It’s an Industry Issue, Not a Women’s Issue - Tire Review Magazine

It’s an Industry Issue, Not a Women’s Issue


Labor shortages seem to be the common story of our industry. Although sources differ in their analysis of what the Canadian automotive industry labor gap will actually be in the coming years, our members are alarmed, claiming numerous unfilled jobs and a dwindling pool of available skilled candidates.

A 2009 Canadian Automotive Repair and Service Council (CARS) report claimed that in 2017 there would be 3,000 unfilled positions in automotive. The CSMO (Quebec’s equivalent to a skills council) claims there will 10,000 unfilled positions in the next decade. Regardless of the exact number, the reality is that we need to take a serious look at our sector.

I recently heard someone of influence say at an industry conference that the “sustainability and profitability of our sector is at risk.” I agree.

To address this, we need to act boldly and swiftly. We need to turn our sector upside down, give it a shake, and refill the bucket, which begs the question: If we are indeed facing a labor crisis, does it not make sense to look at attracting resources from the other 51% of the workforce currently untapped when it comes to careers in automotive? Of course, it makes good business sense to do so; however, the logistics require getting our own house in order first.

Women make up 51% of the Canadian population, but only 6.4% of trade jobs are held by women. – Statistics Canada

What is the current situation for women who are trailblazers in the sector? In 2015, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA) applied for and received funding from Status of Women Canada to develop a sector plan aimed at improving the recruitment, advancement and retention of women in automotive. Not a small task, but one with important impact.

The first phase of the project consisted of conducting a needs assessment. This meant asking women – working in a variety sectors of the industry and in various positions of responsibility – what it was like for them. We gave them a voice. Results of the focus groups were telling and provided insight as to where we are as an industry, and where we need to go from here.

At the same time we surveyed human resource professionals, probing their policies as it relates to the recruitment, advancement and retention of female employees. The goal of mixing the two research methods was to identify important gaps between the actual experiences of women in the sector and the perceived issues from an HR perspective.

Overall, participants shared similar experiences all around. The findings were grouped by the following themes:

• Women’s perception of acceptance within industry;

• The impact of workplace culture;

• Public perception of industry opportunities, and;

• Resources for women in the sector.

The top recurring experiences showed that still, in 2016, women in the sector are struggling to find their place in our industry, feel like they need to work twice as hard as their male counterparts and are subject to harassment.

These are difficult topics to discuss. It paints our sector as a misogynist, one where diversity is lacking – and not just gender diversification. Although it may seem harsh to display this in a national report, the goal of this project is not to air dirty laundry or to create an “us vs. them” collective atmosphere. Quite the opposite, this project aims to bring automotive to the forefront of innovation, diversification and openness. It positions the entire industry as a leader, provides opportunities for positive exchanges and sets a standard for skilled trades in Canada (and perhaps beyond).


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Dealer Training for a New Marketplace

Twenty years ago, a young non-profit professional was tasked with convincing the truck tire and wheel service industry that they needed to train their employees in order to comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. It’s just as absurd as it sounds. Employee training has been required by OSHA for almost 40 years

Twenty years ago, a young non-profit professional was tasked with convincing the truck tire and wheel service industry that they needed to train their employees in order to comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. It’s just as absurd as it sounds. Employee training has been required by OSHA for almost 40 years so the objective was to make them compliant with laws they should have already been following. And, it still took some convincing!
Fast-forward to 2016 and OSHA training regulations are at the bottom of the list when it comes to the problems facing most of the commercial tire dealers in the U.S. Compliance is met on the first day and the technician receives additional training in order to become certified in most cases. It’s a crystal clear process and virtually guarantees that every technician is properly trained in the eyes of the law.
For the retail industry, the legal obligation is not so cut and dry. The OSHA regulation that requires technician training for truck tires specifically excludes passenger and light truck tires. As a result, a lot of retailers continue with the ancient and indefensible method of providing education with on-the-job-training, also known as OJT. OJT relies on an experienced technician to show the new employee how to do the job. It’s also called “Old Joe” training because Old Joe passes his bad habits to New Joe who eventually becomes the next Old Joe and passes two generations of bad habits to the next New Joe and so on.
While truck tires and wheels haven’t changed much over the past two decades, the passenger and light truck tire industry has experienced a revolution. Between size proliferation, low profile sidewalls, tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and online sales, the technological impact by itself is a lot to digest. However, there are millions of millennials who need tires now or in the future, and the retailer that finds the sweet spot for this generation of tire buyers will be in a very good position.
The best place to start is with technicians. Future tire buyers know virtually nothing about their automobiles, but they are not going to tolerate mistakes. If they get bad service or think something isn’t fixed correctly, they are going to absolutely bomb you on social media. From ratings pages to your own Web page, isolated instances can appear to be standard business practices for the next generation. If the employees who are responsible for mounting and installing the tires are not properly trained, they are going to keep making the same mistakes, putting your reputation at risk.
I find myself using the online rating service occasionally, but I don’t believe everything I read online. However, the next generation of a tire buyer does.
Another unfortunate truth about the new marketplace is the sudden increase in the number of OSHA inspections that appear to be targeting retail tire dealers. Compliance with all of the applicable OSHA regulations is not something that happens overnight. The truck-tire dealers figured it out a while ago and many are compliant across the board. Retailers aren’t familiar with OSHA so it’s easy for little things – like fire extinguishers past the expiration date, dirty floors or a ground plug that is missing from an extension cord – to slip by and go unnoticed.
One lay-up for the OSHA inspector is hazard communication. By Dec. 1, 2013, every employer in the U.S. was required to train all of their employees on the new label elements and safety data sheets for hazardous materials in the workplace. This means every chemical used in the shop (oil, fluids, aerosol sprays, etc.) must have specific information on the label and correspond to a safety data sheet (SDS) at a designated location. The objective, and a good one, is to make sure that any accidental ingestion, inhalation, exposure or absorption is met with the appropriate medical attention immediately. It’s “Workplace Safety 101,” yet I’m willing to bet that an embarrassing number of tire dealers (both retail and commercial) will have difficulty producing records that show training, and even more difficulty producing an SDS for every chemical in the shop.
For a complete copy of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, visit
Next, it’s time to look at training for the sales counter. For the small percentage of people in general who pick up the phone and call a business to speak with a salesperson, that call has to be on the money every time. The phone sales consultants and trainers make some serious claims about how many sales are lost because people don’t know how to sell over the phone. When the phone rings, the person answering it – who either transfers the call or helps the caller – had better be trained to do it correctly or the phone might stop ringing altogether.
In the new passenger and light-truck tire marketplace, getting the customer in the door is the greatest challenge. That explains why our members are telling us that sales training is becoming more important. On the retail side, there is unlimited competition and it’s only growing, so the knowledge and ability of the sales associate has to make a tremendous impact on the tire buyer. Again, it doesn’t happen overnight, so sales training and coaching will become more important as the number of people who actually want to interact with a real person decreases.

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