The Support Ontario Youth Program helps automotive service technician apprentices, and employers, succeed on their journey.
A conversation with Melanie Winter, program director for the Motive Power section of Support Ontario Youth.
Everyone at the shop level in the automotive aftermarket is aware of the challenges of staffing – in particular, the challenges of attracting and retaining apprentices to work in shops and complete apprenticeship programs. It creates an administrative burden on shop owners too, and sometimes those challenges cause them to decide that they just don’t have the time or the inclination for it.
In Ontario, a new program was recently introduced to address these concerns. Melanie Winter, program director for the Motive Power section of Support Ontario Youth, recently sat down with Indie Garage publisher Andrew Ross for a recent episode of the Great Canadian Aftermarket Podcast, to discuss the new program. What follows are excerpts from their conversation; to listen to the full podcast, go to Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Support Ontario Youth is a group sponsor in the province of Ontario and approved for the Motive Power Automotive Service Technician 310S apprenticeship. What that means is we have approval from the Ministry to work with apprentices and employers within the sectors that we support to hold the registered training agreement on behalf of the employer. In effect, we actually become the sponsor. The employer retains all rights of employment for the apprentice, but we take care of a lot of the actual administrative burden of the apprenticeship process.
If there are issues throughout the journey, either for the employer or for the apprentice, we will act on behalf of the apprentice and the employer with the Ministry. We also help the apprentice navigate what is very much a confusing pathway within the province.
Sometimes unfamiliarity with the system, or a bad fit with an employer, can cause an apprentice to exit the trade; or sometimes they just have trouble finding an employer. Because we hold the registered training agreement, we can support them to find a new employer, help them find their voice and to go to their employer and say this, or this isn’t working. Our goal is to facilitate a better experience for that apprentice to hopefully keep them in the apprenticeship program, by providing additional wraparound supports that apprentices don’t have access to on their own.
On the employer’s side, we provide additional supports as well. Because we work with large organizations and associations across the province, we are able to lean on what we know about the industry to help support the employer as well.
Among the supports that have been particularly valuable is mentorship. One of the big barriers to completion for apprentices is that when they go back to school, or go back to their block or day release levelled learning, they lose their connection to their employer and to that journeyperson who’s been supporting them day to day in the shop. In our program, they can reach out to a technical mentor. We can also provide study support, which is particularly useful when an apprentice is getting ready to write the certificate of qualification (Cof Q) exam.
Some apprentices struggle with test writing, and are nervous test takers. so we have supports that we can provide to help them through those hurdles as well.
There are valuable services on the employer side too, such as recruitment services. We use two assessments: one is a personality-based assessment, data-driven by human analytics and created by psychologists to assess fitness for trade. The other one is a critical thinking and reasoning assessment. Can you problem-solve? Can you think through an issue and try alternatives solutions? Both are very important to our trade.
So if an employer has a candidate they’d like to hire, we can offer them the ability to have that candidate go through those two assessments. Or they can use them to help the apprentice through the apprenticeship process, by providing guidance on where they might need extra help or support.
Beyond these supports, we can also help in applying for grants and funding. For example, the Ontario government now offers an achievement incentive grant that employers can receive just for signing up an apprentice. Each time one of their apprentices goes back to school and completes a level of schooling, there’s options or opportunities for grants. We can apply for those on the employer’s behalf, and take care of all the administration and paperwork for them.
One last thing to know is that there is no age limit to be part of the SOY program. Our name is somewhat misleading; the majority of our base is in that 18 to 35 space, but the average age of apprentices these days in Ontario is actually 28 or 29 years old.
We pride ourselves on being able to support every age group that might want to get into the trades. We’re happy to support anyone graduating from high school, all the way through to third, fourth, fifth, sixth careers!
For more information about Support Ontario Youth and the Motive Power Apprenticeship support, visit SupportOntarioYouth.ca.
BOOT CAMPS START THE JOURNEY
Support Ontario Youth also presents Boot Camps, one day “try a trade” youth workshops. Participants get a basic toolkit to keep (worth approx. $250) and spend half a day learning how to work on items like brake systems and how to use the tools, and the second half focusing on employability skills, like interviewing and networking.