If there is one thing that in the near future could keep Vikas Monga, Service Manager at Mississauga Hyundai, it is running out of auto mechanics. “I put out an ad for a receptionist and I received over 100 resumes. For the past year I have been looking for an auto technician and am yet to find the right one,” he said.
At auto service centres across the GTA, service managers will attest to a shortage that is only set to get worse in the years to come.
The irony is that most parents insist on their children getting a college degree regardless of the fact that the unemployment rate for many young people holding college degrees and qualifications is 13.4, while those who go to trade school get hired at wages that are the envy of many White collared, college educated professionals and young people.
Vikas Monga says that many South Asian parents especially are adamant that their children go to college to become doctors or engineers or any profession with high status. Going to Trade School to become an electrician or a auto mechanic has low status. “An auto mechanic gets an average of $28-$30 a flat rate hour. This means if a job to replace transmission is to talk six hours and he completes the job in five or four hours, he still gets paid for six hours. The pay is good and its hard to be unemployed in this profession, yet there are few takers for this job.
Anthony Cheung, Service Manager at Kingcross Hyundai says that the only way to attract talented young people to consider becoming auto mechanics is to change their job titles, like calling them auto engineers. “The status needs to change and while we call them engineers, we also pay them a lot better,” he said.
When Dominic Misquita immigrated to Canada 27 years ago, he enrolled in a automotive technician program at Mohawk college and found well-paying work days after he completed it. “I ran garages for other people until 2005 when I opened my own called Smart Tech Auto, in Mississauga,” he said. Today he is a highly successful and needless to add wealthy small business owner.
According to Dominic, being an auto mechanic is hard work but it is highly rewarding. “It is hard to find a responsible and hard working auto mechanic these days. In the old days, an auto mechanic needed fewer skills to do the job. These days they need to be electronically inclined given the level of computer technology in vehicles. “An auto mechanic needs to have an analytical mind and decipher how to fix it. It’s not good enough to be good with your hands, the electronics are challenging. Taking things apart and putting them back without damaging it requires intelligence and skills. There is a need to be able to recognize the problem and then fix it,” says Dominic.
This is echoed by both Vikas and Anthony Cheung who talk about the need for auto mechanics to know how software works.
Getting auto mechanics with such a complex level of skills is not easy.
Can-India reached out to the Ontario College of Trades to ask what was being done to de-stigmatise the trades especially among new immigrants.
A spokesperson said that the college is talking to parents, guidance counselors and young people about career options in the skilled trades. The college participates in employment fairs to promote apprenticeships and skilled trades. Their earnwhileyoulearn.ca gives young people an idea of what they can expect once they complete a skilled trades course.
The fact remains that many skilled trades professions are recession-proof. It is a given that auto mechanics will have no difficulty finding a job, however his (or her) challenge would be finding a date. Anthony Cheung points out that few girls want to go out with a grease monkey. “The environment is not good, auto mechanics have to dirty their hands, often they have dirt under their nails and their hands are scratched up. Many girls don’t want to be touched by someone with dirty hands,” he says. “Someone working at McDonald’s may have more luck with the girls,” he adds.
This is a reality that often clouds one’s judgment when it comes to considering becoming an auto mechanic or technician.
A high school counselor narrates about the time he counseled a student to consider trade school as he was good with his hands. The next day he received a visit from the father who was unhappy with that suggestion. Turns out the father was a plumber and although he made decent money wanted his son to go to university to become a white collared professional who would work in an office.
Many South Asian parents think along the same lines. The current youth unemployment numbers should make parents and students reconsider their aversion to the trades. After all prestige also comes from holding down a well-paying job. Simply having a degree from a prestigious university and a low-paying ‘prestigious’ job doesn’t cut it anymore for a growing number of university graduates. – CINEWS