Tackling the skills shortage in Canada’s auto care sector 

May 15, 2024

Canada’s auto care sector is evolving—but that does not come without challenges. Currently, the industry is facing labour challenges that could threaten its sustainability and growth. There is a shortage of skilled automotive service technicians, a decline in apprenticeships for automotive trades, and, with that, a rise in electric vehicle (EV) registrations. On top of that, the vehicle fleet in Canada is healthy and growing, which is only adding more pressure to solve these labour challenges. 

What exactly is the issue behind labour? For one, there is an alarming technician turnover rate, with a 65 per cent increase reported in 2023. Of that, 46 per cent left for higher-paying jobs. While compensation is a factor, it is not the only one. This turnover is also fueled by poor public perception—involving the idea that there is a lack of career development and poor working conditions. 

However, there are ways to address and overcome these challenges. At the 2024 edition of the AIA Canada National Conference, moderator James Channer joined industry experts Shannon Spano, Kevin Weaver, Sylvain Séguin, and Alan McClelland to discuss what their organizations are doing and what can be done to ensure the long-term success of the auto care industry. 

Barriers to talent and attraction 

To combat industry labour challenges, one must first understand why these are happening. One key aspect is the industry’s attractiveness.  

“The word ‘attractiveness’ is problematic. Everyone is trying to be an attractive industry.” said Alan McClelland, Dean of Centennial College. “It comes down to finding people that are worth investing in and finding people who are a good fit within the organization. They may not be exactly what you are looking for but have the potential to develop the skills you need.” 

Despite efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the gender disparity continues, with only 2.4 per cent of automotive service technicians in Canada.Shannon Spano, vice president of sales at Wakefield Canada, says that for more women to join the industry, it is important to be more welcoming and inclusive and that more women know that it is a great industry to be involved in. it. 

“We, as women, get programmed and labelled. It is not that this industry is not a viable option, but I think a lot of it is how women are guided in their education. At the guidance counsellor level, there should be education and awareness about available career options—like this industry.” Spano said. “We need teachers to encourage women to be more fearless in their careers.” 

Competitiveness also significantly contributes to making the industry more attractive. While competitive wages and benefits are essential, so are career pathways and growth opportunities. 

“Our job, as an organization, is to educate and to inform people about these pathways.” said Sylvain Séguin, president of Fix Network. 

“Compensation and competitive wages are critical, yes, but the bigger picture is that we need to inspire people to work in the industry. We need to inspire youth about careers and different career pathways in the industry,” stated Kevin Weaver, president and CEO of Georgian College. Youth today are not hearing about mobility. Instead, they are hearing about what they need to do with their lives, finding a career, and sticking with it. 

Organizations need to raise awareness and show students how they can develop and grow within the industry. Students want opportunities in sectors that are part of the greater good; they are looking for companies that will give them growth and prosperity over time. By joining the auto care sector, they contribute to an essential service of Canadians’ daily lives. 

Going hand-in-hand with awareness are training and up-skilling opportunities available. Educational programs and certifications must evolve to meet the industry’s changing needs, especially given how fast technology is emerging surrounding EVs and ADAS. Despite this emergence, the number of certified automotive service technicians has stagnated since the pandemic. 

“Right now, time is money—and nobody has the same amount of time. We need to support our customers and create more space for technicians to be technicians,” said Spano. 

Moving forward 

To overcome these challenges and ensure the long-term success of the industry, here are some recommendations to consider. 

  1. Enhanced industry promotion: The industry must proactively promote itself as an attractive career option that values diversity, positive work environments and career growth opportunities. 
  1. Investment in education and training: Educational programs should be updated to reflect the industry’s evolving nature, focusing on providing students—and existing technicians—with practical, hands-on experience and certifications. Additionally, this investment must include training programs centered around EVs and other technological advancements. 
  1. Support for career pathways: Employers should develop clear career pathways, growth opportunities, and competitive compensation packages and benefits to attract and retain talent. 
  1. Collaboration and partnership: Industry stakeholders, educational institutions, associations, and government bodies need to collaborate to develop comprehensive solutions that address the root causes of talent shortages and turnover. 

By considering these recommendations, the auto care sector can overcome these labour market challenges and continue to be a sustainable, strong, and resilient workforce for years to come. 

This blog has been created based on the panel discussion, Overcoming labour market challenges in the industry: Current and future opportunities, held at the 2024 AIA Canada National Conference on April 24, 2024. 


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