Fix Network Canada (Fix Network) unveiled a new training facility at its grand opening celebration earlier this week. One of the main goals of the new 6,500 square foot building, located in Milton Ontario is to train and further develop the company’s network of auto glass, collision, and mechanical professionals, according to Daryll O’Keefe, Fix Network Ontario and Manitoba regional vice president. Fix Auto World, purchased 11 automotive aftermarket companies including Novus Glass in 2017.
Steve Leal, Fix Network World president and CEO, gave a few remarks before he officially opened the new center for business. O’Keefe mentioned about 120 guests were in attendance for the grand opening, which included some of Fix Network’s shop owners, insurance company representatives, venders, suppliers, manufacturers and staff.
“We also had demonstrations on auto glass repair, as well as discussions and static displays around replacements of automotive glass from our tooling partner, Equalizer,” said O’Keefe.
The grand opening was well received, as certain discussions leading up to the event helped bring the training facility to life.
“Prior to the opening we had a round table discussion … around the current status, which is not just a local thing here – it’s truly a global issue, it’s generational and it’s cultural,” said O’Keefe, in relation to the need of having more skilled tradespeople. “There’s a lack of people entering the skilled trades, and we had an open discussion around the importance of really representing the opportunities that are available, specifically in our circumstance in the automotive aftermarket which was displayed and underlined by the beautiful facility we just unveiled.”
Fix Network aims to train its existing and future franchise partners with its new facility. It’s also looking to build programs with the support of its government and industry partners, which will allow the company to make it more viable for a young person to come in and find meaningful employment in its facility, according to O’Keefe.
“We want to get to a point where we can implement, in coordination with the colleges and trade schools, a program where we can help,” O’Keefe mentioned.
According to O’Keefe, a young person will go to a shop and look for an apprenticeship program and will spend their first year doing menial tasks, hoping for a chance to work on a car. But under the current pressure of commerce in the industry, it’s difficult for the existing technicians to spare the time. He stated three reasons for the difficulty that included: not all current technicians are educators, secondly not all of them have training skills, and thirdly they lack the bandwidth to take on an apprentice. That’s where this new facility comes in.
“In our opinion we could offer that [training] service. We can build a curriculum and in a short period of time it could give them as much hands on training as they would need without the pressures of commerce and profitability,” said O’Keefe.
The education would be presented in the form of an accelerated program people can take prior to entering a trade school.
“So in a 10 week period we could do the work that would be done in a shop in a year and turn out a student who could be a first year apprentice who would be a revenue generating business contributor day one on the shop floor, as opposed to being an expense to a shop owner for the first year,” O’Keefe explained.
The Next Step
But this isn’t the only facility on the horizon, as O’Keefe shared it’s the first of three the company will introduce. The other two will be “absolute cookie-cutters” of the first one, with its equipment, training and curriculum.
“Milton, Ontario is the first, construction is underway and shortly, probably before year end we will open our facility in the province of Quebec. Then in 2020 we should start and likely in the year 2020 we will finish and open the facility in Western Canada, likely in Calgary, Alberta. So we will have complete coverage for our franchise partners in all of our brands across the country,” O’Keefe mentioned.
Fix Network Canada is aiming to be the solution for not just our industry, but for the entire automotive aftermarket including glass and collision.
“Glass is such a key component, and it had been missing for a really long time and we’re truly the only ones that have put it together with an entire aftermarket solution,” said O’Keefe. “Let us set a model in our own country that others will look to replicate. We suggested to use us as a test market to show them we can change the whole perspective of skilled trade workers in the industry.”