A more inclusive automotive sector starts ahead of high school: Industry expert 

January 9, 2024

Being more inclusive in the automotive industry means involving more people who would to be exposed to the sector—at a younger age. 

That is what Craig Jalbert, the Country Division Leader of 3M’s Automotive Aftermarket Division and a member of Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s Board of Directors, came to realize after his niece attended a 3M camp. 

The summer camp, which made technical skills accessible and engaging for young students, , clearly impacted his niece–and prompted her to make a life-changing career decision. 

Craig Jalbert, 3M

“3M sponsored and supported a welding course for young students, which my niece attended. After the camp, she told her parents ‘I want to go to one of the tech schools because I want to do a hands-on career in trades’,” he says, explaining why he feels diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are so important in the automotive sector. 

With a wealth of experience in various roles at 3M, Jalbert has witnessed the industry’s evolution to be more inclusive. 

At 3M, Jalbert has been a part of the company’s journey towards inclusivity. “I feel 3M has made tremendous strides to become a global leader with inclusivity.” He acknowledges. He believes the automotive sector can learn from progressive companies and steer away from the traditional male-dominated sectors. 

“I have been fortunate, I should say, to be involved with this industry for several years…And to be involved with diverse dynamics during my time in the head office, it has enabled me to look through a different lens and evolve my leadership style.” he says. He stresses the value of diverse teams, noting, “I look at the women we have in leadership roles with various backgrounds…These are all different skill sets people can offer to complement each other to create a well-rounded and successful team.” 

“In general, the industry has evolved to become better at listening. I look at the advancements we have made—there is a lot more women and new Canadians who have entered and currently work within the industry, which is fantastic to see,” he says, noting a significant shift towards a more diverse representation. 

Attracting and retaining diverse talent means introducing them to the sector early, he adds. Secondary school is too late, he says, and it should be something we need to introduce prior to our youth entering high school. 

“The reality is, it starts before secondary and post-secondary education. It is going to our youth to increase their interest. When they get to post-secondary education, they have already picked their path. We have got to spike their interest at a younger age before they pick their career path. And I feel our leaders can do better with educating our youth of the opportunities within our great industry.” 

Jalbert spoke about the need for government and educational sectors to support trades. 

“There is a lack of trade people across Canada, so why are we not investing there?” he says, emphasizing the need for updating our educational facilities and programs that resonate with contemporary industry standards. He pointed out that many classrooms have not had the appropriate modifications to support instructors trying to reach students about the evolving automotive sector. Students are learning about vehicle advancements in classrooms that have not had investments or upgrades for several decades, he points out. 

Jalbert spoke of the ACE Program, run in partnership with youth employment services in the GTA. His company 3M has been a sponsor of the program since the beginning and says it has been fulfilling for our company to witness the program’s impact on kids who have taken the program. 

As part of the 30-week program, students are provided with a method of transportation to attend, hands-on training, classroom education, and a clear view of what their future could look like in the industry. 

“What has been refreshing for me is going around and observing the students who have flourished from the program. I recall one student who started as a shop assistant, advanced to technician, and was recently promoted to shop manager. I was able to catch up with this student and he was extremely thankful for this program. Prior to starting with ACE, he did not see a future and he was going down a road that probably was not great. And now he is prospering, he is manager, and he has a family.” He says. 

“We were able to help several kids achieve a career within the auto care sector. But, the ACE Program is only administered in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). How can we bring similar programs to other parts of the country and help our youth succeed within the industry? 

The Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada) believes that the engine driving our industry is fueled by a blend of diverse ideas, perspectives, and experiences. As such, diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental pillars shaping the future of the industry.” 

AIA Canada believes that the attraction and retention of top talent lies in fostering a culture of inclusion and equitable opportunities, as it enables us to resonate with the ever-changing demands of our customers and evolving market dynamics. Like a well-tuned engine, our sector thrives on the diverse contributions of its parts—our valued workforce. AIA Canada believes DEI is not simply an ethical stance, but a vital strategy in driving growth and industry leadership. 


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