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Getting Into The Mechanic Trade

The ‘Mechanic Trade’ As I See It

This is the reason blogging is cool. I can post anything I want about the mechanic trade including my opinions. Please comment below if you agree or disagree or have something to add in the way of your own experiences or advice. Think of something that you feel will help someone getting into the trade or someone who is just getting started as an apprentice.

As a middle aged man I’m telling you (if you’re just starting out) to choose your career path wisely. It’s a commitment…. make sure it’s something you love to do. I understand there will always be in-between jobs that come along to pay the bills… but in my opinion if you like to fix mechanical machinery, think with your brain and work with your hands… having a trade under your belt is priceless. The only sacrifice is going to school full time for several months.

The ideal time is right after high school so you can stay with Mom and Dad…hopefully (that’s what I did and used the city for the daily commute to college) luckily I was able to work 6 months before the course started and saved up some survival money. Of course that is just one scenario. You can get into the trade at any age. I’ve worked with guys in their forties who were apprenticing just for a change or wanted to upgrade to have more opportunities in the trade.

By the way the 6 month pre-apprenticeship course I took was a blast. There were a great group of guys in my class and we hung out and even went to the pub every Thursday night so the out of town guys could drive home right after class on Friday. This course is where you will make a lot of mistakes. I saw some good ones (myself included).

The biggest assignment in this class was to rebuild a gas engine and it had to run when you were done. I rebuilt a little 4 cylinder out of an Austin Cambridge. It ran at the end but I stuck to North American vehicles after that 🙂

The Mechanic Trade Has Lots To Offer

I started as a heavy duty mechanic in 1977 and before that I wanted to be a Machinist (what!). The apprenticeship counsellor advised me to choose Heavy Duty Mechanics because it was going to be the trade of the future. Man was he ‘bang on’ with that statement!

There are mechanics jobs coming out of the woodwork right now. There are hundreds of Mechanic jobs in the oil sands and mining in BC and Alberta alone. The demand for licenced and experienced Mechanics is huge.

We lost a Mechanic in our shop after being with us for 15 years to a local mine who offered him big wages. The wage wars are going strong with companies offering very lucrative benefit and wage packages to attract Mechanics away from their present jobs. It’s getting to the point in my opinion that companies are going to have to start hiring apprentices to fill the void. Mechanics getting out of the trade due to retirement has to be considered as well.

Industry Needs To Hire More Apprentices

It has been a lot about the bottom line with a lot of companies to hire experienced tradesman to keep up with revenues (my opinion). The lack of availability is going to force them to consider hiring and training new recruits who have either a pre-apprenticeship course under their belt or a couple of years experience in the trade.

This may happen slowly but looking at the situation especially in BC with natural gas and mining starting to boom there will be a need for able bodied mechanics to keep these industries going. In my shop alone the average age is 52. Is this not a red flag?

We operate under the eye of the BC government who fund our school bus operation. We do not have an apprenticeship program in our shop. The local college sends us one of their Commercial Transport Students for a one month practicum. They are young and bright eyed, eager to get into the trade but unfortunately they have to do their own thing and get hired somewhere to get experience.

Right now we only hire licenced Mechanics with minimum 5 years experience in the field. When you get the opportunity to hand down your experience and knowledge to somebody who is motivated it’s extremely rewarding. That’s one of the big reasons I enjoy blogging to share my experiences which may help someone solve a problem or get a better idea what the trade is all about.

Can You Get Hired As a Mechanic Without Any Experience?

In 1979 during my second year apprenticeship I was working at a copper mine. I had a couple of friends who had gone up north to work and later informed me that there was a lot of jobs for mechanics in the commercial transport field. The place they went to was Fort St John which was big in the oil patch industry. (It’s booming right now!)

So I went up there to apply at all the truck shops….. without success. One shop told me they had no apprenticeship program. So after dropping off all my resumes I came back home and refocused on my mine job not thinking about the trip up north.

Then Came The Unexpected Phone Call

So after getting settled back down into the regular routine I received a phone call from one of the shops up north. They were needing Mechanics right away and the shop foreman did a basic interview over the phone. I started thinking about having to move away from my home town and my family but the hunger for more experience was too strong.

At 20 years old there was nothing holding me back since I wasn’t married yet and there was no mortgage to worry about. One of the questions I was asked over the phone was if I had any commercial truck experience. Of course I said “no”…I had started my apprenticeship in mining.

Tip Of The Day (If you’re just starting out don’t BS your way into a job 🙂 it will embarrass you and ruin your credibility.)

He then asked me when I could start. I decided to give 2 weeks notice at the mine and headed up to Fort St John with my truck and my tools. It didn’t hurt to apply everywhere possible because situations change and you never know when you might get that phone call. This was during a time when the oil patch was still busy but starting to die down.

There are a lot more Mechanic jobs available if you are WILLING to RELOCATE.

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