Targeting Talent

by Leanne Jefferies

The CCIF Skills Program is working towards a bigger, brighter future for collision repair.

The CCIF Skills Program was established in 2008 to promote careers in collision repair to thousands of students attending Skills Canada competitions across the country. Major challenges have been met to get the program where it is today. Establishing a national car painting competition, and bringing it on-site has made the collision repair industry a main attraction at Skills Canada competitions, helping to maximize industry exposure to students. To date, student impressions exceed 700,000. The Virtual Paint System is another point of attraction, providing a unique, hands-on experience with a lasting impression. 

TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

Today, the CCIF Skills Program is about more than just hosting great competitions. The program has established a strong network of volunteers across Canada, and our high level of professional engagement at competitions is unique to our industry. Competitors have the opportunity to meet with industry experts and try the latest and greatest tools, equipment and technology. We also provide hands-on, industry-provided education and training during select competitions, ensuring that young people leave with enhanced skills and knowledge. 

The second day added to the Ontario Skills Competition offered students training courses on paint from AkzoNobel, polishing from 3M, and gun setup, cleaning, and safety from Caruk & Associates. For those studying autobody repair, I-CAR and CARSTAR Automotive Canada partnered to offer the opportunity to sign up for the I-CAR Welding Certification Program early this summer, at no cost. Additionally, CARSTAR hosted a teacher-training session after hours at the competition site. 

At the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I-CAR and the CCIF Skills Program teamed up to provide the New Technology & Trends I-CAR class to attending industry and educators. Over 20 people from 15 different businesses participated, and in addition to earning I-CAR credits, they had a chance to tour the site, support our competitors and network. I am working closely with Skills Canada offices across the country to add more educational opportunities to our events. We will have educational components included in Ontario, Alberta, and at the national event in New Brunswick in 2016.

LIFE-CHANGING EVENTS

During SCNC, I spoke with William Fell, father of Emily, a Secondary car painting competitor. I asked how he felt about Emily’s experience. She won gold in Ontario, where we hosted a full-day training session prior to competition day, and travelled to Saskatoon with her parents to compete. He said, “She’s not even the same girl.

Her determination and focus is unbelievable. She knows exactly what she wants to do, and nothing is going to stop her. She has learned so much at the competitions. It’s been a life changing-experience for her, and I am sure she will be in your industry for the long term.” Both Emily and her father will be featured on our CCIF Skills Program video, to be released this fall. Emily is a high school co-op student at Budds’ Collision in Oakville, Ontario.

WOMEN IN COLLISION REPAIR

Just a few short years ago there were very few female competitors. Today, the number of young women participating in skills competitions is on the rise. At the Manitoba Provincial competition, half of the painting competitors were female.

Similarly, in Alberta six of 18 competitors were women — five in autobody repair and one in car painting. The Nova Scotia provincial Car Painting champion, Nicole Hamilton, joined me at CCIF Halifax, excited to be representing her province at the nationals in Saskatoon. Women are also claiming their space on the podium. At the Skills Canada national competition, two of the four female painting competitors brought home medals. Young women are finding their place in industry, and getting involved with organizing our events. Cecile Bukmeier is a past Alberta Car Painting champion, and this year she stepped forward to become the first female Chair for one of our provincial events.  I had the pleasure of working with Cecile to assist her in bringing car painting on-site during her first year as Chair of the Alberta Car Painting competition. Cecile was also named Skills Alberta “Alumni of the Year,” and was honoured at the event.  She also joined the National Technical Committee, responsible for organizing our events.  Having female representation on the national committee is a significant step forward, as it sends the message to women competitors that there is a place for them in the collision repair industry.

ADVANCING CAREERS & GIVING BACK

National and provincial car painting champion Aaron Hebb addressed the CCIF Halifax audience in May, sharing his personal experience with the CCIF Skills Program. He told the audience about his experience as a young car painting competitor, starting out in 2008 – the year of the program’s inception.

Nervous and unsure of himself at first, he then relaxed and gained focus, ending up the Canadian champion. It was during this event that Aaron found his calling. He went on to compete at WorldSkills in the UK, and today he works for Sherwin Williams. He is also the Canadian Car Painting expert supporting current Team Canada member Kassandra Bilodeau, who will travel to Brazil for WorldSkills in August. Aaron is also Co-Chair of the National Technical Committee for the Car Painting competition. He gives credit to the CCIF Skills Program for launching his career forward.

“The CCIF Skills Program attracts youth to our industry, helps develop youth in the industry, and helps retain them as well,” he said to the crowd. “Without the program I wouldn’t be here talking to you today [at CCIF], and there’s a good chance I may not even be involved in the industry today. It really makes a difference!”

GREATER REACH AND STAYING CURRENT

The CCIF Skills Program expands its reach every year by adding new events, expanding competition sites, and adding components like education and training.  This year, the introduction of two new on-site Car Painting events in Alberta and BC ensured that an additional 15,000 students saw painting in person, for the first time.

Competitors at these new events had a chance to be a part of the main attraction to feel the excitement of competing in front of thousands of spectators. Both events will be on-site again in 2016, and in Alberta we are planning to add an educational component to the event, providing the young competitors with training from industry experts Another key aspect of our competitions is to stay current with the technology being used in industry. Projects are designed to accurately represent the work being done. This year, the Car Painting competition in Ontario included UV primer, allowing students to see the advanced materials and equipment needed to complete repairs quickly. Next year, the national autobody repair competition will be adding aluminum repair to their scope, along with an instructional session on aluminum for those students who may have had no or little previous exposure.

By showcasing the exciting technology and advanced training needed to repair vehicles, we can attract bright, ambitious students to consider a career in collision repair as their first choice.

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