By Dylan O'Hagan
Peterborough, Ontario -- March 17, 2016 -- Safety in the automotive repair industry can literally mean life or death. That’s part of the idea behind the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), and that’s why Ontario enforcement officers recently cracked down on technicians lacking an official Certificate of Qualification.
In the past winter alone over 600 work sites were visited by enforcement officers in Markham and London, Ontario. This comes after a change in legislation back in 2013. Since then the Ontario College of Trades Apprenticeship Act has set both the legislative and regulatory framework for skilled trades in the province.
The idea behind the blitzes by enforcement officers is to crackdown on repair technicians who have fallen behind on certification renewal and training. Bob Onyschuk, Director of Compliance & Enforcement for OCOT, says the goal is to educate and motivate.
“The primary goal of these blitzes is to educate both business owners and workers about the College and its role in making sure that only qualified individuals are repairing vehicles,” he said. “A second goal is to motivate individuals who want to work in these compulsory motive power trades to go through the process of receiving proper training and licensing. The blitzes are to prepare tradespeople, apprentices and employers for future visits, meaning all having proper certification on hand.”
With vehicles today changing at a rapid pace, technicians must work to stay up-to-date and always prepared. The types of technicians really being affected are those who have been in the business for a long time according to John Norris, Executive Director of Collision Industry Information Assistance (CIIA).
“This morning we had three technicians who have been in the business for 20 years and now they have to get licensed. They have to hire apprentices and they want to get on salvage programs,” he said. “It proves their competency and they're going to learn things. The reality is they don't know everything and they’re going to learn things as they move forward towards the exam.”
So how does a blitz work exactly? According to Onyschuk, enforcement officers can come during any part of the work day and if the necessary certification isn’t shown, fines could be laid.
“During a blitz, College enforcement officers will enter a business during normal working hours and conduct an inspection,” said Onyschuk. “This may involve examining pertinent documents, including payroll records, employee schedules and Registered Training Agreements.”
The impact this crackdown is having on the collision repair industry is huge according to Norris. During an interview with Collision Repair magazine, Norris referred to a recent study conducted by CIIA, “Industry facts vs. industry perception - and is Ontario's success model transferrable.” The study shows an increase in people writing the exam. It also shows for the first time ever, more challengers than apprentices are writing the exam. Challengers in this case are those technicians who can prove 8,000 shop hours but have never completed the official apprenticeship program. As Norris said, the effects of the crackdown can already be felt.
“Well, we’re already seeing what it has accomplished. We're seeing more people going to school, writing exams, getting licensed. We're seeing more people getting into the trade and raising the competence and skill level,” he said. “The other good thing is we’re targeting the underground guys, the people who don't want to see the light of day and hide in the shadows. We're finding them.”
Onyschuk agrees with Norris, saying that he’s seen improvements as well since the blitzes began. “We have already seen improvements in numbers of test-takers and Certificate of Qualification completions. Also, the number of exam failures has gone down and the number of new technicians or journeypersons employed in shops is growing,” said Onyschuk.
It comes back to the idea of a level playing field for collision repair technicians throughout Ontario. This level playing field also works to serve the public’s interest, as it helps eliminate the chances of a consumer getting taken advantage of by an unscrupulous operator.
“Is it fair for a shop in Ontario that does all the right things, gets all the skills, all the schooling and knowledge, to compete with someone working out of their back yard? No, it's not. And does that kind of service value consumers? No it doesn't, this is how consumers get taken advantage of," said Norris.
For more information, please visit collegeoftrades.ca.