By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario —— CARSTAR recently hosted the students of the Tropicana Employment Services Autobody Training Program at a special all-day tour. The event, now in its eighth year, had a slightly different feel this time.
“Usually we have it in Hamilton at the CARSTAR facility, but it can be a challenge to bus the kids there,” says Collin Welsh, Regional Development Manager, GTA and Eastern Ontario, CARSTAR Canada.
Instead Welsh had an idea. He had recently taken part in a training session at the AkzoNobel facility in Etobicoke. The company maintains a full-size autobody facility on the premises. A plan came together—the AkzoNobel facility, accessible by public transit, would be the site of this year’s event.
The shift in location provided students with an opportunity to get into a real paint booth to get a feel for what the job is really all about.
“This year we wanted them to have the exposure to get in a spray booth. They all got suited up with spray guns. We had a series of fenders set up for them to paint,” says Welsh. “Not all want to be painters, but they should know how that works. It’s great to have that exposure so they know the environment they’re getting into.”
The students also took in product demos from 3M and heard from senior industry people about how they moved through the industry and were able to find a niche that appealed to them. “Not everyone is going to be a painter. They heard about all the other opportunities as well, be it as an estimator, manager or salesperson. It was a fantastic day,” says Welsh. “It was one of the best career days we’ve had.”
Students also attended a class on estimating, presented by CARSTAR’s Chris Bullock. The class provided the students with some exposure to how estimates are written and pay calculated per job. This information will serve them in good stead when they start working in the industry.
Marc Tremblay is the Program Coordinator for the Tropicana Employment Services Pre-Apprenticeship Autobody and Collision Damage Repairer Training Program.
“It was absolutely phenomenal. They put together a great event,” says Tremblay. “They got to use the paint booth. Everything was hands on. The kids came away with a much better idea of what they wanted to go into once they graduate. 3M was a big part of the event. But all of the companies involved generously donated their time.”
The pre-apprenticeship program is offered by the Tropicana Employment Centre. It allows youth to prepare for a career in autobody and collision damage repair. For those with a grade 12 education between 18 and 30 years of age, the program comes at no cost and involves six weeks of pre-employment training, an “introduction to autobody”, as well as courses on interview preparation, resume writing, WHMIS training, employment counselling and job coaching. There is also a 12-week paid work placement with an employer, as well as connections with employers. The program is a great way to connect the industry with youth.
“Every year we put out an ad out at community centres … and it seems to be spreading in Toronto. Every year it gets better. This year we had over 60 applicants. We did 40 interviews and 20 got into program with some on a waiting list. This is the most I’ve ever had apply,” says Tremblay. “The strong response helped us decide we’re doing the right thing with a new course in the fall for those working towards their high school GED.” The new course starts in September.
Tremblay thinks that the strong response suggests more young kids are looking to autobody as a potential career. “I think people are getting educated about autobody and that this is a good job. There’s more interest in this,” he says.
The students taking part in this year’s event had an opportunity to experience the “family-like” atmosphere of the industry.
“People in the industry seem like they care. The kids in the program felt like they were a part of the family,” says Tremblay. “They were able to see that they are on a journey and that they can have a good career. They got to talk to some former students and got to see where they are today. These veterans were all Red Seals and have Level III designations, and the students could see how happy they are.”
The hands-on nature of this year’s event was also a big hit with the students. “They love that there’s a lot of hands on work. They love the cars. They got to get into the respirators. It got their interest and it got them asking a lot more questions,” says Tremblay.
This year’s group of students has been especially tight-knit, says Tremblay. He is confident this batch of students will do well, especially with the help afforded through the program. “They’ve formed into a family. They’re all supporting each other, helping each other. I have a lot confidence this group is going to do well,” he says. “This industry is about getting your foot in the door. And because of the partners we have in this program the students see they can do that.”
The program also benefits the wider industry. “We are already enduring a shortage. And it’s not going to get better in the next five or ten years,” says Welsh. “This is why CARSTAR is a huge supporter of the program. We’re going to need these kids.”
CARSTAR provides a Best-in-Class award for the graduation ceremony. The company also donates money to the program and attends the job fair at the end of the program. “We’re really happy with it, as everyone else is,” says Welsh.
Another key part of the program is a prep session on how to handle a job interview. “When these kids are done the first thing they’re gong to do is go out and get a job. They have to know how to present themselves. Many have not had to do that before. But this program helps them. That’s important,” says Welsh.
For more information on the Tropicana Pre-Apprenticeship program, please click here.
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