SAIT’s Ben Hart on Supporting Young Repairers

By Ben Hart

Toronto, Ontario — July, 19, 2019 — KPIs, CSIs, payroll, liability insurance, employee retention, accounts payable, touch time, six sigma. If these are some things that keep you up at night then there is a good chance you are in a management position or an owner of a modern collision shop.

I have a lot of respect for shop owners, especially those who are willing to hire and train apprentices. A common occurrence for apprentices is being told that the shop isn’t looking for or doesn’t typically hire apprentices. At the same time, I hear that these shops cannot find qualified technicians. If the seed isn’t planted, then there will be no crop to harvest tomorrow.

I understand that shops may need a qualified technician and I also understand that some shops feel the loyalty of an apprentice, particularly when training is complete, can be less than appealing. This relationship is a 2-way street that must remain mutually beneficial for both parties.

Employee pay is always a factor but is all too often looked at with tunnel vision. Some shops may be concerned that after investing years of time and training into an apprentice that he or she may leave to work elsewhere for an additional few dollars.  

So how can an employer increase retention of the apprentice, particularly after the apprentice becomes a journeyman technician? This can be achieved through forms of support beyond monetary measures. One of the largest shortfalls of apprentices that I see for technical training is that the apprentice feels the employer or supervising journeyperson has not provided the necessary training prior to technical training. Another is that apprentices feel they will be scrutinized upon returning to work and trying to do repairs “by the book” as taught in school.

I believe the single biggest factor in apprentice retention comes down to clear communication which includes: being concise and diligent with goal setting; utilizing the Apprenticeship Record/Log Book; liaising with your local training provider or apprenticeship office; allowing the apprentice time to attend technical training; discussing the “taboo” topic of wages and possible raises beforehand; discussing your shop’s SOPs and explain why they may differ slightly from what was taught at the school.

My experience has been that apprentices who receive the support needed to become loyal, reliable skilled technicians. The investment of support will pay dividends over time especially as trained technicians become more of a scarce commodity. Perhaps a little time spent supporting an apprentice will allow a little more time of rest at night.

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