Wanted: Mentors

Wanted: Mentors
Automotive Business School of Canada student Jessica Cowan with her mentor, Susan Gubasta of Mississauga Toyota. (Photo: TADA)

We need more dealers to set an example with grads contemplating a career in the auto industry.

Last year, the TADA launched a student outreach program we called “Women in Automotive Mentoring Program.” Although we got off to a good start, this academic year we’re hoping to expand on the idea with more dealers and more students working together.

As part of our ongoing efforts to attract new people to the industry and retain top talent, our goal is to make the mentoring program larger and more encompassing this year. And while this program focuses on mentoring women, we are committed to working with dealerships on recruitment and onboarding initiatives for employees in all departments, and all genders.

Initial success

Last year, we managed to match a number of young women from college and university programs with female mentors working at the dealership level. We had a number of women mentor with service technicians, and a number with professionals on the business side.

They spent about four hours a month with their mentors, sometimes at the dealership or at a networking event, and sometimes just for a coffee or lunch.

We launched the program last year because Susan Gubasta was the TADA president at the time, so this was a natural fit. She continues to champion this initiative, and we think the TADA can help draw more people into the industry. As the provincial association, we believe we should be the lead on this initiative.

We know some dealers are doing the same, which is great, but we believe we need a province-wide approach. We want to paint a clear picture of our industry, while explaining what women can expect from a career in automotive, whether they come out of a tech program or a business or finance or HR program.

Help wanted

We have over 1,000 dealers telling us that they need more people, so this is part of our larger education program. Whether it’s young women or men, people immigrating to Canada, or coming out of college or university, we want to encourage as many as possible to look at the automotive industry as a career option.

We need to get the message out about opportunities for women in our industry. Dave Fraser, TADA’s Ontario Education Coordinator, often gets asked about career possibilities for women when he speaks with students at the high school level. Believe it or not, young girls who attend his presentations still often ask whether women can work in the auto industry. That may seem like a bizarre question for those of us in the know, but that’s the reality when it comes to the perception about our industry. That’s why we need to make an effort to get the word out to students that women are more than welcome to join our ranks.

Working with students

Mentorship and experiential education are very popular today. Gaining insight into potential employment and career opportunities by spending time with an employer has really taken off, so most schools are on board with mentorship programs like ours.

The TADA is looking for any team members from dealerships, whether in senior management, human resources, accounting, the service department, etc. to sign up to be mentors.

If you’re wondering what you’d be signing up for, keep in mind that mentors are only required to spend four hours a month with a student (for an entire academic year, which runs from September/October through to April). That could be four hours all at once, or two hours every couple of weeks, whether job shadowing, sitting down for a conversation, or attending a networking or industry event. The goal is to give students an idea of what a career in the auto industry would look like for them.

Our mentorship program is not a coop where students work at the dealership. It’s really more about helping them find their way from a post-secondary education into a career.

Mentor hot spots

While a good number of dealers have already signed up for the upcoming academic year, we do need more in the Greater Toronto Area, because that’s where many of the students who are interested in the program are located. So we’re hoping to see dealers from the GTA step up to the plate and become mentors.

We’re also focusing on Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Northern Ontario. We’re working with schools in those areas, and we’re hoping to have dealers ready to mentor students, as soon as they express an interest in our industry.

We do our best to put students and mentors together with a good fit in mind. When students apply, they fill out a questionnaire, which gives us a good idea of what they’re all about. We then try to match them with a mentor who would be a good match.

“The Women In Automotive Mentorship Program is an important part of TADA’s overall education and recruitment efforts,” says current TADA President, Clifford Lafreniere of Pinewood Park Motors in Kirkland Lake. “As dealers—and as an association—we have an obligation to ourselves and our industry to do all we can to attract as many new candidates as possible to automotive careers.”

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