Alan McClelland, a featured speaker at Collision Repair magazine’s EV Repair Tour and dean of Centennial College’s School of Transportation.
CENTENNIAL COLLEGE’S ALAN MCCLELLAND ON ELECTRIFICATION
AND COLLISION REPAIR EDUCATION
BY SARAH PERKINS
Alan McClelland, Dean for the School of Transportation at Centennial College, may not have a crystal ball to predict the future of the automotive industry, but he does have something to say about how the industry can better prepare for it.
A featured speaker at Collision Repair magazine’s EV Repair Tour, supported by Fix Network, McClelland delivered a presentation on the challenges and opportunities of expanding automotive education and “workforce development skills” in Canada.
During his presentation, McClelland—who has spent more than 20 years as an educator in the college system in both British Columbia and Ontario, as well as over a decade in corporate automotive training—outlined two main issues in readying for the “tipping point” of change in the automotive industry over the coming years: the increased specificity of training and the need for overall industry collaboration.
In regards to the first issue, McClelland noted that “technology is driving change and so training needs to be as well.” With the increasing development in areas of high tech such as EV components, advanced driver assistance systems and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, McClelland discussed how it is becoming increasingly difficult to perform higher and higher levels of skills and broader skills than the decades before.
“More specialized tech [also] makes it harder to attract people to the industry,” and this difficulty is complemented by an increasing shortage of high school students entering automotive trades as the Canadian population continues to decline.
These difficulties can be overcome by continuing to fight against the stigma historically surrounding the trades as well as continuing to specialize in college and apprenticeship programs so that students gain a broad spectrum of high-performance skills.
On this note, McClelland also noted that everyone in the automotive industry can play an important role in developing the curriculums they want to see since the “industry has a large part in where that goes” and should be vocal when curriculums are being updated.
In regards to the second issue, McClelland discussed how cross-country curriculums province-to-province can and should also be harmonized so that it is easier for trade school graduates to integrate into the industry and move more freely to share their skills.
Notably, McClelland mentioned that Alberta and Ontario want harmonization to work and that Skills Ontario is planning on moving to a four-level education system to match other provinces. Without this harmonization, McClelland commented that the system becomes “like apples and oranges” and these differences can continue to create an ongoing divide between industry sectors. McClelland finished his presentation with how, while “the new approach [to the automotive industry] is more like a tech company”—that is, like Apple, designed to push product rather than repair it—the “reality for cars is that someone has to fix it.”
While we can’t see the future, there are steps that can be taken to build the foundations for tomorrow, and as McClelland says, if the automotive industry is anything, it is “an industry made up of problem solvers.”