6 Reasons I Should Be A Mechanic & 1 Why Not

by Michael Brown

As someone who has spent the last few years going through journalism school I’ve been told time and time again that it’s extremely difficult to get a job. Your hours will suck, your pay will be terrible and in some cases you may just be fetching coffee.

On the other hand, some industries don’t have nearly enough new people coming in. I’m talking about industries that pay good money; with job offers galore! Specifically, I’m talking about heavy-duty mechanics.  There’s a serious shortage of them and it’s only going to get worse.

Earlier this week, I visited an open-house at Toronto’s Centennial College, where the Mack/Volvo Modified Apprenticeship Program (MAP) sets its graduates up for an actual work placement. Many of these trainees are coming out of their 32-week program making up to $18 an hour.

The question I have to ask myself is “Should I be thinking about switching?” 

Here’s what I’d get if I signed on.

Employment Opportunities
“Last year we had 18 successful graduates,” says Pierre Valley, chair of the program at Centennial. “At the end of the year there were four employers basically in bidding wars for students.

“As long as they meet a grade requirement [of 75 percent], then what we’ll do is set them up for an interview and we tell all of our students — it’s kind of leading the horse to the water — we’ll set them up for that interview,” says Valley. 

Some students started at $18 an hour right out of the program. 

Built-in Work Experience
“This program offered a two-week placement at two different time periods, at a dealer and a fleet, so you got to see both sides,” says Traveine Burton, a student in the MAP. “If you worked well, that was already kind of like your foot in the door.”

Practical Skills
Over the course of the program, students learn about the fundamentals of engines, fuel systems, electrical systems, gear trains, brakes, steering and suspensions systems, and work place practices.

“They try to get in a lot because it’s just a 32-week program, so they really push you,” says Burton. “There’s a lot of online testing to do and tests in class as well.”

Fellow student Stefan Hines echoes the sentiment: “It’s fast-paced. I think if you come in with no experience you’re going to struggle.”

A Welcome Mat
“We have technicians that are already from the program. It gives them an opportunity to hit the ground running,” says Marc Poland of Sheehan’s Truck Center, a frequent employer of graduates from Centennial. “Once they start work, they’re already familiar with the equipment, with the software we’re using and they’ve already completed the online training as well.”

Like-Minded People
Many of the students I spoke to all started with an interest in cars — some with experience working in car shops — but most of them decided to switch to trucks after hearing that the job paid more.

“I was always a car type of guy, but I would say to myself, ‘How do trucks work? Do they function the same way?’” says Nicholas Pottinger, another student in the Mack/Volvo program. “It’s kind of like the car side, but with bigger parts.”

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
“I’ve been in this country 13 years this year. I’ve been in truck coach for 12 years, I’ve never been out of a job and I’ve always had at least one extra offer on the table,” says Glenville Singh, one of the two professors in the program.

My Big Decision:
After only about an hour at the open house, I was sold. On journalism, that is. Once I saw how rigorous, mechanical and scientific the program was, I knew it wasn’t for me. Never mind a blown turbo, the only thing I could ever repair is an awkward sentence. 

So be glad that I’m going to stick to journalism, Canada, because if I was repairing a truck someone might wind up dead.

I’ll leave it to the more than qualified and very dedicated pros coming out of this amazing program.

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