By Glenda McCarthy
Students in the Motor Vehicle Body Repairer (Metal and Paint) program have an opportunity to put their skills to the test after just one semester in the classroom and workshop. The initiative allows them to go out a number of garages, big and small, within the St. John’s city limits for on-the-job observation.
It is a progressive model for CNA, the students and its stakeholders, and one that instructor Gary Hickey says is crucial.
For the last five years, students of the program have headed out into the community each January for the opportunity to observe a trained technician applying skills in a production-based environment. Students witness first-hand the importance of quality control and quality assurance in the industry, as well as the importance of having the proper social skills and attitude to work as a team player in a production-based environment.
Gary, who has been the program instructor for nearly 20 years, says they recognized a trend taking place with their students.
“What we found was happening was one of two things; the students were learning while at the campus but they never had the opportunity to view the work environment until intersession. On the other side, industry people were contacting me saying they need people. Putting everything together, we started sending students out to garages so they would get the opportunity to view industry sooner, industry people would get to meet them, and it worked very well when it came time for their on the job exposure.”
The goal is once the student has observed a portion of the industry, he or she will realize and appreciate the significance of skill sets and knowledge introduced in CNA’s program, and also the quality of production levels that are expected in the collision repair industry.
“Interaction between students and industry is an important and necessary part of the students’ education. Through this observation exercise, we hope to foster and encourage on-the-job training and, ultimately, future employment for our graduates. Students were a lot more interested when they came back after spending a day in observation.”
Students generally go for on-the-job observation up to five times in a four-month period at any of the dozen or more autobody facilities that Gary has developed a relationship with in the St. John’s area.
“It is only through the support of these companies that we are able to strengthen the training of new technicians and show them the quality of training needed in a production-based environment.”
The students observe at the garages a minimum of three times during the winter semester leading into intersession which transitions to the two week on the job observation. In a lot of instances, the non-paid training generally leads to a paid position with that company.
“It gives the student the chance to view bigger garages, smaller garages and move around to different garages so they could determine the organization size they liked.”
It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“It’s beneficial to industry to get a look at the students, it’s beneficial for industry to understand what type of students we have coming towards our doors, and it gives us a chance to foster a good communication with particular graduates out in industry to make sure our students get good training.”
For Brandon Drover of Mount Pearl, this model allowed him to hook a full-time, permanent position at Cabot Ford Collision. It’s something he says may not have happened without that initial introduction through the on-the-job observation.
“It allowed me to get the job that I’ve had for the last year,” Brandon says. “It’s nice because you’re able to get out and meet the people at the garage and get a handle on what the job entails. You’re not being paid for the first bit so you’re not under the stress of meeting up to what they expect. You get an idea of what’s going on so that when your job actually does begin, you know what’s expected of you and you know what to do.”
After the on-the-job observation, Brandon was asked to come back for his two-week on-the-job training, showing that the training model is providing the right type of opportunities for students.
“They asked me to do my on-the-job training there and when the two weeks were up they said if I wanted the position after I graduated the job was there for me. I’m doing my second block now and when I’m done the second block I will be returning there full-time.”