Auto Service World
News   June 22, 2023   by Adam Malik

How to avoid scaring away apprentices

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It has typically been the way of automotive repair shops to have apprentices ‘pay their dues’ before they get to do what they really want — work on cars.

And then shop owners wonder why the apprentice left them — and maybe the industry entirely.

So rather than handing them a broom and making sure they’re serving their time, try a different approach, a panel of experts recently said at Centennial College’s Driving the Future 2.0 event in March.

Darryl Croft, co-owner and vice president of OK Tire (Etobicoke), said he takes the time to talk to them. He stresses the importance of the career they’re moving towards.

“They don’t have a real appreciation of how important [it is to be a technician],” he said. “It’s life and death and there’s a responsibility that goes with that.”

Croft then explains the importance of their job to society. He tells them they’re a professional, like a doctor or a lawyer, and people rely on them to make their lives work.

“And their eyes lit up,” he said. “It’s like they haven’t heard that really that much before. And then their chest pumps up a little bit.”

When the shop owner or manager shows pride in what they do, it puts a different perspective on what the apprentice can do as a technician.

“It gives them a whole new enthusiasm towards approaching their continuous learning and development,” Croft said. “They should be very proud because it’s very important what this trade does. They should get that understanding before they even get into the workplace.”

Mark Halliday, president of the Automotive Transportation Service Superintendents’ Association, noted that he never gives an apprentice a broom. He throws them on the floor with an experienced tech to learn. But he also stresses to them that, while it’s a fun job, it’s important to stress the seriousness of what technicians do.

“It’s a high-stress job, if you think about it. You can have one mistake and the consequences can be detrimental,” he said. “Explaining that to apprentices, it’s a real eye opener to them. And they appreciate it.”

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2 Comments » for How to avoid scaring away apprentices
  1. Agreed, there is also issues with the apprentice taking in weeks if not months of time and advice given to them only to quit and move elsewhere even though you have treated them very well ,paid them well and guided them as you have mentioned like a win/win situation. So this become s very problematic that all shop managers owners I am sure have experienced.

  2. Stephen Osellame says:

    I’ve personally noticed far too many “seasoned” techs are quick to point out all the shortcomings they perceive within this industry and openly question why an apprentice would choose this line of work over another trade.
    I’m also aware of techs using similar approach to the one above as a means of vetting an apprentices resolve.
    These practices, regardless of intent, often do more harm than good in aquiring potential talent. The apprentice sees the choice they made as a mistake instead of an opportunity.
    Many Millennial’s and Gen Z’s are not motivated nor think like the older generations. Their “whats-in-it-for-me” approach is often dismissed, ridiculed or even discriminated against. As a product of the “Social Revolution”, much of their lives have not been centered about competition, but rather interactions (both positive and negative). Hence the perceived selfish attitude older techs and management find dismissive.
    Approaching potential young talent requires a different approach. One from a collaborative, supportive and directly interactive perspective. If a business cannot adapt to embrace and work within these attributes (instead of hammering apprentices into what they want), then the industry will continue to scare away potentially reliable, capable and honorable employees.

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