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Three jobs around the wheels
Cars are truly fascinating creatures. Because that’s what they are, right? Creatures, right? They not only take us from one place to another, they also seem to be embedded into some people’s lives so much that they take care of them as if they were living, breathing organisms. They get detailed, painted, pampered, named; their licence plates can be changed to reflect the personality of their owner. And when they break ... there’s no more inconvenient nuisance for those depending on them (and not only in a financial sense — talk to any car aficionado whose baby is in a repair shop and you’ll see a range of emotions that should only be reserved for pets or people). In this article we present you with three jobs revolving around those metal darlings: automotive service technician, driving instructor and taxi driver.
Automotive service technician
So what happens when the metal baby starts coughing and stalling and making horrible noises? You take it to the car doctor — in other words, an automotive service technician. He or she will be able to identify car problems and — ideally — provide you with the best, most cost-effective cure for the problem. These are the guys and gals specializing in repairing and maintaining cars and small trucks. Common duties include:
- Diagnosing and isolating problems and hazards by road testing vehicles and checking systems and components
- Adjusting, repairing, replacing or rebuilding old or damaged parts, including transmissions, engines, brakes, and cooling and climate control systems
- Installing or repairing accessories such as radios, heaters, mirrors and windshield wipers
- Performing routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tune-ups, to prevent danger or future breakdowns
- Explaining repairs or maintenance to clients, providing quotes and advising about future service or repairs that might be needed
- Reviewing work orders and discussing issues with a supervisor
To excel at this job, you need strong analytical skills so that you can diagnose problems as well as a thorough understanding of mechanical and electronic systems. You should also be good with your hands and comfortable with electronics and math. Since many vehicles today depend on high-tech computerized and electronic systems and components, the desire to learn and keep up with changing technologies is essential.
Most auto mechanics work at gas services stations, car dealerships and auto repair shops, although some find jobs with car manufacturers and other employers. Auto mechanics often work 40 hours or more per week and may do overtime during busy periods. Depending on their employer, automotive technicians may be required to work evening or weekend shifts. This job is usually done indoors in locations that have heating, good lighting and proper ventilation. Work involves handling dirty, greasy parts, lifting heavy objects and manoeuvring into awkward positions.
Automotive service technicians must either hold a valid Certificate of Qualification or be registered as an apprentice. To start out as an apprentice, you should have completed Grade 12 with credits in math, science and English. You must complete a four-year automotive service technician (or related) apprenticeship program (9,000 hours) or have a combination of over four years' work experience in the trade plus high school, college or industry courses in automotive technology to be eligible for certification. You must pass a trade exam to obtain your Certificate of Qualification. Red Seal certification is also available for this trade.
The following apprenticeship programs are available for automotive service technicians:
- Centennial College offers an Automotive Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program and an Automotive Service Technician Co-op Apprenticeship Diploma Program as well as other automotive programs, including some that are partnered with manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and Honda.
- Durham College provides an Automotive Service Technician (Apprenticeship) Program.
- The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) holds an Automotive Technician Program at Centennial College/Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute (for high school students 16 or older).
- Youth under 21 can attend Central Technical School's OYAP Transportation Program.
- The Automotive Training Centre offers an Automotive Service Technician Training Program.
- The Canadian Automotive and Trucking Institute features an Automotive Technology Program (please note: offered in Oshawa and Cambridge).
According to Service Canada, due to a growth in the motor vehicle fleet and the aging population trend “the number of automative service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers should increase significantly over the next few years.”
A good driving instructor not only teaches you how to perform certain tasks in the car (parallel parking, making a three-point-turn, parking on a hill, going onto a freeway) but also takes time to answer your questions, assess your level of confidence and make specific recommendations based on how you seem to progress. A bad instructor only cares about putting checkmarks beside skills that he or she introduces to you without really teaching you how to perform them. If you’re thinking about becoming a driving instructor, please take note and do it only if you really mean it, since what and how you teach will reflect not only on you but will contribute to overall safety on the road.
A driving instructor in Ontario must complete a Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO)-approved training course (offered at Humber or Centennial). Future driving instructors must have four or more years of valid driving experience and zero demerit points on their driving abstract before applying to become a driving instructor, and they may be asked to obtain a driving instructor kit from the Driver Examination Centre.
Common duties of a driving instructor include:
- Instructing individuals on proper motor vehicle driving skills and traffic regulations, showing and explaining the handling and mechanical operation of motor vehicles, and supervising individuals during practice driving
- Conducting road test examinations and evaluating the driving ability of applicants for driver's licences
In order to become a driving instructor you need to obtain a certificate and finish a driving instructor course, for example, at Humber or Centennial colleges or through Canadian Pro Drivers.
According to the Alberta Occupational Profiles site, driving instructors have to be flexible with their working hours as evening or weekends are usually preferred by students. This is a job for people who get along with others, have great deal of patience and calmness, and are able to communicate to their students the intricate aspects of driving. An instructor working for a reputable driving school gets trained on an ongoing basis.
Taxi and limousine driver
Some people prefer to spend their entire day (or night) in a car and can actually make a living out of it. Taxi and/or limousine drivers “drive automobiles and limousines to transport passengers. Chauffeurs drive automobiles and limousines to transport personnel and visitors of businesses, government or other organizations or members of private households,” according to this Service Canada site.
Two well-known beliefs about driving a taxi in Canada are that (a) it’s a job done by overeducated newcomers and (b) it’s dangerous. Before we get into taxi driving as a profession, we’ll address both of those beliefs:
The article Overqualified Immigrants Really Are Driving Taxis in Canada talks about the myth of doctors driving taxi cabs in Canada. This, according to the article, is not a myth. In the study called Who Drives a Taxi in Canada, based on 2006 census data, there are more than 50,000 cab drivers In Canada and it turns out that half are immigrants. Out of that, 200 had doctorate or medicine degrees and 20 per cent had undergraduate or master’s university degrees. “Most had backgrounds in business, engineering and architecture and are clearly underemployed.”
As for taxi driving being dangerous, the Cab Driving Riskier Than Police Work article for the CBC talks about the Statistics Canada study that examined occupation-related homicides from a period spanning 10 years (ending in 2010), isolating police work and taxi driving as two particularly risky occupations. “Of the two, the study says, taxi drivers were twice as likely as police officers to be a victim of homicide while working, which drivers say reflects the fact that they are seen as vulnerable targets.” One way of dealing with the physical danger that taxi drivers find themselves in is to erect a plexiglass shield between the driver and the back seat. Unfortunately some Toronto drivers aren’t warming up to this tactic but hopefully this will change as many other drivers believe it may save lives.
Before we get into even more detail please note this is not a job that has the best job outlook (only rated as fair), possibly because there’s a ceiling on taxi permits which keeps the number of drivers in check.
Still interested? In order to become a taxicab driver in Toronto you need to take the Effective Taxicab Driver Training Program, which lasts 17 days and prepares you to work in the city. You need to be 18 and have a valid Ontario driver’s license (G). Your attendance has to be regular (it is mandatory) and you will have to past weekly tests as well as the final three-hour exam at the end of the course. The City of Toronto site states, “To register for this program you must attend the Municipal Licensing & Standards office in person. The course fees and first year licensing fees for 2012 are $601.23. The current waiting period for the course is approximately four weeks.”
In order to work as a taxi/limousine driver, you need to have some secondary school education and a minimum of one year of safe driving experience. You have to have good knowledge of the city. You might also be required to have a first aid certification, according to the National Occupational Classification (NOC) profile.
As a taxi and/or limousine driver, your duties will be the following:
- Picking up passengers and driving them to destinations and helping them with luggage as well as assisting passengers with special needs
- Collecting flat rate or taximeter fares and maintaining records of transactions
- Maintaining contact with a taxi dispatch unit
- Cleaning and making minor repairs to vehicles or taking vehicles for servicing
Additionally, chauffeurs (falling under the same category, according to NOC) may perform some or all of the following duties:
- Picking up and driving their employer on a schedule
- Performing errands such as delivering and picking up mail, business documents and parcels
- Cleaning and making minor repairs to the vehicle or take the vehicle for servicing