CALGARY, Alberta-Members of the Western Canadian Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association have created a tire training course that has the potential to provide a source of certified technicians while re-employing Alberta residents currently receiving government unemployment assistance. Originally offered at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), the tire service course is now taught at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), effective Feb. 22.
Currently, 16 students are enrolled in the 14-week SAIT Tire Technicians' Training Program, a joint venture between the association, SAIT and the Canadian government, which is providing partial funding for the course.
The program and curriculum were developed for NAIT by tire dealer members of WCTDRA under the leadership of former association President Roger Ambrose, according to WCTDRA Executive Director Olive Storey.
``Our service technicians here could be just people off the street that have no background at all. That's actually not the case with all of them, but it's a problem around here,'' Ms. Storey said, explaining the impetus behind creating the program.
A mix of classroom and hands-on training experience, it includes:
Five weeks of classroom and lab work introducing aspects of tire service, installation, repair and replacement;
Three weeks of work experience at host retail and truck tire dealerships;
Three weeks of advanced training in tire service, installation, repair and replacement; and
Three more weeks of work experience at retail outlets.
The curriculum also calls for nine days of ``life skills'' training that teaches job hunting, interviewing and conflict resolution techniques, said W.H. ``Bill'' Evelyn, course instructor and WCTDRA training coordinator.
Course participants must have finished the 10th grade, passed a rudimentary English and mathematics test and be interviewed to determine their potential to gain employment upon completing the program, he said.
The aim of the program is to provide useful skills to unemployed residents in southern Alberta, a region that posted unemployment figures near 10 percent in January, according to the Alberta Advanced Education and Career Development Bureau of Labor Force Statistics.
The program is designed so students, upon graduation, will have full-time jobs at the outlet where they completed their practicum.
Mr. Evelyn said he hopes student interest in the program will enable the group to run the session at least once each year.
Alberta is also attempting to certify current tire technicians through a program offered by the Automobile Retail Training Association of Alberta. That program retrains service technicians who might need upgraded skills in order to remarket themselves at larger dealerships, he said.
Both programs, he said, should provide area tire dealerships and auto service shops with a pool of qualified tire technicians.
Tobin McCartney could be one of those technicians.
The 29-year-old Calgary resident has had trouble staying employed in the aircraft engineering field he had originally studied at SAIT. After seeing a newspaper advertisement for the tire course, he decided to switch fields.
``I've never been too good around cars,'' he admitted. ``But it was a four-month course, and it sounded pretty good.''
Although nervous about soon going into the field for the first time, he acknowledged, ``I'm really looking for a steady job, and this seems like something I can do.''
The WCTDRA eventually hopes to take the course to other trade schools throughout Alberta and British Columbia, Ms. Storey said.