Auto Service World
News   September 3, 2020   by Allan Haberman

Commentary: Should techs HAVE to be certified?

The auto service trade is constantly evolving. Certification should be the price of entry.

By Allan Haberman

It’s hard to believe that some provinces still do not require automotive service technicians to be certified.

Despite the growing complexity of modern vehicles and the potential for road carnage due to poor maintenance, some provinces, like B.C., Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, have not mandated certification for service technicians.

They have deemed auto repair to be a “voluntary” trade, where a certificate of qualification is available but is not required to work in the trade. Aspiring technicians can complete a series of tests to prove their competence… but they don’t have to.

In other Canadian provinces, including P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta, auto service is a compulsory trade, meaning technicians require a certificate of qualification or registration in an apprenticeship program in order to work in the trade.

This is as it should be.

With something
as important to public safety
as vehicle maintenance,
is it wise to eliminate
trade standards

Unfortunately, it is not the case right across Canada. Perhaps some provincial governments are loath to introduce any career roadblocks that would discourage people from entering a trade that already suffers from a shortage of qualified technicians. But with something as important to public safety as vehicle maintenance, is it wise to eliminate trade standards altogether?

Servicing today’s vehicles requires more than a mechanical aptitude and a passion for cars. There isn’t a system on a modern automobile that doesn’t involve some form of electronics. Even a simple oil and filter service will likely require a maintenance reminder reset procedure. Some of these resets may even require the use of a scan tool – not an easy tool to master without adequate training.

Diagnosing most problems on today’s vehicles requires access to an information system with complex wiring diagrams and system operation descriptions. Without this information and the proper equipment, solving even simple problems is next to impossible.

Technicians must have a working knowledge of electrical systems and electronic theory. Without this base of knowledge and above-average reading comprehension skills, diagnosing a system fault can become a guessing game.

Can we all agree that throwing parts at a problem has never been an acceptable repair procedure? This destroys consumer confidence in the repair industry.

In the United States, a voluntary testing and certification system is available through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The general consensus is that this system, while not nearly as comprehensive as the Canadian apprenticeship program, offers consumers some assurance of technician skill.

Perhaps the provinces that haven’t designated auto service as a compulsory trade should adopt this system. At the very least, a well-recognized logo would give consumers some confidence in their service providers.

Today’s technicians need to constantly upgrade their skills to keep up with the rapid change in vehicle technology. As vehicles become more electronic than mechanical with each passing year, the people who service them will also have to change. Certification would be a good start.

The time may come when automotive service is a degree program rather than a vocational one. Perhaps that time is already here, and we just have to recognize that fact.



Allan Haberman is an automotive trainer based in Winnipeg, Man.


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7 Comments » for Commentary: Should techs HAVE to be certified?
  1. Bob Ward says:

    I agree with Allan. I cannot speak for the provinces that have deemed the Auto Service Technician trade as a voluntary trade. Since I am in a province that the trade is compulsory, the issue I have is the lack of enforcement in Ontario. There are many shops following the rules but there are too many that do not which compromises public safety. These shops are dragging down our trade by offering cheap prices and poor quality repairs. Lets design a system that brings up the level of professionalism and maintains it. This would be a good start.

  2. Claude Prive says:

    You make some very good points Allan, but the elephant in the room is the fact that your local teacher or baker can go down to any parts store across the country, buy the cheapest white box steering, suspension or brake components and install them. Now that is hard to believe.

    • AL Oversby says:

      I totally agree,,try going into a heating supply warehouse and buying a natural gas furnace,,they will not sell it to you unless you have a trade license. The same should apply for the automotive repair industry ,,but the auto parts stores wouldn,t like that because they wouldn,t sell enough non transport approved parts for them to get rich on.

  3. terry cote says:

    i agree but what about the guy who can go to CT pick up and install his own partswith no training at all??

  4. Jon says:

    Nope. Can’t agree. Are you trying to say that a government agency that is incapable of balancing a cheque book should be in charge of certifying who can fix a car? Ha. The answer to shoddy workmanship is not more government control. A simple requirement that shops maintain liability insurance will take care of the bad apples. One or two screwups will put em out of business pretty quick.

  5. ASE is not the answer (Although I have acheived ASE A1-A9 myself), the proivinces have a credentialing system (The Red Seal) they just haven’t made it a requirement.
    Compulsory certification is the goal, not a new system of credentialing.

  6. Emily Chung says:

    Mandatory certification is a start, and continuing education credits for re-certification. We learn as much as any other profession does, especially with new technology coming out all the time. We have the expertise. If we want to be respected as professionals we should hold ourselves accountable. Most other certified professions require a minimum number of continuing education credits to re-certify (accountants, kinesiologists, HR, etc). As for the parts issues in some comments – agreed. There is a problem when the average person can buy safety related components (brakes, steering, etc)… but I need an ODP number to buy refrigerant? Priorities.

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