the apprentices get hands on training before coming out to the work place and he feels that the technical training they are receiving at Durham College is more current and up to date than training he received when he was apprenticing.

Steve Reed, another student in the program, said “I wanted to get involved with the Youth Apprenticeship program because I think it is a good opportunity for people who know what trade they want to get into.

“I really enjoy fixing things and I like cars so I applied for the Motive Power Apprenticeship. I feel that anyone who wants to get into a skilled trade should think very seriously about the OYAP.”

Employers of first year apprentices recognize the commitment involved in training inexperienced apprentices and the rewards of working with young people who are motivated to succeed in the trade.

Second year apprentices spend the entire first semester of grade 12 at their home school, finishing the academic requirements for a high school graduation diploma.

From February to the end of March, they attend Durham College full days to complete Intermediate Level off the job apprenticeship training after which they are released to the work place full time.

During April, May and June these young people work as paid apprentices in their trade and also finish off their high school diploma taking courses in co-operative education.

After graduating from the OYAP, contracts of apprenticeship are transferred from the LAC to the employer and the apprentices continue to train towards Certificates of Qualification.

The success of the Durham OYAP has been a result of a selection process that ensures capable, motivated and committed candidates and employers who understand the need to introduce young people to the trades.

This ensures an ongoing supply of skilled tradespeople to replace an aging work force.

Its success requires willingness among all participants to make the investment necessary to ensure that Canada has the skilled workers needed in the near future.

For more information on this program or to find out how you could involve your business in ensuring its continued success, please visit the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program web site at SSGM