OPINION: Who will fix your car, Squamish?

Like most people my vintage who grew up in a small town, I’ve spent plenty of time in garages.

From my dad to most of the boys I hung around with to my ‘gearhead’ husband — cars were a soundtrack to their lives and fixing them was a natural hobby as much as a necessity.

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In high school, I sat in the front seat of whatever jalopy my guy friends had inherited while they tried to make it go, or go faster. 

[There were a few girls who were at home under a hood, but it was a different time and not many of us would have thought to be interested, sadly.]

This car culture has changed dramatically.

Though there are positives that come with that change, such as more consideration for the environment, it has led to a shortage of people going into automotive as a career to repair the vehicles currently in circulation.

Squamish repair shops say the shortage impacts their businesses. Sea to Sky online job boards constantly have at least a few calls for technicians from local shops.

Mubasher Faruki, associate dean of automotive technician training at BCIT told The Chief that there are numerous factors contributing to this perfect storm that has created the shortage.

One reason is that youth aren’t being exposed to vehicle repair at home or school.

Howe Sound Secondary has been unable to run an auto shop course for a few years due to a shortage of both students and a qualified instructor, according to Nolan Cox, district principal of technology and innovation.

“There is a minimum to run these programs through our trade training partners and the Industry Training Authority,” he said.

Other factors include the stigma that exists against all trades, less space for people to work on their cars at home and the advanced technology of newer vehicles.

Another issue cited by Faruki is that young people who do start schooling in the trade drop out. It is hard work and industry experts say like most complex jobs, becoming a licensed automotive technician necessitates aptitudes in senior math, science, and language. Though the stereotype is that the smartest go to university, the trades require both grit and intelligence.

And it can take six years to become proficient and earn big(ish) bucks in automotive careers, a length of time daunting to someone fresh out of secondary school.

So, to youth and their parents, consider automotive options. The more interest shown, the more the school can offer.

Talk to Squamish shop owners and mechanics, find out what kind of options there are to break into the business.

After all, at a time when many with university degrees are disillusioned, underemployed or underpaid, most of my 'gearhead' friends are thriving — and happy.

Something to be said about that.

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