VANCOUVER, British Columbia-You can lead a technician to training, but you can't necessarily make him learn. Except in British Columbia, where they'll have to learn if they want to earn.
New regulations unveiled last April by the Canadian Province of British Columbia's Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour are due to take effect July 1, 1996. They will make it compulsory that automotive service technicians, among others, go to school in order to become certified.
That will mean some 60 hours-or nine hours weekly-of schooling at a community college or local trade school in order to pass a Trades Qualification (TQ) exam.
Though no formal training for tire repair technicians has been mandated, it is being discussed and also could be implemented by next July 1, said Barry Jackson, senior program coordinator for the ministry's apprenticeship branch.
After researching programs in Europe, Australia and the U.S.-including an automotive service shop certification law in Florida-Mr. Jackson authored a document known as the ``Blueprint for Change.'' It outlines all-encompassing plans for certification of most facets of the automotive repair industry in British Columbia.
Auto collision shops in the province must be certified by 1998, with general auto service shops to follow a year later. Certification will hinge, in part, on adherence to environmental regulations.
Many details of the new program are still being worked out between government and industry. Consequently, Olive Storey, executive director of the Western Canadian Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association (WCTDRA), has reserved judgment on its merits.
However, she views the rules as both beneficial and possibly detrimental to the estimated 400 to 500 tire dealerships in the province-about half of which are WCTDRA members.
All the training a technician can get is ``definitely an asset,'' she said. ``But the downside is the absence of employees from a shop and the dealership needing backup help while they're in school.
``And because it's government regulated, it's one more government regulation that has to be adhered to.''
Ken Bauder, who also is a program coordinator with the min-istry, said the new program ``was driven by consumer need to have verification, for their own safety, that the equipment worked on was actually done by someone who had a baseline of education and understanding in that trade.
``There have been some accidents up here that have hastened that process.''
The ministry has gained a consensus on the issue, he said, from a survey of industry representatives ``and the artisans who actually do the job. . . They considered it important to bring the measures into place for the protection of consumers.''
Mr. Jackson said the ministry sent out 22,000 consumer surveys and 5,000 industry questionnaires, and 97.7 percent of the returns favored certification.
Of the province's approximately 25,000 auto mechanics, about 15,000 currently are certified by the ministry, he said.
British Columbia has 17 provincial or community colleges, each offering vocational education classes. Technician certification classes will be available evenings or on weekends several days a week ``at the convenience and accommodation of the industry,'' Mr. Jackson insisted, so that the program will not be disruptive to businesses.Technicians needing upgrade schooling will pay for it themselves, though in some cases the government will offset the cost of course work, he added. The Automotive Retailers Association already has been provided with some funding to help implement upgrading courses.
According to the ministry:
1. Workers with the following number of years of documented work experience in the trade, at the date of implementation of certification, will be eligible to take the TQ exam, or be eligible for an exemption certificate which will permit current employees to continue working without a TQ-
Automotive service and collision repair technicians (nine years); and
Automotive painting and refinishing technician (seven years).
2. Workers with the following number of years of documented work experience in the trade, at the date of certification implementation, will be eligible to take the TQ exam. Appropriate upgrading courses will be provided to help persons taking the exam. (Two exam attempts are permitted; after the first failure, there is a six-month waiting period before retesting)-
Auto service and collision repair technicians (six years); and
Automotive painting and refinishing technician (three years).
3. Workers with less than the number of required years of work experience must register as apprentices. Credit for any prior years of service, training and work experience will be considered upon written application to the minis-try's Director of Apprenticeship.
4. The date of implementation provides sufficient time to issue the necessary permits and develop upgrading courses and exams.
Workers qualifying to obtain apprenticeships can apply to the director, who has the authority to exempt, on an individual basis, an applicant whose employment is primarily affected by the introduction of compulsory certification.
Technicians working in shops that perform full-scope automotive service work are required to do four years of on-the-job apprenticeship training with six weeks of classroom work each year, culminating in the TQ exam.
For shops offering front end, brakes and alignments-considered a sub-trade-the apprenticeship period is only two years, with no exam required.
Ms. Storey said the WCTDRA has adopted a wait-and-see attitude concerning the new program until all its ramifications are understood.