To help meet the growing demand for highly-skilled automotive technicians in Manitoba, Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg has contributed $15,000 to a new student scholarship at Red River College, one valued at a combined $30,000, thanks to a matching grant from the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative.
Starting this year, students from RRC’s Automotive Technician diploma program will be eligible for the Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg Technician Excellence Award — worth at least $1,000 each year — based on academic performance, leadership skills, teamwork in the classroom, and work experience at a dealership. Students can use the funds for tuition or to apply to the cost of their tools.
Brian Lowes, President and General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg and Motor Dealers Association Vice-President, says the award allows his company to make a lasting contribution to the industry, and to continue to invest in its most valuable resources – people.
“Our team has benefitted greatly from the programs at RRC, specifically in the automotive service technician trade,” says Lowes. “We are happy to have the opportunity to invest in our community. We look forward to being part of the solution to attract, train and employ these bright young individuals and contribute to our combined long-term success”
Currently in Canada, the automotive service sector faces a shortage of almost 5,000 qualified automotive service technicians — a number that climbs to nearly 12,000 once auto body and parts counter technicians are included.
If the shortage is not addressed, it’s projected to double each year for the next four years, meaning there could be a shortage of 20,000 automotive technicians by 2017. (Here in Manitoba, that skills gap currently hovers around 30-40 per cent.)
RRC grad Talal Al-Khafaji, now shop foreman at Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg, says the solution to attracting more young people to the industry is to get the word out to students and parents about the opportunities for good pay rates and corporate advancement.
Both are welcome prospects for RRC student Joe Clark, who in two years time will have earned his red seal certification as an automotive technician.
The 22-year-old’s career choice puts him at the forefront of an industry that’s evolving rapidly into a high-tech sector: today’s auto technicians require a strong working knowledge of computers and instrument technology, given a typical car may have 150 microprocessors working together, running software with thousands of lines of code to control vital systems.
Says Clark of his RRC training, “I learn something new every day. Having the opportunity to work on such complex and high-tech vehicles, day in and day out, has really helped me to grow as a technician. Along with gaining an intimate understanding of the technical and mechanical side of the trade, I’ve also been able to learn valuable workplace skills such as real-time problem solving and how to work effectively on my own, as well as part of a team.”
Neil Cooke, Chair of Transportation and Heavy Apprenticeship Trades at RRC, says the investment by Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg will have a long-term positive impact on students’ educational experiences.
“Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg has been a supporter of RRC’s programs for many years and I appreciate their willingness to take that next step to support students at a more personal level,” says Cooke. “This financial commitment will provide more opportunities for continued educational development for our current and future automotive technicians.”
(Above: Paul Vogt, RRC President and CEO; Brian Lowes, President and General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg and Motor Dealers Association Vice-President; Neil Cooke, Chair, Transportation and Heavy Apprenticeship Trades at RRC; and Joe Clark, RRC Automotive Technician student.)