Finding a new path in the automotive trades with Jean-François LaPlante 

October 11, 2023

Jean-François LaPlante, an Embrun, Ontario native, currently has a stable, enjoyable career at the Ford Parts and Distribution Centre in Casselman, Ontario.  

Previously a janitor at the Ottawa Hospital and public school in Embrun, Jean-François LaPlante decided to switch career paths and dive into something he had genuine interest in: vehicle maintenance and repair. Once LaPlante completed the Career Exploration course in the Innovation in Automotive Training program, he quickly received an offer at the Ford Parts and Distribution Centre in Casselman, Ontario—something he describes as “kismet.” 

Jean-François LaPlante

Parts picker at the Ford Parts and Distribution Centre

What made you shift into the automotive trades? 

I always wanted to learn about it. I have been very interested in electric vehicles (EVs) and knowing more about them, especially as of late with the widespread emergence of EVs. The automotive trades have always been an interesting subject to me—not just EVs, but the safety aspect of everything as well. I wanted to learn more about how to safely repair vehicles, even just in my own time. 

I also knew that automotive trade jobs had good opportunities for growth. I knew that once I was on the right track and in the sector, I could grow within it.  

What first piqued your interest in the Career Exploration program? 

Aside from my general interest in the industry, I also wanted to know more about what kind of career opportunities there were within the automotive trades. For instance, if I wanted to be an EV technician, I first needed to figure out how to get there and what needed to be done. The Career Exploration program was a good introduction for me and told me everything I needed to know about building an automotive trades career path. 

How was your experience in the Career Exploration program? 

Overall, it was a very positive and informative experience. I was able to be involved in a great community and network. Of course, the instructors were excellent; they were knowledgeable, and you could tell that they were experienced and passionate about what they do.  

The instructors balanced hands-on learning with theoretical learning, so we were always interested and engaged in the topic at hand.  

They answered the “how-to’s”. Everything that started with how, such as how to take off a certain part, how to dismantle it, how to put it back on—all those types of questions were answered.  

The program also focused heavily on safety. For example, I did not know how dangerous batteries in EVs could be! This course covered everything related to batteries and what to consider, such as taking them out and dismantling them safely and how to protect yourself.  

Before heading into the program, I watched a couple of videos online just to get an overall gist of taking out car batteries, just to get the gist of it. At the time, I did not think it looked too dangerous. But once I got to the Career Exploration program, this process was not as simple as I thought. Not only did I learn safe, effective processes for taking out batteries, but the instructors also supplied us with the appropriate tools and equipment to be able to do so in the future.  

Once our instructor explained how dangerous some of these processes are, and the safety measures that need to be implemented, that is when I realized the value of this program. I was able to gain the full picture of what needed to be done to carry out safe and effective repairs. 

For someone new to the industry, being able to get that first-hand industry knowledge and how to get to where you need to be to have a successful career is invaluable.   

How has this program helped your career? 

The Innovation in Automotive Training program created the foundation for the start of my career in the automotive trades. It helped me get a job in a huge way. Once I completed the program, I was able to put the training on my resume and say that I had knowledge of vehicle parts and safety standards. I was able to get a job at the Ford Parts and Distribution Centre in Casselman right after I completed the training.  

I enjoy my job—I like my day-to-day routine and it is always interesting. The program prepared everything that has been thrown at me! Overall, this program, and this job, has provided me with excellent experience in being able to gain a career that is stable and has plenty of development opportunities.  

About the Innovation in Automotive Training program 

The Automotive Industries Association of Canada has partnered with Conestoga College, Fanshawe College, St. Lawrence College, and Plug N’ Drive to offer free trainings to address the shortage of those in the automotive trades in Ontario. This Employment Ontario program is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

The Innovation in Automotive Training program will include numerous types of training and up-skilling opportunities, such as Career Exploration, which includes firsthand learning and experience for those looking to join the automotive trades.  


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