Many newly qualified skilled trades workers entering the industry today are searching for something other than just big paycheques. Recent reports from college educators and industry consultants are seeing youth becoming more attracted to job opportunities that encourage professional growth instead of just high-paying salaries—and Canada’s collision repair industry provides a wealth of opportunities.

Skills/Compétences Canada is a non-profit organization that promotes careers in technology and skilled trades. CEO Shaun Thorson says they have been hearing from students that the idea of careers—as opposed to a ‘job’—is becoming important.

“One thing that students seem to want to know is that if they start in this sector or in this job, and with additional training and education, is there a pathway to different career opportunities or a chance to level up?” explains Thorson. “They want to know if it can lead to career laddering.”

Dani Van Bendegem just completed her third year at Centennial College’s autobody technician program. She will soon be preparing to apply for journeyman status and write her Red Seal licensing exam to become a full technician. “Auto body is cool because it’s mechanical but artsy at the same time,” she says. “You get to shape panels and work with it. Every skill is a little bit different and you’re never doing the same thing all the time.”

And as lot of older generation auto body techs are nearing retirement, getting new talent will be important. Van Bendegem says there are some things that shop owners can offer to attract new techs, like having the willingness to train new apprentices and to let them learn as much as possible.

“It can either drive people away from the industry or create licensed techs who don’t know what they’re doing,” says Van Bendegem. And having good equipment in the shop is also a big draw, she adds.

Olivia DiGianfelice has also just completed her third year at Centennial College’s auto body technician program and currently works as an apprentice at a large production-style shop in Toronto. She never pictured herself in a desk job and wanted a career that was hands-on. DiGianfelice says young auto body techs these days are fully invested in getting their licenses, moving up and continuing to improve the auto body industry.

“Shop owners need to embrace the younger generation,” she says. “We’re knowledgeable and we’re more active in working with newer vehicles and their production.” The techs of tomorrow also don’t want to be held back from learning it all.

“When a shop finds someone that’s really good at something, they kind of want to keep them in that one spot and you don’t get the opportunity to move forward and learn other things,” says DiGianfelice.

Thorson from Skills/Compétences Canada says promoting the benefits of entering skilled trades is on-going and necessary. “There continues to be a need for young people to learn about the many career opportunities and educational pathways available to them,” he says.

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