According to CAF/FCA executive director France Daviault, “CAF provides a platform to get owners and apprentices together to talk about apprenticeship.”
As Azilda, Ont.-based shop owner (and former apprentice) Zack Kaattari observes, auto repair is not something you can learn with a couple of years of college training. You need to spend time in a shop: fixing cars, receiving the latest manufacturer-sourced training and bulletins, and facing the real-world conditions that modern techs face every day.
That’s why apprenticeship programs can be so valuable, for both industry newcomers and the owners that employ them. However, programs and the level of government support vary widely across the country, and getting involved can be confusing. The need for a central information and networking source led to the founding of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum/ Forum Canadienne sur l’Apprentissage in 2000.
According to CAF/FCA executive director France Daviault, “CAF provides a platform to get owners and apprentices together to talk about apprenticeship, to talk about what’s working and what isn’t, and to inform apprenticeship programs.”
The automotive industry is particularly well suited to the apprenticeship system, Daviault observes. It’s an ever-changing industry in terms of technology, so there’s a real need for effective long-term training. “Research has shown that there are many benefits to making sure your employees go through an apprenticeship program. It’s also a great recruitment vehicle.” Being able to offer young people a combination of training and wage-subsidized work, often at competitive salary rates, is highly attractive in the modern job market, she points out.
One of the biggest objections Daviault hears from owners is that in-class training programs, which require apprentices to train away from the shop for six weeks at a time, is costly in both time and money. “But it’s really a long-term investment,” she argues. “And the chances of the employee staying on with you after they complete the program increase when they are supported.”
Along with providing a central information exchange for the apprenticeship community at large, much of CAF’s resources are devoted to ongoing research, and through regional and national conferences that bring industry members together to discuss issues of importance. Last June’s biennual National Apprenticeship Conference in Montreal brought together 550 attendees from across the country, with a keynote by Dr. Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, and a wide-ranging slate of talks and seminars. The 2020 edition is scheduled for May 22-24, 2020 in Calgary.
Along with the National Conference, CAF/FCA also sponsors regular regional conferences on more focused issues. In November, over 300 attendees met in Halifax for the Supporting Women In Trades Conference; more recently, CAF members convened in Ottawa to address ways to increase and support the participation of indigenous members in training programs. “[Initiatives like these] are particularly interesting,” says Daviault, “because there are so many opportunities to hire indigenous workers, women and other under-represented groups in the industry. So our role is to help bring these groups together.”
One of CAF’s most dynamic current offerings is its online E-panel, bringing together some 2,500 apprentices in various trades across the country to help create a database of information on real-world data: completion rates of specific programs; barriers to entry; ways to improve the success of high school pre-apprenticeship programs; and other information aimed at raising the success rate and awareness of apprenticeship as a gateway to a lifelong career.
CAF’s website (caf-fca.org) is a great place to start for both owners and young people interested in embarking on apprenticeship training. The CAF website also has up-to-date information on government initiatives, industry news, and upcoming conferences and other events. From there, you can go online to both federal and provincial government sites, where you’ll find a wealth of information on registering, connecting with regional facilitators and applying for training subsidies while you learn.
In an industry that faces an increasing shortage of well-trained and career-oriented young people, participating in apprenticeship training makes absolute sense. “For a successful shop, you always need to think five years ahead. If you want well-trained, savvy educated techs, it makes sense to support them and give them a chance to complete an apprenticeship program. Apprentices are an investment in the future viability of your business.”