As Northern B.C. regional manager for Schultz Craftsman Collision, Lee J. Leslie carries a constant concern.
“We always feel like we’re one autobody technician away from catastrophe,” says Leslie, who oversees Craftsman Collision locations in Prince George, Quesnel and Williams Lake. “We just don’t have the applicants that we would like to have.
“It’s a great industry, it’s well-paying, there’s never-ending work,” Leslie adds. “The demand is extremely high and I think more so in the north than in the Vancouver or Kelowna areas. They are impacted heavily as well, it just seems like we struggle even more to find skilled new apprentices coming into our industry.”
Leslie is a strong advocate of the Automotive Collision and Refinishing foundation program at the College of New Caledonia. The 36-week program gives students entry-level skills and knowledge that will help pave their way to apprenticeships in the industry.
“When they come through our doors and they have foundation experience from CNC, it carries huge value because we know that they’ve had some sort of formal training,” Leslie says. “They understand tools, they understand the importance of disassembling a vehicle without causing more damage. So if they come through the door with that experience then they get a second look from us for sure.”
For those interested in a career in autobody repair, the ever-changing landscape of the trade is another reason why it’s important to take an accredited program like the one at CNC. Through foundational training, students gain exposure to modern-day standards and techniques.
“It’s not like the old days where you have a hammer and a dolly and you just beat everything straight and get it close enough,” Leslie says. “There are actual repair procedures for every type of metal, every type of plastic and every type of manufacture-specific vehicle out there. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) repair and replacement procedures are becoming more of our world every day. Ford has their own procedures, GM has their own procedures. Being OEM-certified in our industry is going to be the way of the future.”
Leslie says he has hired “quite a few” CNC graduates over the years.
One of them is Tyler Turcotte, whom Leslie considers a leader in the industry. Turcotte has now been an autobody technician at Schultz Craftsman Collision for 11 years.
“I did my first year at CNC pretty much right out of high school and was employed pretty much immediately after I graduated from my first year,” Turcotte says.
“I’m the youngest guy here at 30. The next guy up is 57. So that’s kind of the age gap as far as talent coming in goes. There’s a real need that more young people take interest and get into it. There are so many upsides. The money is good, the job is interesting, you’re inside, you’re home every night. When you get your Red Seal, you can make as much as guys in camp and you’re still home every night. What it has to offer is really more than what people would expect.”
Next start date: Fall 2021
Course length- foundation: 36 weeks
Fees: Estimated at $3,875
Learn More about the Automotive Collision and Refinishing Foundation Program
Read more about the program, admission requirements, and learn how to apply.