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Making connections at Student Aftermarket Day

Ever since it opened in 1985, the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, has been a starting point for many people currently in the Canadian auto care industry. While cars have changed a lot in the past 40 years, the auto care sector’s need for skilled professionals has not.  

That is why AIA Canada’s Young Professionals in the Aftermarket (YPA) Committee has been hosting an annual Student Aftermarket Day at the College, since 2008. While the COVID-19 pandemic kept the event online for the past couple of years, the 2022 edition was back in-person, connecting students with auto care companies and professionals. 

We are the auto care sector 

The day began with Patrick Verriet, chair of the YPA Committee and Key Account Manager at MANN+HUMMEL welcoming the students to the conference and the auto care sector. “There are tons of opportunities in the aftermarket industry. Go out and find them.”  

Building connections to build a career  

AIA Canada President, Jean-François Champagne, hosted the morning’s panel discussion, featuring Patrick Verriet (MANN+HUMMEL), Shannon Tardiff (CSN Collision), and Jeff Austin (Uni-Select Canada). Though the discussion touched on subject from the pandemic to the changing nature of the aftermarket, the conversation continued to come back to building connections. 

As Shannon saw it, “Relationships are essential in this industry. Take the opportunity to network.”  

Electric vehicles in transition 

At a conference directed towards the auto care sector professionals of the future, it was only fitting that the vehicle technology of the future be discussed. And as Martyn Johns, National Director, NAPA AUTOPRO and Emerging Technologies, laid out, that future is electric vehicles (EVs). 

“In five years, 40 per cent of cars in Canada will be EVs,” Martyn asserted. “The speed at which we adapt has to accelerate to accommodate that.” 

Getting noticed. Getting hired. 

While auto care workers are in high demand, recent graduates still face the problem of getting noticed by potential employers. According to speaker Jessi Kossel, one of the best ways to do that is by leveraging the power of LinkedIn, a social media platform for networking and building professional connections. As CEO of Beepzz Canada, the online automotive business-to-business (B2B) marketplace, Jessi should know a thing or two about connecting with businesses.  

“Self branding is not the same as self promotion,” Jessi pointed out. “Self promotion is a sales pitch. Self branding is showing others the kind of person you are. People connect with people.” 

Showcasing opportunities and recognizing talent 

Student Aftermarket Day continued in the afternoon as students and employers had the opportunity to connect and network, before the presentation of the best-in-class awards. Marc-Olivier Blouin, Brock Irvine, Tyler Mitchell and Joshua Taylor won for their presentation "Sustainability by recycling EVs through the aftermarket.”  

AIA Canada President, Jean-François Champagne, returned to the podium to welcome Shannon Spano, Vice-President of Sales at Wakefield Canada, for the closing plenary session. Shannon discussed her path to the auto care industry and how the students in the audience can find theirs. 

“I didn’t find the aftermarket, the aftermarket found me,” she asserted. “You’ve already taken the first step by coming here and asking questions.” 

Going forward 

A major issue facing the auto care sector is a lack of trained professionals. This is equally true of the head office as it is of the shop floor. AIA Canada’s Young Professionals in the Aftermarket Committee is dedicated to serving as a conduit, connecting students and graduates with the businesses that need their expertise. And events like the Student Aftermarket Day offer an opportunity to do just that.

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