The skilled trade labour shortage across Ontario is having an adverse impact on multiple industries, and the automotive industry is definitely one of them. Finding skilled automotive technicians willing to work for both national repair shops chains and independent operators is becoming a challenge, and that means one unfortunate reality for vehicle owners in need of repair.
“The technician shortage is leading to longer wait times for vehicle repairs,” said Vince Klimkosz, owner/operator of the two area locations of Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-It. “I find that many customers think that they can drive in anytime and get repairs done right away, but it’s just not the case anymore. It’s a real frustration for some people and it’s just going to get worse.”
As all industries emerge from the pandemic, finding more skilled tradespeople and workers with the specialized skill sets required in the automotive repair industry is going to be critical to the future of the industry. Klimkosz said the closure of the automotive service bays at the local Walmart are indicative of the shortage in skilled labour.
Another layer to the problem is that automotive technicians also need to constantly upgrade their skills to be able to service new vehicles loaded with ever-changing technology.
“To develop credible mechanics trained with current skills, the apprenticeship program in Ontario is a four year program,” said Klimkosz. “But there just isn’t a lot of interest. There’s not a lot of kids who want to get into the trade, and they’re not pushing it as hard as they should be at the high school level. Unfortunately, it’s coming to a head. The next few years are going to be a challenge.”
Klimkosz says the process of properly assessing and troubleshooting what may be wrong with a vehicle can be time consuming, but it’s just the first step in any service appointment.
Once the problem has been identified, the next step is finding the parts – a process that is not as simple as it used to be.
“Depending on what the trouble is, we have to price out the parts and then see if those parts are even available,” said Klimkosz. “The availability of parts can be pretty slim sometimes depending on the make, model, and year of the vehicle. We often have to be really creative on where we find parts, whether it’s from a dealership or after market or automotive recyclers.”
Even when an employer can find the qualified people to fill vacant positions, it doesn’t mean they’re willing to take the jobs.
“The biggest thing is finding skilled labour to do the work, but once you do you have to pay the good ones a lot of money to stay. Otherwise, they jump ship. This is driving up the costs for automotive repair and maintenance.”
To deal with potentially lengthy wait times for automotive repairs, Klimkosz said it’s a good idea to have a rental car clause as part of your automotive insurance policy so you’re not left for long periods without a car. Given the reduction in new car inventory from manufacturers the past three years, it’s important to recognize that rental car operators are also facing shortages.
So what’s the best advice for vehicle owners in need of repairs or preventative maintenance? According to Klimkosz, “we’re asking customers to be patient and make sure they book well in advance if you’re going to need something done. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
With the company coming up to 19 years of continuous service in Guelph, Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-it has been fortunate to have retained long-serving licenced technicians.
“We have a good crew, a good group of guys willing to work hard and to take on any of the work you need done.”
Klimkosz would like to wish all past, present, and future customers a very healthy, happy holiday season.
In the meantime, for full automotive service and advice, visit Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-It online here. Or drop by either of their two Guelph locations: 30 Hayes Avenue, or 41 Woodlawn Road West.