Training methods for young apprentices

Maurice Business Development Manager Geebung, Australia Posted   Latest  

Hi all, I am from Australia and we are no different to what you are going through in the States in that we have a major skills shortage within our industry along with apprentices that finish their time and come out incompetent due to an inadequate training model that is clearly not working. I am interested in everyone's views on the answers to this growing problem. 

I am also interested in learning how others in the world are educating your apprentices and is it effective? Do you have any suggestions of a better training system? 

Do you have a major fall out of apprentices who do not complete their training? We seem to have close to a 50% fall out rate. One of our new programs being offered here in Australia is a mentor program that is offering our young apprentices the industry access to a mentor who is not associated with their place of work, and it is giving our apprentices a means of communicating their issues with an outsider who then can mediate between the apprentice and the work place. This is proving successful, but it is not happening nation wide and it is a fairly newly concept so it will take a while to fully take off. 

The other problem is our school educators are not encouraging our young people to consider a career in the Automotive industry, we are still seen by most educators as a dirty industry, not a desirable and rewarding career path. I believe in the States you have a tech force program which is a committee of non for profit members who are working with educators in your schools to help change this concept and to help present the Auto industry as an attractive career path for young people to consider. Is this working? are you seeing increase in young peoples interests? 

I have a national meeting on Friday and this is one of our agendas and it would help me greatly for have some feed back on this complex topic.

Nick Manager
Culver City, California

I hear you Maurice. The tech shortage is a real crisis. I’d encourage you to Google search “The Road to Great Technicians” by Chris Chesney. It‘a probably one of the best presentations/strategies I’ve heard regarding this issue we’re facing. The aftermarket needs to get involved in the high school education process to show young kids that there are a lot of options in the automotive industry. The counselors at the schools need to believe that too. Then we have to offer a legitimate career path for them and their parents to get excited about. One with great pay, benefits and a quality of life. We’re behind on that as an industry. 

I think now that we’re realizing this is really serious the industry is starting to get the wheels moving on this. Here in California, the Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA.COM) is launching an automotive degree program in San Diego very soon. The program will include a lot of hands on for the apprentice so by the time they graduate they will be able technicians. 

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Maurice Business Development Manager
Geebung, Australia

Hi Nick this road to great technicians by Chris Chesney is gold, thank you I have got a lot of good info.

Tell me do your apprentices do 2 years tech school before starting a job as an apprentice?

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Nick Manager
Culver City, California

Hi Maurice,

It seems that many programs are 2 years. I believe that many of them at the local college level have a hands on requirement to pass but I don't it's not enough time for the apprentice to go to work at a shop with major supervision. The ASCCA program will have a lot more hands on than other college programs I've seen. I'm not sure what kind of hands on is included in the model that was shown in the road to great technicians webinar.

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Maurice Business Development Manager
Geebung, Australia

Thanks again Nick I just looked up ASCCA and there is a lot to read about the program, I will have a better look at it when I get more time.

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Andrew Technician
Commack, New York

Hey Maurice,

There’s a very skilled technician that I highly respect in Queensland, his name is Steve Foster. I believe this is his shop: fostersace​.​com​.​au He told me about the mentorship and training system there. I recall it being quite a lot more rigorous and professional than what we have here in the states.

Another person you should get in touch with is Martin Smith who is an instructor for GM in Canada. Jeff Curtis is another one:


Convince businesses to provide well paying jobs commensurate to the level of training, skill, and experience of the technician they need and to invest in and maintain those technicians.

Find a business model that rewards diagnosticians rather than punishing them. Getting paid one hour on average to diagnose a modern vehicle is untenable.

Construct and Reinforce the career ladder. Techs should always have the Opportunity to grow and advance if they are willing to put the work in and have the ability. Schooling, on the job training, mentoring, and networking.

Align everyone’s interest in the same direction as much as possible. Flat rate pits every tech against every other one by design. Management and technicians often work at odds to each other.

Not everyone should be a tech but many trade programs are taking in and passing those students along because it keeps the program going. Some schools and tool companies also saddle newcomers up with so much debt they’re too broke to start over.

Teach customers their vehicle is sophisticated and needs a trained professional technician. Teach educators that the field is challenging and rewarding and that it should be considered part of STEM.

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Maurice Business Development Manager
Geebung, Australia

Hi Andrew I do not know Steve Foster but I will look him up when I get a chance. this is a link to my shop



It is very important that we pay our techs properly and training is vital

I will talk more later but thank you for connecting with me and for your input.

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia

Hi Maurice. We won't hold being from Australia against you. In 1972 I had a £10 "Assisted Passage" emigration arranged from England to your shores, but life got in the way and here I am in Canada instead! Woulda, coulda, shoulda? I don't know. Maybe one day I will travel there as I do have family and a friend or two in Australia.

My own background is from apprenticing in UK many years ago and earning subsequent trade Certificates of Qualification in Automotive Mechanical Repair and Automotive Service Technician Red Seal here in Canada. The Canadian apprenticeship model is touted as being derived from that used in New Zealand. Fact or fiction, I don't know, but apprenticeship in the colonies seems to be fairly standard in construction.

I work for … in the capacity of training GM dealership apprentices in the GM Automotive Service Educational Program and journey person technicians at Product Service Training when assigned. A similar and earlier established GM ASEP model runs in USA, but in the absence of the nationally recognized apprenticeship, a number of ASE exams are completed. The US students are college enrollees who seek and hope to achieve employment with program sponsoring GM dealerships, while my students are indentured apprentices already employed by GM dealerships across the province of BC.

Our program is very similar to that of the general apprenticeship offered by BCIT and other colleges and learning institutions across BC and Canada. It is augmented beyond general apprenticeship, with approximately 30 GM instructor-led courses that replicate or closely assimilate some of the many foundation and journey person upgrading courses delivered at our Langley BC Product Service Training Centre, which is my second home.

In 1980, I took on a role as a GM technician spending 23 years in one GM dealership, with 12 years prior in the independent sector, following my arrival from UK in '74. During that time at the dealership, I served as a technician and mentor, directing worthy candidates to the program that I have now instructed for many years.

One of the major challenges that are faced on the educational side, is that of dealerships enrolling candidates who are ready, willing and able learners. My students can range from 18 onwards, usually in the 20-35 range, with my oldest having turned 50 while in the program! They hail from dealerships locally in the Vancouver region and from all corners of the province, which is a geographic challenge due to the separation of communities by mountain ranges making traversing and visiting many dealerships a near impossibility.

There are needs that I must be ready, willing and able to address. Those are safety, best practices, skills development, critical thinking and more, that provide the student with tangible skills each time they return to their employers' workplaces. In essence, they should be mentored during that work experience, but we all know that every shop is staffed and managed with individuals in which there are often more "I"s than teams. Support in the workplace truly falls down to management and the structure of the dealership and employee participation in every aspect from initial hiring and vetting of suitable candidates for apprenticeship.

Given that we serve some 42 dealerships or more, we usually fill the 16 seats in the classroom each year. I have a full class scheduled for August 20th, 2018, with candidates on a wait list. Some dealerships enroll their candidates in general apprenticeship programs by needs and/or choice, but those who have sent us more than a "warm body" or two in the past have reaped the benefit of capable technicians tuned into GM corporate protocols that they must follow in their work, approximately 63 course credits towards Minimum Training Standards and over 100 online successful online course completions in the GM Centre of Learning, that serve as useful course prerequisites.

I learned last week that our program has the highest rate of Red Seal completion, which is nice to know. However, we also have a program graduation component requirement that students complete activities at the dealership following each of five terms of eight weeks in ASEP. Some dealerships provide excellent support in the completion aspect, fully understanding the value of training credits received as a result of completion, while others are less supportive, or the technician who has achieve his/her Red Seal status fails to graduate because they view it as unnecessary. That is a work in progress, trying to change the mindset of some individuals. Since 1993, 25 ASEP classes have completed the program, Class 26 will complete in 2019 and Class 27 will begin in August 2018.

We do see some program graduates lured away from the dealership environment to assume employment in the local transit bus fleet. Since we train the GM journey person technicians, ASEP apprentices and the bus fleet technicians, we keep busy and are in tune with who works where at any given time. Money buys loyalty of course and it is often mere "pennies" that result in a lost employee. However, it is hard to blame anyone who leaves and secures employment with a pension scheme and excellent benefits.

In short, candidate support and workplace mentorship is varied depending on dealerships. General Motors provides vehicles, tools, course-specific training materials and the institute provides the facility, instructors, standard tooling and learning materials.

We usually have good completion numbers, although occasionally we lose a student to non-dealership facilities or life gets in the way. Given the disparity in wages that are not standardized, some students will seek the almighty dollar instead of completing what they started.

We do maintain a healthy completion rate with good competency overall as expressed by managers and co-workers, with whom I visit and meet during trips to GM. Not all individuals are self-starters, so levels of achievement can vary. However, we do see that our program completers and graduates usually excel when completing certification training courses at PST subsequent to finishing in ASEP. Much of the success is being familiar with the protocol, knowing what skills are required through having walked the same path for many years and maintaining instructor skills certifications in keeping with the training. We utilize a fleet of vehicles that is representative of what is encountered in the dealership environment and multi-disciplinary competency-based learning activities support skills development.

Still, despite a long successful run, there are under achievers or those who become disillusioned with their work environment due to comparative incomes and working conditions experienced by their class mates. Remuneration can vary wildly and become the tipping point as to whether a student completes or gives up and goes to a "do want to upsize your fries?" non-skilled work environment for similar money.

I question whether the educational model is as "broken" as some believe and have a post ready to contribute in that respect. Many of us began our careers in a more formal learning environment, but in simpler times where we were able to learn at a pace that was less cluttered with advanced technologies at every corner.

Do we lower or change standards to meet a less capable student, or empower learning and ensure that acceptable standards of achievement for the current work environment become the norm? Whatever the situation, we should not be compromising or bypassing learning and formation of a skilled crafts person, just because learning is hard and the modern student may not be as ready, willing and able a learner out of high school as is needed. I always say that "send me a warm body and that is likely all that you will get back". I pledge to do my very best to facilitate learning, but the student must also be as enthused, motivated, ready and responsible for their learning as I am willing to invest my time in assisting them to become successful technicians.

While I may have some advantage in vehicles and manufacturer support that affords me some creativity and the ability to explore current vehicle technologies, I still deal with individuals who have very similar mindsets, abilities and interests to those who frequent general apprenticeship programs. My students however, as in a cohort from day one to 40 weeks of class later, interspersed with 9 week or more work terms after each 8 week level of training. There is some advantage in that these people become very supportive of one another, while general apprentices may not attend their subsequent training levels at the same times or cross paths again.

Ultimately, my responsibility which I take very seriously, is to the student, their employer and GM Canada. All have expectations that we will train and ensure that their candidate leaves at the end of each term with workplace ready skills, an ability to work safely and provide a desirable level of GM dealership customer satisfaction. We all know that if any one piece of a puzzle is missing, the end result will be less than desired. As educators, we are always working against the odds and are the easiest scapegoat to point the finger at when it all goes awry and that apprentice doesn't blossom as expected!

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Maurice Business Development Manager
Geebung, Australia

Martin I do apologise for not responding, everything you have said makes a lot of sense and I really appreciate the time and effort you have put into your reply to my post. There are many comments you make that I full understand and can relate to. 

"Support in the workplace truly falls down to management and the structure of the dealership and employee participation in every aspect from initial hiring and vetting of suitable candidates for apprenticeship."

Management is and always will be a key factor to the success or failure of an apprentice, but also the apprentice themselves has to have a passion and desire for their career. My problem is how do we attract the right minded people to our industry when so often we have schools and career councillors seeing our industry as an undesirable industry or and industry for the student who is not doing so well at school. 

"I learned last week that our program has the highest rate of Red Seal completion"

Sadly in Australia have about a 50% drop out rate of our apprentices which is a major concern and needs to be addressed. There are many reasons, bad management, loss of interest, work place bulling, job expectations not meet, but I believe the one biggest reasons is low pay. As you do not have this problem at your training centre I am very interested in learning more about your model of training and also credit has to also go to the dealerships who also play a big roll in keeping their apprentices happy.

"Still, despite a long successful run, there are under achievers or those who become disillusioned with their work environment due to comparative incomes and working conditions experienced by their class mates"

Yeap this is a 1st world problem 

"Many of us began our careers in a more formal learning environment, but in simpler times where we were able to learn at a pace that was less cluttered with advanced technologies at every corner."

I find this interesting, you are defiantly correct but how do we properly prepare our apprentices in such a changing environment that we ourselves (Managers, Technicians, Educators, supervisors, Mentors) can not keep up with. How do we properly educate our apprentices when the technology we now teach will be old school when they come out of their training. How do we teach an apprentice whose technical theory training contact hours is less in some cases then the hours we had when things were much less cluttered and certainly more simple. All my questions are not directed at you or any educator, I feel for you and I do not blame you, I take my hat off to you as I know you do your best. My judgement is on an educational system that I see is not adequately equipping our apprentices to deal with the clutter of advanced technologies we are facing. And it is not only our training providers but it is our workshops and dealerships who they themselves that are not adequately equipped with what is going on. I only base my judgements on what I see in Australia which may not be the same in Canada or the USA.

"Do we lower or change standards to meet a less capable student, or empower learning and ensure that acceptable standards of achievement for the current work environment become the norm"

We do the latter, but competence base training is all about being equally fair to all and this doesn't work because by being fair to the the weak takes away form empowering the achiever, we compromise if we bring our education down to a lower level to meet the need of a student who is struggling and vice a versa if we raise our level to meet the need of the one who is smart, we have to carter for the norm, but we have to also be mindful of struggling and the high achievers, this is why I am glad I am not an educator. 

My problem with our current education in Australia is we try to cater for all levels by passing the high achievers and calling them competent earlier, which means they may not have the experience behind them to be as competent as stated, and for the struggling apprentices they also get signed off as competent when they in many cases are clearly not. Our system here has incentives for the registered Training Organisation (RTO) that when and apprentice is signed off as competent our government will pay them for that apprentices training. You see there is no incentive for a RTO to prolong training as this also prolongs their payment.

I have a lot more to say, but I have to finish for now, so thank you Martian, I really enjoyed reading your reply and seeing your passoin as a trainer and Educator, I love your passion and your contribution to our industry.

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