Next generation talent

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When you’ve been in this chair for a few years, there’s an annual ebb and flow to the rhythm of the year. You can almost set your calendar by these annual events.

The Montreal and Toronto auto shows launch early in the year, along with the CADA Summit in February, NADA closely after that, and throughout the year, various provincial dealer association events, like the TADA’s Innovation Series, CADEX in Halifax in April, and the Western Dealers Summit, and the Vancouver International AutoShow.

But every June, there’s one event that is always ultra energy-filled, and reminds me that summer is almost here — and that our industry is about to be refreshed by a wave of new talent. It’s the Georgian College auto show in Barrie in June.

It’s the largest student-run auto show in North America, and it’s mounted entirely by the students in the Automotive Business School of Canada program. They look after the marketing, logistics, sponsorship, and work with OEMs to set up their booths. Basically, they manage the show soup to nuts.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and interviewing dozens of the students who have attended the ABSC program and who run the show, and it’s always one of the highlights of my year.

In these students I see in the energy and ideas (and at times idealism) that is so badly needed in our industry to replace a growing wave of people nearing the end of their working lives. They love cars, they love automotive and many already exhibit the teamwork, communication and professionalism that will serve them so well throughout their careers.

I’ve also had the good fortune to meet and interview various high profile alumni of the ABSC program, including those from the new dealership management program aimed at industry veterans who want to upgrade their skills and careers.

ABSC alumni remain remarkably connected to the college and to one another throughout their careers. Long after their days on campus in Barrie, they cross paths constantly, whether they are working in the dealership world, with the OEMs, the aftermarket, or a host of suppliers who serve the industry from software vendors, to insurance firms and bankers.

The automotive industry is fortunate to have a “finishing school” that is constantly prepping the next generation of talent, and paving the way for young people to leave school and slip directly into the workforce armed and ready.

But the success of a program like this is no accident.

It was built by the long-term vision firmly established generations ago, by the people in our industry who recognized that without great people, the industry wasn’t going to reach its potential.

The program has also been led by amazing leaders at the college, who recognized that industry isn’t an adversary on the road to education, but an ally willing to donate countless hours and resources to ensure the program is constantly evolving to equip young people with the tools and skills industry needs.

It’s a winning formula, and the annual rite of spring signalled by the raising of the Georgian College Auto Show flag also means another crop of talented men and women are about to enter and help transform our industry. Welcome! Your time is now!

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Canadian auto dealer