It has been reported, through the media as well as our ARA (the Automotive Retailers Association) that “British Columbia is currently the only Province that does not require mandatory certification for automotive technicians.”

Sorry to say, this is not quite correct. 

There are other Provinces that do not require mandatory certification for automotive technicians. But what does paint us in a dark image is that British Columbia is the only Province that does not regulate any of the trades.

It wasn’t until I began further research, into this matter, did it come to light.

There is an average of 50 trades that offer Red Seal interprovincial endorsements and each Province may, or may not, consider which trades are prescribed to be ‘compulsory’ occupations.

For our designation, Automotive Service Technician here is a chart showing all provinces and their consideration of the trade

Province

Designated Compulsory

British Columbia

No

Alberta

Yes

Saskatchewan

No

Manitoba

No

Ontario

Yes *

Quebec

Yes

New Brunswick

Yes

Nova Scotia

Yes

Prince Edward Island

Yes

Newfoundland / Labrador

No

* Ontario has repealed the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act and replaced it with Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019. One of the major changes is to no longer designate specific trades as ‘compulsory’ or ‘voluntary’ in favor of ‘risk-based restrictive activities’.

This is embarrassing, to say the least.

The issue of our industry requiring certification for our tradespersons, here in BC, is not in question. Nor is the vehicle for acquiring certification. We have the apprenticeship programs and Red Seal certification process that manages that.

The real issue is generating legislation that requires businesses and employers to primarily hire certified individuals for jobs requiring high skill levels related to technical repairs and fabrication, which would include safety or security issues.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that the members working within our Provincial Government, who would be responsible for generating new legislation and seeing it through to becoming law, have really little to no knowledge or experience of not only our trade but all other trades that may also be looking at compulsory certification as a solution to their industry.

Our Provincial Government in the past has unsuccessfully attempted to regulate this trade and other trades through legislation and their failure was not due to poor writing of a bill or poor support, it was due to the fact that any one Ministry, or even two, couldn’t manage it because their management portfolio included all trades, which meant one trade couldn’t be managed individually successfully.

 Here’s a case in point; Bill 43-1997 ‘Industry Training and Apprenticeship Act’.

This was a joint administration between The Minister of Labour and the Minister of Education, Skills, and Training. 

The purpose was to replace the previous ‘Apprenticeship Act, R.S.B.C. 1996’ with a system that was not only more up-to-date but to add the ability to designate specific trades requiring compulsory certification; ours being the first of their selection.

 

This bill was passed on July 25th, 1997 but in 2003, it was repealed in favor of the ‘Industry Training Authority Act’ which is a virtual blueprint of the original act and, in doing so, eliminated compulsory certification for all trades. It was made clear from a series of reports and papers that compulsory certification for a complete trade could not be properly implemented or managed because of the complexity of the trade, as a whole.

As an example;

We have businesses whose sole purpose is to diagnose and repair automotive electronic issues with no intention of performing mechanical repairs.

And then there are lube shops and tire businesses, etc.

How would they fit into a Compulsory Certification system?

There were additional arguments against the act concerning the loss of low-skilled jobs, which proved this act was not fully thought through, regardless of intentions.

This means we cannot use the previous repealed legislation as the blueprint for our endeavor without some serious modifications.

In addition, since 2003, our industry has evolved and will continue to quickly evolve based on emerging technologies that are, and will be, governing skill requirements in our industry.

We need to change our views of the issue.

 

B.C. labor body agrees to push NDP to make trades certifications compulsory By Alex McKeen StarMetro Vancouver

Tues., Nov. 27, 2018

One would assume it to be a logical move for us to partner with BC Labour in solidarity towards Compulsory Certification, but I personally disagree.

Don’t get me wrong, I do support their aim towards Compulsory Certification for the trades under their umbrella.  

But, because our trade, which would include mechanical and body, is unique and changing so rapidly, we need to create a regulating system that is unique and focused solely on the Automotive Service Industry.

If we look at our other Provinces as guides, 6 have adopted Compulsory Certification and continue to have controversy. Ontario has chosen to replace their model in favor of a complex, multi-level system, which has taken years to evolve and the remaining 4 have yet to adopt a program. (No doubt, waiting to see what others do) 

Taking a closer look at Ontario, they had the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), similar to our ITA, which has been dissolved as of April 2019 and all duties have been moved to the Minister’s office. The Minister will establish advisory committees, determine trades, skill sets, and restrictive activities within each trade as well as determine what trades and skillsets will be subject to an apprentice-to-journeyman ratio. 

This system, in my opinion, would require too many significant changes to be considered an option in our short future.

I do have some ideas.

Since the main issue is to have registered businesses hire qualified personnel, why not put the responsibility on the business itself and not try to alter existing legislation regarding apprenticeship training and the Red Seal programs. 

As part of the business licensing, based on their NAICS classification codes 81111, 81112, and 81119, and others, business owners would have to list the number of employees and their employee types. For example; technician, apprentice, counter person, administrative, or helper.

For technicians, they would need to fill in their Red Seal or TQ number.

Since the ITA sets the ratio of technicians to apprentices, we would use that and only need to set a ratio of technicians to helpers. Having set ratios would avoid businesses from hiring only helpers or apprentices. 

This would be one way to avoid major legislation to labor, trades, and the ITA.

Since there are businesses in unincorporated areas of our Province not requiring business licensing, this would not affect them.  

As far as the business licensing idea, amendments to BC Business Registration may be all that’s required, but further investigation is needed regarding local Government requirements.

Here’s another idea.

Because the word ‘Certification’, here in BC, can only mean Red Seal, Provincial, or TQ licensing, it leaves no room for lower-skilled positions in our workforce and is the main argument against Compulsory Certification.

So, why not change the meaning of ‘Certification’?

Most of us in this industry know well of the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) which is a dominant factor in the automotive service industry in the United States.

They are an independent, non-profit organization (since 1972) whose sole purpose is to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals in over 40 different classifications.

Adopting this system would create an enhanced certification process that would cover all levels of our industry and not interfere with the numbers of our workforce. In fact, it would enhance it by offering a level of accreditation and professionalism to all levels of our industry.

It also has a full marketing system in place to promote a business’s professionalism to the general consumer.

 

Years ago, C.A.R.S. council introduced ASE to Canada as an alternative for Provinces that did not have recognized apprenticeship or certification programs.

I, personally, have experience with ASE by taking multiple tests locally and achieving ASE Certified Master Technician status. For me, it was the highest pinnacle of my career, and held that status for 12 years. The prerequisite to taking the high-level exams, here in Canada, was to hold a Provincial, Inter-Provincial (Red Seal), or TQ license.

The testing centers are still there and more can be temporarily created as needed.

Note: here is some recent news regarding ASE testing centershttps://www.indiegarage.ca/ase-testing-options-expand-in-canada/

Let me make something perfectly clear. 

I am not considering ASE Certification as a replacement for our apprenticeship programs. I see it only as an enhancement and a problem solver to some existing issues.

Our ITA does manage the apprenticeship and Red Seal programs very well and should remain stable as the core foundation. The issues seem to be related to accessibility to the programs and the business's responsibility in the programs. 

Beyond streamlining our Skilled Trades Certification process which, by itself, will be a major undertaking, there are additional issues that need to be addressed;

  • There are many jobs within this industry that do not require the high-level technical skills outlined in the Red Seal program but are equally important. These require specialized training as well as a certification process that is not incorporated in our Red Seal program.
  • Too many newly accredited Red Seal technicians, as well as many businesses, have the viewpoint that further advanced technical training is no longer a requirement. It is true that continuous training is not required to maintain an individual's Red Seal certification, but we do need an accredited system that continuously reflects the changes and demands of our industry.

ASE does satisfy these issues and is totally voluntary

One would think that it would take some discussion on how to incorporate ASE into our existing ITA programs. But, in reality, it would be a simplified solution. 

  • For those jobs not requiring Red Seal certification, our Province can supply the short training courses and ASE would supply the exams for certification in that classification.
  • For those with Red Seal certification, individuals would be responsible for their own continuous advanced training (as it is presently) as well as taking the exams. 

ITA's involvement would only be to show support, through marketing awareness, for this 'post-Red Seal' program and supply the necessary connections for information.

The businesses and individuals, within the market itself, would determine its popularity, especially, if it means positioning themselves better than their competitors. Plus, it would create a reality to those within the apprenticeship program and those recently Red Seal certified, that there are higher levels available to achieve after Red Seal.  In addition, this would create demand, in the private sector, for trainers and educators to supply accredited courses towards ASE certification.

Both of these ideas would achieve our goal without major legislation.

 

I look forward to your feedback.

Bob Paff

Editor,

ASBN Publications