By Moira MacDonald
Special to the Toronto Sun
Ontario colleges and apprenticeship programs are working hard to keep up with the hiring demand in the province's growing auto industry.
But the training available is no longer the stereotypical "grease monkey" variety. Programs have grown increasingly sophisticated, from clinching the sale on the dealership floor to learning the intricate skills behind the manufacturing of more and more complicated auto parts.
"The days of banging away with a hammer have been replaced by using your multi-meter or a computer scan," says David Weatherhead, apprenticeship co-ordinator for Centennial College's school of transportation. The school is Canada's largest, and usually has a waiting list.
Centennial offers diploma and certificate programs in auto body and motorcycle repair, as well as for automotive technician, in both technical and administrative streams. Students train either through a two-year college program or through an apprenticeship program, if the student has already found an employer.
"The employment pros- pects for our graduates in the post-secondary program are very good," says Denise Devlin-Li, dean of Centennial's transportation school. "There is a lot of demand at dealerships, particularly if graduates are willing to move."
Many colleges offer skilled trades training that may not be specific to the auto industry but can nevertheless be used in that environment as well as others.
Anyone wanting to work in an Ontario auto shop or in any of the skilled trades supporting the auto industry must either be a registered apprentice or hold standard certification.
Usually apprenticeships are offered by an employer, who assumes the risk and responsibility of training the employee. The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, run by Ontario's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities helps high school students get those apprenticeship placements, while also completing their high school diplomas.
A Grade 12 diploma is the standard requirement for post-secondary programs, and courses in math and science are highly recommended.
Barrie's Georgian College offers specific training in automotive manufacturing and product design. But those seeking to get into the marketing and management end of the business will be interested in Georgian's Canadian Automotive Institute. The institute offers both a three-year diploma in business administration and automotive marketing as well as a relatively new, four-year degree in applied business in automotive management, including training in statistics, marketing, finance, economics and law. Both programs have significant co-op components.
"It's a unique program in Canada," says Marie-Noelle Bonicalzi, the institute's dean and a former dealership owner. "This program has been created by industry to respond to their needs ... There is so much demand for people that are trained in the industry. The co-op helps a lot."
The CAI holds an annual auto show, which functions as a "big lab," Bonicalzi says. There, students can practice their auto marketing and sales skills with the general public.
In addition to supporting programs such as Georgian's, many of Ontario's auto manufacturers and after-sales businesses (such as those selling services and products to maintain a vehicle) offer their own in-house training.
BMW Canada offers its BMW University for employees, with courses in management, computers, administration as well as hands-on training to get staff familiar with BMW vehicles.
The Toyota Technical Education Program offers additional training for Toyota employees at five community colleges across Canada, including at Centennial.
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