Canadian Appliance Service Industry
By: Jeff Miller, Executive Director, IMR, Electro-Federation Canada
Key Shifts Impacting the Service Industry
The Installation, Maintenance and Repair (IMR) Sector Council is a not-for-profit operating within Electro-Federation of Canada (EFC).IMR is primarily focused on 3 major industry issues:
- Positively address the shortage of qualified technicians and impacts of an aging workforce
- Support stronger industry networking and collaboration
- Increasing the quality and consistency of service on a national basis
The “2012 Major Appliance Industry Trends and Facts” publication is an important indicator for determining the work impact on the service community. While overall appliance sales declined in 2012 there are changes in mix of products.
There are a number of key shifts in the market impacting the service area. With increasing access to natural gas combined with historic lows in pricing, gas products are continuing to exhibit market growth. With this trend continuing, it will put a strain on the service industry as a special gas licensing is required. Pricing is another continuing shift with consumers purchasing either high end or budget priced products. A budget priced item will result in a challenge to offer economical service due to the cost of parts and repairs. High end products are continuing to increase in complexity. These products place a greater emphasis on the technician’s ability to effectively make a diagnosis due to advanced technologies.
Market Labour Needs
Many factors must be considered to define the labour needs for this industry. They include sales, type of products being sold, warranty periods, life expectancy, service incidence rates and complexity of repairs. This allows the service community to predict the potential volume of work required.
A significant concern within the appliance service industry is the age of the technician workforce. Recent studies have shown that over 50% of appliance service technicians are over the age of 50 and 30% are over the age of 60! Close to 70% of the industry is made up of 1 – 3 person shops with up to 70% of the owners intending on retiring in the next 8 – 10 years.
This places significant pressure and risk on all players in the industry. This includes manufacturers, retailers, service providers, warranty companies and parts suppliers. This poses a risk for the industry if appliances cannot be repaired. The graphic below shows the potential impacts to the appliance industry as a whole.
IMR supports multiple types of member organizations in its quest to address labour market issues. IMR works with schools, governments and industry addressing entry level schooling requirements, as well as upgrading training and certification. One great concern for the industry is the continuing downward trend of apprentices in the trade.
IMR is involved in the following activities to address these labour issues:
- Launched a 2008 pilot entry level program in Winnipeg and working with Manitoba and Saskatchewan to expand this program. It remains a challenge to attract the appropriate students into the program.
- Opened a new school in the Toronto market (2009) that brought over 40 new technicians into Ontario but is now seeing a decline in enrollment.
- Working in Alberta and BC, these provinces have traditionally been leaders for entry level schooling. British Columbia has strong industry ties and support resulting in excellent attendance. Alberta is starting to see a decline in the number of students entering the program.
Appliance Apprenticeships across Canada are Currently Declining in Most Regions
As the labour market vacuums take hold, the size of the “unqualified” workforce will also grow. This raises safety concerns for the consumer as well as cost and quality issues for the manufacturers and retailers. It will take the collective efforts of all members of the appliance industry to address this labour shortage. IMR has worked hard to get all industry players to support efforts in schooling, regulatory issues and awareness. These included items such as
- Joining the Ontario Electrical Safety Authority advisory Board bringing clarity to the installation issues within the industry
- Working with Red Seal and HRSDC to update the training curriculum
- Bringing over 120 technicians into hands-on upgrade training sessions in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver
- Arranging for IMR Members to participate in technical training webinars across multiple product types
- Developing and launching a new member benefits program to support IMR members and reduce business costs
- Working within the industry to begin the development of a National standard for background screening
- Meeting with government groups in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and at the Federal level to address industry concerns. IMR members have become active members of most provincial advisory boards and have actively participated in the Red Seal reviews.
- Collaborating and meeting with colleges, trade schools and other industry councils to continue growing the accessibility of training programs for the industry.
What is on the Horizon?
In 2012 IMR will continue to work hard ensuring the long term health and viability of the appliance service industry. Our members and others in the industry are counting on this. We will need full industry support to address the following areas:
- Development of an Appliance Technician Certification Program that will help with the skills and competencies of the technician
- Implementation of a background screening program ensuring technicians are technically qualified to do the work and also safe to come into customers’ homes
- Definition of the Designated Occupation Approach within Manitoba through an industry supported Provincial Advisory Committee
- Engagement to increase enrolment in apprentice programs across the country. Currently Electro-Federation of Canada offers a scholarship program. IMR will work with the industry to bring this program to life in the appliance service industry as well.
- Increasing the access to upgrade training for technicians across the country from multiple manufacturers and industry leads.
We are always looking for active supporters. If you are not currently a member of IMR and have any aspects of your business dependant on service, we would ask you to get engaged. If you are interested in learning more please contact Jeff Miller at 647-258-7478 or email@example.com.
Stay in touch with us at our new website www.imrsectorcouncil.ca.