Job: Automotive Service Technician
Role: The role of an automotive service technician is to assess, diagnose, inspect and repair vehicles. It is a job that requires deep knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of automotive types, sizes, makes and models, but also strong interpersonal skills, as service technicians are required to communicate the current and future needs of a vehicle to customers.
"Customers need this information so they can make informed decisions affecting the repair and maintenance of their vehicle," said Ken McCormack, the president and CEO of the Automotive Retailers Association, a B.C.-based automotive trade association. "Automotive Service Technicians must also be able to research and investigate the information systems available, and get the information on the make and model and how it works and what it needs."
Education: While most provinces require automotive service technicians to obtain Red Seal Technician certification, some provinces remain without mandatory certification. Training can be acquired at trade schools and colleges across the country, which typically include two-year educational programs, as well as through formal apprenticeship programs.
"The expectation to pass through the various levels of certification requires a certain number of hours working on the vehicles themselves, so typically you do (the training) while you're employed at an automotive repair facility," Mr. McCormack said. "You find the work and you enroll in the training at the same time."
While certification is not required in B.C., for example, Albertans must be certified or have an application approved by Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training. In provinces where certification is not mandatory, however, employers typically require some level of training. Depending on the province, training can be provided through a number of formal and informal sources, explains Mr. McCormack.
"Those (provinces) that have mandatory certification will have certain requirements and expect formal training, but that training could come through the colleges, through the manufacturers of the vehicles if the apprenticeship is working at a dealership that is specific to certain make and models, or it could be done through employers engaged in the services of a trainer who can actual provide training to their employers," he said.
Salary: According to the Alberta 2009 Wage and Salary survey, the average annual income of automotive service technicians in that province was $55,972. According to Job Futures Quebec, the average salary for automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers in that province in 2014 was $39,100.
According to the 2011 National Household Survey, the average wages and salaries of automotive service technicians throughout Canada was $42,488.
"Compensation typically depends on the level of training and experience a technician achieves, and most businesses support the technician in some capacity through their apprenticeship training," Mr. McCormack added.
Job Prospects: Like many skilled trades across Canada, the automotive repair industry is facing a talent shortage, as the rate of retirees is not being matched by the rate of new entrants.
"The fact is that you've got a generation of workers that are, in our industry, on average, in their mid-50s and looking to retire soon, and we have a much smaller generation coming up, in terms of number of people looking for jobs," Mr. McCormack said. "There will be more jobs to fill than people to fill them. The demand is going to be high everywhere."
Mr. McCormack adds that so long as there are cars on the road, there will be ongoing job security for those entering the industry.
Challenges: While many automotive service technicians enter the industry with an interest in working with their hands, Mr. McCormack explains that the physical demands of the job can take their toll over time.
"It is obviously a career that takes more out of a person's body than a desk job, for example," he said. "I will say that with technology advances and changes in vehicles, those physical demands are less than they used to be."
Another challenge faced by those eager to get to work under the hood of a car is the realization that it takes months of training, both formal and on-the-job, before employers can trust them to make repairs.
"You've got to start somewhere and learn the skills necessary to properly work on vehicles," Mr. McCormack said. "Obviously automotive repair shops are very conscious of making sure that customer vehicles are repaired properly. It takes a little while before individuals are competent and capable enough to work on every make and model properly."
Why they do it: The automotive repair industry is one that attracts car enthusiasts as well as those who enjoy tinkering and working with large mechanical equipment. Some also enjoy the challenge of understanding and working on a wide variety of automotive makes and models.
"This is a great industry for learning and growth and especially attractive to entrepreneurial spirited people," Mr. McCormack said.
Misconceptions: Automotive service technicians have been plagued by poor representations in popular media as an industry that takes advantage of their customer's lack of knowledge and understanding in the field.
"That has not been our experience as an association representing these automotive repair shops, in fact it's quite the opposite," said Mr. McCormack. "It really is a pride-based industry that we take seriously, and certainly from the consumer perspective, an association like the Automotive Retailer Association, it's a pretty safe bet that if you're working with a member of our association that you are in fact dealing with a reputable business."
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