By Mike Pickford
Ottawa, Ontario — August 17, 2016 — With much of Canada’s collision repair industry currently suffering through a slight skilled-labour shortage, there has been an added impetus placed on transitioning promising potential professionals out of the classroom and into the work place.
Keeping with what has become an annual trend, post-secondary institutions across the country have been recording increased enrolment numbers in its autobody programs over the past few years. Amongst those is Ottawa’s Algonquin College. With 16 apprentices enlisted in the advanced third level of the school’s Auto Body Repairer program, there will soon be a new batch of specialists entering the labour pool in the capital region.
That’s good news according to Shawn Jamieson, manager at Myers CARSTAR Collision centre in Ottawa, who recently took the time to talk to the students at Algonquin College about everything they can expect once they transition into the industry full-time.
Highlighting a variety of subjects such as coming up with payment plans for customers, how to handle different kinds of repairs and how to deal with insurance appraisers, Jamieson veered away from the traditional classroom presentation and instead did his best to paint an accurate picture of how the industry works today.
“The important thing, I feel, when you’re talking to students, the up and coming workers, is to do things at their level. Standing at the front of a room and talking at these people isn’t going to accomplish anything, so I made my visit as informal as possible,” Jamieson told Collision Repair magazine. “It was just a few guys sat around talking about the industry.”
He added, “This visit was more or less addressing what these guys could expect in the future. It wasn’t about me telling them how to change a door, or how to fix a bumper, it was more talking about things such as looking after yourself and knowing what a good employer looks like versus a bad employer.”
With most of those in attendance already committed to specific employers upon graduation, Jamieson was keen to press home the concept of being a ‘one shop man’ was perhaps fading away the more the industry evolves.
“I think a lot of people are making the commitment to come into the industry without really having the full story at this stage of their career. In most cases they have an employer that has sponsored them, which is super important, but it’s becoming a real rarity that people stay in one place, and that surprised them,” Jamieson said.
“In the trades, people tend to bounce around from job to job quite a bit before they find the one that fits. A big part of the conversation we had was to make sure they understood that. The place they are today isn’t necessarily going to be the place they’ll be at in ten years time. It’s becoming more and more difficult for technicians to find their ideal job right out of the gates.”
Having enjoyed a long working relationship with Jamieson, one of the men tasked with teaching the next generation of collision repairers at Algonquin College Angelo Rigakis knew he could depend on his longtime friend to provide some valuable insight on the industry.
“I’ve known Shawn a long time and I know his philosophy on the industry – he’s always believed in teaching that next generation of technicians and helping them along on their path into the business,” Rigakis told Collision Repair magazine. “By bringing Shawn in, we’re letting the students see and hear first hand something they perhaps haven’t been exposed to before, and that’s the employer’s side of things.”
He added, “Long gone are the days of this being a business for brutes. It’s a very technical industry. Employers have different expectations these days. It’s not just about knowing how to do a certain job, it’s knowing the concept and structure behind it. Having the skills is one thing, but to truly succeed in this industry now you really have to come in with the right attitude. That’s the main thing shops are looking for these days – people with a good attitude and a willingness to learn.”
That positive attitude and thirst for learning, according to Jamieson, was more than present in the group he addressed at Algonquin.
“They were a good group of kids. By the time we were done we’d gone past the end of their day, in fact I’d stolen an extra 10 minutes from them, but they weren’t rushing for the doors,” Jamieson said. “I wasn’t too sure coming in what the response would be like, but it was great. They were asking me all sorts of questions and just seemed really engaged right from the get go. If they took one or two things away from me being here, then it was more than worth the trip.”