On October 1, the Fix Network hosted a VIP Grand Opening ceremony for the first Fix Network Training Centre in Canada.
Located at 8400 Lawson Road in Milton, Ontario, this is the first of the three training centres planned by the network. The other two centres will be located in Blainville, Quebec and Calgary, Alberta.
At the invitation-only opening ceremony, the network showcased its brand-new centre to the attendees which included its franchise strategic partners, supplier partners, insurance partners and fleet partners, among others.
Key messages from Fix Network dignitaries
Daryll O’Keefe, Regional Vice President-Ontario and Manitoba at Fix Automotive Network Canada, was excited to welcome all guests to the exemplary training centre. He recounted the first conversations that he had with Steve Leal, President of Fix Network World, on how to move to the forefront of the industry and equip the network’s existing facilities with the ability to make their technicians the best in the industry. “We realized at that time that just the human capital that was available at these facilities wasn’t sufficient to do the business model that Steve envisioned,” he said.
O’Keefe added, “To put together a facility like this has been possible because of partnerships with all of our vendor partners that we see here today, from the capital equipment to the supplies and services, and the intelligence. This network has really become the hub of so many participations to take it to the point where we can deliver information.”
O’Keefe especially urged the franchise partners to “visit everyone that’s here today, see the innovative tools, understand what their particular piece of this puzzle really is to see how complex this industry has become.”
He also thanked the network’s insurance and fleet partners, noting that without the vehicles of their customers to fix, there wouldn’t even be a need for a business model like this.
Steve Leal, President of Fix Network World was present at the event to deliver his message personally to the attendees. Explaining the birth of the vision, he said that as far back as 2008, he realized that there was a need on the collision side for training. As the network moved into the mechanical and glass segments, the prominent complain from insurance companies, suppliers and other industry members was that there were not enough skilled workers. “I said we are going to build our own training centre and find a way to work with the governments.”
The network had a meeting in the morning of October 1 with the Ministry of Education, Universities and Skills Ontario to discuss this issue.
Leal noted that the next evolution of the training centre would be to work with colleges and universities and find a way to shorten the licencing timelines. “Typically, it would take a technician four years of working in a body shop to get his licence. We want to know if there is there a way that we can accelerate that to six months for a skilled worker to be available for our facilities. I think it is a good opportunity for the collision side and the mechanical side, for us to build something new to shorten the curriculum.”
Leal also spoke about how the automotive industry is changing, with hype from the general public about autonomous vehicles, driverless cars and technology. He added, “If you look at some of the equipment and technology today, with the Hunter equipment you have lasers checking the tire treads and there are cameras in the alignment machines. There are many new things coming up that are going to change the dynamic of our industry and I want to make sure that we are in a better position so that in 10 years we are able to make sure that we attract the top talent.”
Dignitaries from Skills Ontario joined the event to congratulate the Fix Network team for this visionary step. The organization recently completed 30 years in the province.
Ian Howcroft, CEO, Skills Ontario, addressed the audience, saying, “For 30 years we have talked about the challenges of not being able to find the skills and competencies that we need. So how do we work collaboratively, collectively, cooperatively to develop solutions?”
Mentioning the morning conference with the Ministry, universities and the Fix Network, he added, “We were talking about looking at Germany and Switzerland as examples, but the best suggestion I heard was to look to Fix Auto and what Steve and Daryll have done here as an example where businesses have been proactive to address this issue.” Expressing his pleasure at being able to join the event, he congratulated the Fix Network team.
Also in attendance at the event was Darryl Spector, President of Promation, and Vice Chair of the Skills Ontario Board of Directors. “Steve, what you have done here with the team that took to build this, to have that vision and to invest in this facility is amazing. I think the potential of this facility, what it could mean for Ontario, the industry and for the nation, and to be that shining example of what can be done by truly addressing the issue and investing behind it, is tremendous. On behalf of the Board of Skills Ontario, I want to congratulate you and the team for having the vision to make this happen and really look forward to what’s going to come from this,” he said.
An exciting afternoon
After the key messages were shared, O’Keefe cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the centre amidst thundering applause from the guests.
Representatives of the suppliers of equipment, services and other items necessary for the training centre were present at the venue to answer questions and provide information about their products and services to all those present. The centre features the latest products and services from Global Finishing Solutions, SATA, Axalta, 3M, Car-O-Liner, and Hunter Engineering Corporation, to name a few.
Guests toured the centre on their own, taking in the potential held by the centre for future trainees. Refreshments and beverages made the rounds as everyone enjoyed the opportunity to have fruitful conversations with one another. The Fix Network is indeed paving the way for future generations to be able to stay at the top of the game.