There is a new senior management team in place at River City Ford on West Portage and customers are seeing and appreciating the results.
In late November, managing partner Barry Skrudland decided to step down after two years in the position. Skrudland was in partnership with Trevor Boquist, dealer principal at Bennett Dunlop Ford in Regina. Boquist and Skrudland had purchased the former Cam Clark Ford in the fall of 2010.
River City Ford's new general sales manager is Ryan Monczunski, a veteran of 13 years in auto sales. Monczunski began his career in auto sales in Edmonton, his hometown. For the past four years, he has been working for Boquist in Regina, most recently as sales manager at Bennett Dunlop Ford.
The dealership also has a new service manager in Rob Vivian who is well-known in the industry. Vivian has 27 years' experience in parts and service. In the past, he has managed parts departments and served as assistant service manager. "This is the first time that I have been a service manager," he says.
"I wasn't really looking for a new position," Vivian says. "A friend learned about this management opportunity and encouraged me to apply. I found that I share Trevor and Ryan's business philosophy and approach to treating customers and staff.'
Monczunski agrees that he and Vivian both stress the importance of satisfying the customer. "Our sales are noticeably higher," he says. "Our staff members are happier and so are our customers."
"I believe in treating our customers the way I would want to be treated," Vivian says.
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Workplace Integration of Skilled Workers in the Trades (WISNIT) is a year-old Manitoba Labour and Immigration program that aims to help internationally trained tradespeople become certified and employed in their trade.
The program offers opportunities for internationally experienced tradespeople -- such as Nicanor Toga and -- to gain exposure and work experience in the skilled trades and occupations in Canada.
Both Toga and were trained in automotive service repair in their home countries of the Philippines and Jamaica respectively, but were held back from working in their occupations here by poor language skills and/or the need to upgrade their skill levels to North American standards and/or the lack of references.
"Some employers are hesitant to take on tradesmen from other countries because of language concerns," says James Bonner, the service manager at Eastern Chrysler Dodge Jeep where Toga is working as part his WISNIT training. "It's also difficult contacting references.
"Through WISNIT, foreign workers are able to develop a reasonable grasp of conversational English as well as the technical vocabulary that they will need in their field. Then they are put into the workplace where they can work toward their Red Seal Trade certification."
Bonner notes that he was contacted by WISNIT case worker Joe Di Curzio about taking on Toga. "I knew Joe when he taught at Tec Voc," Bonner says.
Bonner describes Toga as a hard worker with a positive attitude. "We are glad to have him," Bonner says. "It's hard in our industry to find workers with a good knowledge base and good work attitude. Nicanor still has a certain amount of training to do, but he is progressing well. We are glad to have him."
Toga, who brought his family to Winnipeg about 15 years ago, is appreciative of the opportunity at Eastern Chrysler as well as the help he has received through WISNIT. "This is a nice place to work," he says. "I am becoming comfortable here."
Auto dealers are sourcing service technicians as well through a similar program at Red River College. For the second time in three years, the College is putting a group of Jamaican-trained automotive mechanics through a co-op program which has them in the classroom for four months, followed by two months in a workplace and two more months in school.
"Twelve of the 13 students in our first program are still working here," says Len Grieve, Red River College's academic co-ordinator for pre-employment courses. "There is a big learning curve for the students. Many of them have to get used to be in school again."
Grieve notes that the students also have to relearn technical terms because the terms are a little different in the former British colony.
This second group consist of 33 Jamaicans. Grieve reports that 16 of them have been placed with auto dealerships on Regent or in Birchwood service departments. The remaining students have been placed in trucking or heavy equipment operations.
"It has been a good experience so far," says Dorian McLarty who is currently working at Focus Hyundai on Nairn Avenue.
He observes that service technicians are more regulated here and better organized. "In Jamaica," he says, "anyone can, for example, claim to be an air conditioning installer. Here, you have to be licensed."
He also notes that here we have four seasons to adjust to whereas in Jamaica, there is just a wet and a dry season.
He and his fellow students are looking forward to sitting for their Red Seal Certification at the end of June and McLarty is looking forward to continuing to work for Focus Hyundai.