High school students get taste of life in the bay

Technician Ryan Geary shows students the tools of the trade.WOODSTOCK, ON – With dire predictions of worsening technician shortages and driver droughts, trucking companies have been forced to learn some new recruiting strategies.

From generous signing bonuses, to attractive benefit packages, to better perks and compensation, they’re using every tool at their disposal to find good people.

And if that isn’t enough, they’re also aiming their social-media messages and hiring campaigns at an-ever younger pool of workers: high school students with an interest in skilled trades.

Carrier Centers, a chain of International dealerships with eight locations in southwestern Ontario, just completed another of its “Career Day” open houses.

It invited more than 50 students from area high schools to tour their Woodstock, Ont. facility. The thinking was that if they can find just one new technician, it would be worth the effort.

Aging demographic

“This is very important for the entire industry,” says Ashley Hunter, marketing coordinator for Carrier Centers. “We’re facing an aging demographic that brings challenges to every area of our operation. Getting youth involved is very important.”

Previous career days have played host to more than 300 students. This year was hastily arranged to give students a taste of dealership life before their college and university applications are due.

They’d like to steer these students, from Bramalea Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., and John Paul II Secondary in London, Ont., into the International Technical Educational Program (ITEP) at Conestoga College in Waterloo, Ont.

The program places heavy emphasis on maintenance and repair of International equipment, and uses co-op placements and apprenticeships to stock dealership service departments.

Apprentice Vania Agostinho speaks to high school studentsIt’s a path that Vania Agostinho took. She’s a powerful advocate of the ITEP program, happily telling of her experiences in class and on her apprenticeship placement at Carrier Center’s Ayr, Ont. location. Next year, when her schooling ends, she’ll be a full-time apprentice at Carrier Center’s London, Ont. location.

Not only is she looking forward to working on trucks, but she’s happy to tell the visiting students why.

“This is a job that’s going to challenge you. You’ve got to research all the time,” she tells them. “Never stop learning. And develop good working habits.”

She herself was convinced to give heavy duty mechanics a try after a similar open house.

“I spoke to Jake (Francis, Carrier Center’s health and safety trainer) and he convinced me. There are many more systems on a truck than on a car, and you have to work better, faster, and smarter. I liked the sound of that,” she says. “This event is all about awareness. A lot of students who are interested in mechanics never consider anything but automotive. This shows them that there are other options out there.”

What’s not to love?

John Werkhomen, vice president of service for Carrier Centers, is hoping some of the kids hear the message that there are excellent opportunities in service bays across the country. Job stability, good compensation, challenging and rewarding work with an emphasis on the latest technology… what’s not to love, he asks.

“Finding workers is a huge problem in the industry. Parents and teachers need to wake up, and start steering them in our direction,” he says. “If they have the heart for this, if they like the work, and want to do their best, they’ll never be out of work again. Not every industry can say that.”

Student Nathanial Phillips with Dave Williams, service manager for Carrier Center's Woodstock, Ont. location.He may have found a convert in Nathanial Phillips, a truck and coach student at Bramalea Secondary.

“This really opened my eyes to what it is going to take to get into this job. It’s going to require a lot of learning but I think it will be worth it in the end,” he says after seeing the facility. “I really want a hands-on job. I like to diagnose problems and find the right fix. I like the satisfaction of doing a good job for a fair wage. That’s how I was raised.”

Dave Williams, service manager for the Woodstock location, smiles.

“So… you want me to get you a set of coveralls right now?” he says.



Abby Brandes of Conestoga College hands out information packets.

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