Metro Vancouver, B.C. – Ryan Ferguson can’t remember a time in his life when he didn’t have a love of cars.
“At home, there are photos of me as a little kid pushing around toy cars,” said Ferguson, 26. “I’ve really always had a passion for cars.”
A third-year apprentice in the automotive service technician program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), Ferguson turned his love of cars and his talent for fixing them into a career through the B.C. apprenticeship system.
The automotive service technician program is one of a dozen apprenticeship programs offered at KPU Tech through the university’s Faculty of Trades and Technology.
Gone are the toy cars and trucks of his childhood; Ferguson now hones his skills on vintage BMWs of his own, along with the latest models that arrive for servicing at BMW Langley and MINI Langley, where he works when he isn’t in school.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from listening to a customer, reproducing their concern myself, diagnosing the problem and ultimately fixing it for them,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson is one of thousands of registered apprentices in B.C. whose accomplishments are being celebrated during Apprenticeship Recognition Week Nov. 5 to 11. There are over 35,000 adult apprentices, over 4,000 youth program participants, and over 4,000 foundation students in B.C. this year.
“Apprentices like Ryan are fixing our cars, building our homes and creating 21st century solutions,” said Melanie Mark, Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister. “Apprenticeship Recognition Week celebrates the thousands of hard-working apprentices throughout our province. Our government will continue to work hard to make sure that all students can access the education and training needed to build a better B.C.”
B.C.’s apprenticeship system provides in-depth, quality training that ensures apprentices are highly trained, technically skilled, and ready to work in sectors of the economy where their skills are in demand.
An apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and classroom learning culminating typically over four years in a credential – or ticket – in a skilled trade and the new designation of journeyperson. Apprentices spend approximately 20 per cent of their time in the classroom, and 80 per cent of their time on the job with an employer sponsor.
In Ferguson’s case, BMW MINI Langley stepped up to sponsor him, and the local dealership has been only too happy with the relationship. Service manager Pamela Alspach lauds Ferguson’s skills.
“Ryan is definitely an example of exactly what we’re looking for,” confided Alspach. “He’s eager to go to school at KPU and develop his skills, and when he returns after each level of apprenticeship, he demonstrates what he’s learned – it’s amazing to see his progress and watch him go home fulfilled at the end of each day.”
BMW and MINI Langley, both part of OpenRoad Auto Group, are extremely supportive of the apprenticeship system. Forty per cent of the dealership’s automotive service technicians are apprentices, who spend their time working and learning alongside qualified journeyperson technicians. The apprentices share their newfound skills with experienced journeypersons, and journeypersons impart the knowledge they’ve acquired from years of working in the field, says Alspach.
In addition, BMW routinely sends its automotive service technicians to brand-specific training every year. The combination of technical training, work experience, and training at BMW’s own shops means technicians are both highly skilled and loyal.
“Bringing them in as apprentices really helps them develop their skills as well as a love for the brand,” said Alspach.
As for the technical training in the classroom and in KPU’s on-site automotive shop, Ferguson offers a shout-out to KPU instructor Gerard Sheehan for making this portion of his apprenticeship interesting: “He’s one of the reasons I keep coming back. He’s the type of instructor who keeps someone like me focused and on track.”
Apprenticeship Recognition Week Nov. 5 to 11 also celebrates the collaboration of employers, employees, industry, labour, training providers, government, and the public for the continued success of the B.C. apprenticeship system.
For more information on apprenticeship programs at KPU, visit http://www.kpu.ca/apprentice.