by Paul Williams

If you’ve ever thought of acquiring training as an automotive technician or an auto body specialist, now may be the time.

The Province of Ontario has launched an Apprenticeship Pilot Project to encourage young people into trades. The pilot project is operating in Ottawa, London, Owen Sound and Sudbury. The Ottawa pilot project is focusing on the automotive trade.

“There’s a great demand for automotive technicians and auto body specialists in Ontario,” said Christiane Graham, an employment counsellor with Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau.

“In Ottawa, our ‘Job Connect’ program is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and local employers to bring people into the industry, and we’ve got new incentives to help them do that,” she added.

The target group is young people between the ages of 16-24 who are residents of Ontario and out of full-time school or work. Job Connect has already lined up employers. Now all it needs is interested people.

“Ontario is experiencing a decline in available automotive technicians, ” said Program Director, Jeff Burry. “Nearly 50 per cent of the current general workforce is over 40 and only 7.5 per cent are under 25. People are retiring and not being replaced. It’s becoming a crisis for the automotive industry here.”

Mr. Burry pointed out that people have a misconception about the work. He feels they see it as simply a blue-collar job, which is not as appealing to young people, and no longer entirely accurate.

“Things are changing,” explained Mr. Burry. “It’s become way more sophisticated, as technicians now work with computer diagnostic systems and sophisticated electronic functions. It’s for people who like software and hardware (and cars!).”

According to the Canadian Automotive Service and Repair Guide, Automotive Service Technician jobs range between $17.00 and $27.00 per hour, with most employers adding a full range of benefits. Nearly 46 per cent fall into a range between $35,001 and $55,000. 14 per cent report income over $55,000.

“What with the growth in the aftermarket industry, and the boom in car sales, the future looks very bright for entrepreneurs as well,” said Mr. Burry.

To get people interested in the career, Job Connect is offering financial incentives to apprentices and to employers in an attempt to fill the available spots. Once enrolled, an apprentice will alternate between working for the employer and studying at college. The pilot program will pay for the level-1 classroom component of the training, and after the work session, the apprentice is eligible for employment insurance to cover living expenses. Support to purchase tools may be available to qualified participants.

A diploma is awarded after the four-year apprenticeship. A “Red Seal” diploma is awarded to persons achieving a 70 per cent average. That diploma can be used to work in any province in Canada.

Even if an employer isn’t lined up, an apprentice can begin the college component. Job Connect will arrange an employer once the college component is started. This is a change from the usual situation where the apprentice must find an employer before enrolling in the program.

Think you might be interested, or know someone who would? For persons interested in opportunities in the Ottawa region, information sessions will take place on February 19, 20. Representatives from Job Connect, employers and apprentices will be on hand to answer questions. Check out the website at www.needajob.org/apprenticeships.html for location details.

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If you miss the sessions, or want more information, email apprenticeships@ysb.on.ca, call (613) 236-8244, or visit the Youth Services Bureau, 71 Bank Street, 5th floor. Christiane Graham is the person to ask for.

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