KEMPTVILLE, Ontario-Forget what you've heard. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Paul Switzer does.
He takes experienced tire busters-even a few ``raw recruits''-and tries to instill in them pride in their job as well as a better understanding of the proper way to safely do that job.
Under the auspices of the Power & Equipment Centre of Kemptville College, the 43-year-old retired independent tire dealer teaches a newly launched tire, wheel and rim apprenticeship training program.
He applies much of what he himself learned-both the right way, and the consequences of doing things the wrong way-while on the road for 17 years as owner of Switzer's Tire Sales & Service, a mobile tire service dealership formerly in Markham, Ontario.
Mr. Switzer suggests a dealer consider this scenario:
``Joe'' is 18 years old and has just joined your service department. He has no experience in the tire business, but demonstrates qualities you want in an employee: integrity, willingness to learn, ability to get along with others.
You suggest he be trained by ``Bill,'' who has worked for you five years and learned the tire business the hard way, by trial and error. He knows the dangers of the industry, but since he hasn't experienced them personally, he's complacent. Often he doesn't use a safety cage; occasionally he uses ether to seat a stubborn tubeless tire.
Remember, he's showing Joe all his ``tricks of the trade.'' Yes, Bill's the guy Mr. Switzer is really after.
The course is taught to industry standards using training material from the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, and data from several tire makers as well as repair specialists like Rema Tip Top/North America Inc. and Tech International.
A heavy emphasis is placed on safety standards from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Ontario Ministry of Labor.
``We realize a lot of companies have been in the industry for years, have learned the basics of installation and repair, but a lot of them have missed the fine details of industry standards,'' Mr. Switzer said, adding he believes training to that standard ``has been neglected. Everybody has taken some training short cuts along the way''-and sometimes that has created safety concerns.
In Ontario, the government underwrites and sponsors, through various colleges, 50 separate technical training programs aimed at upgrading worker skills.
The Apprenticeship Branch of the Ontario Training Adjustment Board, in consultation with the tire, wheel and rim industry, has produced an Ontario training standard that identifies the skills required to be recognized as a tire, wheel and rim mechanic.
The non-mandatory apprenticeship program is comprised of in-class schooling and 4,000 hours of on-the-job training. Each segment is five weeks. The first-on passenger, light truck, farm, light construction and some specialty tires-ran Feb. 7 to March 11. Twelve students participated.
The second component-which will review additional specialty tires as well as medium and off-road tires-begins in January 1995, as will a repeat of the first section. All graduates receive certificates of apprenticeship.
The curriculum, encompassed in an 80-page training standards manual, centers on definitions, specifications, applications and repair and safety techniques.
Another component is instruction in ``employability skills,'' Mr. Switzer explained, including the ``language of business,'' some math, communications and problem-solving.
While participating in each segment, a dealership employee is laid off but receives unemployment compensation.
Rather than create a hardship for small tire shops, the program has initially attempted to draw from multi-outlet full-service dealerships that can afford to cut someone loose for five weeks.
Although ideally suited for apprentices with up to six months experience, Mr. Switzer said some participants have been tire service workers for up to 17 years.
There currently are no plans to train workers and then find jobs for them, but he said if the industry has a shortage of employees, another program could be developed to do that.
Nevertheless, the apprenticeship program has struggled somewhat to gain acceptance even though Mr. Switzer said there has been industry demand for this type of training. Several course spots available this year went unfilled. He hopes, however, to step up efforts to increase awareness of the program and how to access it.
He called the apprenticeship an ``esteem builder'' aimed not only at attracting new workers but at upgrading the image of a tire technician ``by instilling the value of knowing a safe way of doing the job with expertise.''
``To do the job well and stay in it takes skill,'' he continued. ``There are a lot of people who can go at it with brawn, but they're the ones who stay for three or four years, until their brawn's worn out. They've wrecked their back, torn their elbows out, etc.
``Those who work the job technically and know how to do it correctly can physically last in the industry. There are old-timers who work so smooth it looks like no work at all.''
For more information about the program, contact Allen Hills, coordinator of Kemptville College's Power & Equipment Division, at (613) 258-8346.
Upon completing the Tire, Wheel and Rim Apprenticeship Training Program offered by Kemptville College, apprentices should be able to:
Perform recommended service procedures necessary to safely maintain, demount, repair, replace and balance passenger and light truck tires
on single- and multi-piece rims;
Be aware of specifications, construction, application and problems
and solutions associated with passenger, LT, agricultural and light construction tires, wheels and rims;
Perform necessary procedures to safely maintain, demount, repair, mount, load and unload calcium ballast on agricultural and light construction tires, wheels and rims;
Operate, maintain and repair tools of the trade;
Demonstrate a working knowledge of set-up and safety as related to welding, heating and cutting procedures; and
Communicate effectively, understand personal management concepts and demonstrate team work skills.