Employers are facing a challenge in finding enough people interested in pursuing the automotive technician trade. That’s the message from Connor Barrett, an owner of Vision Auto & Tire on North River Road in Charlottetown.
“For us, it is always a challenge to find someone willing to come into the trade who we can develop as they go through the apprenticeship process and earn their Red Seal,” says Connor. “It is also challenging to find people who are interested in continuing to learn and keep up with changing technology in the industry.
“We have a small pool of candidates to draw from, and most auto service centres would say they would take a Red Seal Technician and one or two apprentices immediately.
“I would like to see a change in the public perception of the automotive industry, because it is a better option than many people think. It is such an amazing industry now. There are rapid changes in computer diagnostics and software, and new hybrid and fully electric cars are coming on the market. It is a much less physical job than it was in the past, and a lot more high-level digital technology and intelligence is required in every aspect of diagnosis, service and repair.
“It is a very lucrative career, and it is not a long process to go through the Apprenticeship program to become an Automotive Technician. The opportunities are infinite.”
About the company
Vision Auto and Tire promotes vehicle maintenance, and services all makes and models, new and old. They do alignments, corrosion free rustproofing and tire maintenance, and can do the work to maintain a vehicle’s factory warranty.
The company is affiliated with the Gray Group of Companies. “We have years of wisdom and growth that we can draw from,” says Connor. “With Fox Meadow Golf Course, Island Drafting, Cornwall KOA, H-Line, Vision Auto and Tire, and the Gray Group itself, our employment numbers are one of our strengths.”
The shop is open from 7:30 to 5:30 Monday to Friday, with no weekend work. They are willing to accommodate flexible work hours.
About the staff
There are nine employees, including a Parts and Inventory Manager, a General Manager in charge of daily operations, a Service Advisor at the front counter to speak with customers, and five Automotive Technicians at varying levels, from those new in the industry to long-time veterans.
“We retained some of the staff from the previous ownership, and we have developed phenomenal new staff. Anyone we have added has been a great fit with the previous staff. We have developed new positions in new aspects of the industry, and we are growing.”
Wages and benefits
“Employee development and retention are huge for us. We offer competitive wages, a medical and dental plan, a retirement savings plan, a tool program for apprentices, and a bonus program.
“There is a wide range of pay rates at different auto service shops, and even at the apprentice level, pay depends on previous experience, skill set, drive, and willingness to learn. If someone doesn’t know anything about the automotive industry, but is keen, willing to listen, and doesn’t mind working hard, they are worth more than a third-year apprentice with a poor attitude.
“Starting out, Automotive Technicians run into some challenges. They purchase and use their own tools, which can cost $10,000 to $30,000. They are paid at a lower scale than experienced Technicians, and when they go on block release, they are paid at the rate of Employment Insurance.
“We try to make their work lives as smooth as possible, and one way we do that is to offer a program which helps Apprentices purchase their tools.”
The apprenticeship program starts with working a specific number of hours under the supervision of a Red Seal Technician. Then apprentices take about six weeks of education through the block release program, write a test, and if they pass, they go back to the job, work the required hours, and go back for the second, third, and fourth block release sessions.
Another option is the two-year Holland College Automotive Service program.
“We could always use at least two more second, third or fourth-year apprentices or Red Seal Technicians,” says Connor. “We usually have one employee who is new to the industry. We are prepared to develop someone so that they can become an apprentice and work towards their Red Seal. I am proud to be able to help someone get into the industry, help them along, and provide them with the requirements they need.
“During the interview, we ask about previous employment, what tasks they completed there, and about their skill levels.”
The questions the applicant asks are also important. “If someone lists what they know how to do, even if it is limited, but says they will show up on time, work hard, be willing to stay late, and value cleanliness in the shop, those are the things we value.”
“We give everyone a few weeks of probation. It is an opportunity for them to try us out and for us to try them out. After that, we chat again and go from there.
“We are committed to the development of our staff, under the close supervision of senior Red Seal Technicians.
“Once you go through your Apprenticeship and earn your Red Seal, the learning does not end there. Most shops, including ours, encourage Technicians to take industry-specific training courses, which are mostly online. They can work through modules to earn certification in such areas as hybrid vehicles or brake repair. There are lots of options to continue to grow.”
What will the work at the company look like in five years?
“The need for car repairs will always be there. The new electric cars and the self-driving cars in the future will be no easier to work on than the cars we have now. The industry is not going away, and will only require a higher level of skilled employees than ever before.”
How to apply
Send a resumé and cover letter to [email protected] or call 902-628-2277 to make an appointment to speak with Connor Barrett.