Johnny D'Ambrosio, co-owner of Fix Auto St. Catharines, working with a young technician. The shop has fostered a culture that encourages young people to stay and advance.

By Erin McLaughlin

St. Catharines, Ontario -- June 27, 2017 -- Millennials, recruit and retain often appear in the same sentence, and as the workforce ages and young people start growing into working members of society, the conversation on how to integrate them into the collision repair industry is becoming increasingly important. 

A third generation family owned repair shop in St. Catharines has not only figured out how to successfully integrate young people, but thrives from doing so. The shop is Fix Auto St. Catharines. Recently, it went through a major transformation in order to draw more staff and improve retention.

 “Since revamping the way our shop is run, there has been a shift in shop culture, ” said Johnny D’Ambrosio, who co-owns the ship with his father. “Productivity has improved, staff progress at a faster pace, attitude is better and there is a healthy sense of competition.”  

As they hire many young people fresh out of school, thoroughly training each employee that comes through the shop is vital. Staff are put though an Axalta training program to get an understanding of the work they need to do. After, their training is continued in the shop, where they can really hone in on a technical skill through experience. “New technicians shadow and learn from older technicians and we encourage them to 'try and do,'” said D’Ambrosio. Employees also attend various I-CAR and Fix Auto courses to further advance their skill sets. 

While the internal training that is often needed when hiring less experienced young people is sometimes considered a waste of time and resources, D’Ambrosio argues the initial setback is worth it in the long run. “A younger, driven and progressive team allows your business to excel,” said D’Ambrosio.

The shop encourages their staff to come up with new ideas, problem solve and get creative, allowing techs to contribute to the business in a meaningful way. Hiring on attitude hass another long-term perk: “If you have a toxic member on your team, even if they’re a good performer, the long term effect will be crumbling. The business as a whole will not succeed,” said D'Ambrosio. If the attitude is right, the person will learn and improve, and that initial inconvenience will turn into a loyal, satisfied employee.

Providing staff with opportunities for growth has served the business well. “We always look within our business when we need to fill in a position, before looking outside. We’d train one of our own on estimating, for example,” said D’Ambrosio. Consequently, employee retention has improved drastically. “In the last year, our turnover rate has been non-existent, which is rare,” said D’Ambrosio. “We have employees who planned on only working with us for a few months, but ended up staying on for years.” When someone begins a career at Fix Auto St. Catharines, they can be confident that they are working for a business that provides opportunity and growth. D'Ambrosio notes that with so much room to succeed, the desire to leave and seek out something better is infrequent.  

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