Auto Service World
News   November 12, 2019   by Allan Janssen

Commentary: Turning talk into action

No one thinks solving the current labour crisis is child’s play… but there are similarities.

Service Notes

By Allan Janssen

There must be modern games like Don’t Break the Ice and Ker-Plunk but I don’t know them. So at the risk of dating both you and me, I will have to start this essay discussing these once-popular children’s games.

The idea behind them, of course, was that repeated, seemingly insignificant modifications would eventually lead to massive and irreversible change.

We didn’t realize that’s what we were learning. We were little. But the lesson was there if you looked for it. Remove too many straws and the marbles will fall. Remove enough blocks and the ice will break.

When we grew older, we came to know this as the “trigger effect” or the “domino principle” or the “tipping point.”

Whether you’re talking about marbles or geo-political governance, it’s possible to cross an invisible threshold beyond which change is not only likely, it is inevitable.

With any luck, we’re headed for the tipping point that will bring a flood of much-needed labour into the skilled trades.

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) is doing what it can to remove the straws and ice that hold back the deluge. It recently wrapped up a cross-country tour designed to build on a momentum of ideas and conversation, and turn it into a working strategy to solve the problem.

Executive director France Daviault – a former vice president of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, and no stranger to the challenges the aftermarket faces with regard to skilled labour – spoke plainly about the tipping point she’s working toward.

“I don’t know what the catalyst will be that finally turns what we know into action,” she told participants at one of the tour’s final community consultations. “I don’t know what will break through the logjam, but it can’t come soon enough!”

Indeed, a recent CAF report estimates that at least 167,000 new apprentices will be needed in the top Red Seal trades across Canada within the next five years to meet the demands of their industries. The growing crisis has spurred much talk in break rooms, union halls, and classrooms.

Each of the community consultations hosted by CAF brought back the same talking points and questions:

* How do we improve completion rates?

* Can we remove barriers to entry, like the high cost of tooling?

* Why can’t we simplify the registration process for apprentices?

* How do we communicate the fulfillment that comes from working with one’s hands?

* Can we position the trades so they’re more attractive to young people?

“I get that we’ve all been talking about this forever,” Daviault said. “As the need becomes more dire, and as businesses start having to turn away work because of a shortage of labour, perhaps when we put our heads together, we’ll identify some tactical items that we can all benefit from,” she said.

Every small effort and each local program has the effect of removing another of the many straws that holds back the marbles. I applaud the CAF for keeping the talk going until truly unique ideas reveal themselves and a co-ordinated plan of attack emerges.



I want to hear what you think. You can reach me at

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5 Comments » for Commentary: Turning talk into action
  1. Why can’t auto tech’s write off they’re tools? That may help encourage people to enter that trade since the cost of all the tools they require is overwhelming.

  2. Brian Browning says:

    Having trained several apprentices over the years I know the advantage that it is for my shop. We currently have an excellent young fellow but are struggling to get him into to the class room training that is required. Waiting a year and a half and having to send him to Vancouver is just not acceptable. He will have more than enough hours long before he ever gets to write his Red Seal exam. Any class room time across the province is booked out past 2021. Luckily we train in-house so he will be more than capable and I have set up his pay scale to reflect that irregardless of a piece of paper that gathers dust on the wall.

  3. Bruce v Bygrave says:

    I don’t feel that a lot of what needs to be discussed is really being addressed. One phrase that I will make relating to the automotive trade and apprenticeship. Any one who is smart enough to be a good automotive mechanic is smart enough to not be one.

  4. Tim Leslie says:

    You know I read Allan’s Service Notes to the staff when a new Mag. is delivered over lunch on Friday.(I buy the staff lunch every Fri.)
    We have discussed the labour situation,take a look at botched repairs (eye spy)etc.
    The world is a different place today and that is good or bad depending on the opinions of the demographic but education is the key to giving people choices as to what they will do for a living.
    When everybody thanks me for lunch I tell them we all paid for it.Not educating will make us pay the price .
    The collision industry keeps us on our toes…always headaches etc.but we perservere and do what we would do if it was our own…that is our motto.We the people need to see that the youth needs to have their eyes opened to what one can do given an
    Combine Vocational programs with Academic programs, revamp the system.
    Teach them how to do a tax return so that they can fend for themselves ,change a tire and tell you where the spark plug is!
    Unfortunately finding teachers who can teach some of these programs are becoming scarce and that is the problem,the buck always gets passed and the real issues Do Not get addressed.
    Bruce’ s reply is so true and that is a real problem.
    I don’t know where we are heading in the auto trades but we really need to be nervous about the fact warren Buffet will step in and you will have to use his service dept cause thats all we will have…Ha!
    We will Free Range on a Tax Farm.

  5. Bob Paff says:

    We complain that there’s a shortage of new people for our trade but forget that other trades are having the same issue. It seems there’s a common denominator; the secondary school system is no longer concerned about trades preparation for the students. They seem to be focused on mediocre academics and producing graduates at all costs.
    Saying that students are no longer interested in the trades is self fulfilling if you don’t give them the opportunities to find out and bundling all the trades into one class called ‘shop’ is not a solution.

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