Peter Coates

  • Age: 25 /
  • Born: Conception Bay South
  • OCCUPATION: Second-year autobody apprentice at Bodyworks. Started washing vehicles at Bodyworks when he was 20. /
  • Hours: 40 PER Week /
  • Salary: $43,000 a year / $15 an hour approx

“No one wants to work for a smaller amount of money. They would rather go away and make really big bucks rather than stay and make a reasonable amount of money,” says Coates. “I’d just rather stay here than move away. It doesn’t make sense any to miss birthdays and family suppers for 20 extra dollars when you’re away for six months a year.”

Landed the job

Started off cleaning vehicles in the washbay, expressed an interest in the autobody repair trade, went to school to gain the skill and then landed the gig.

Responsibilities

“Every day is different, in terms of the volume and difficulty of the job. Most of the job consists of painting cars, removing body parts of vehicles, fitting them back in place.”

Monthly expenses

Payments on his GMC Sierra Truck, ATV, and cell phone. Still lives at home with the parents.

Future plans

Wants to paint vehicles full time. Hoping to have a house in the next five years.

Best part

“Everything. Actually my favourite is painting, that’s what I’m trying to get into most now, but it’s all great. Body work is so diverse. You got to be able weld, you got to use your hands and do filler work, and do mechanic work, even a bit of electrical work.”

Most challenging

“The jobs. Certainly the jobs are more challenging, like how to take a bumper off,” he says. “You can easily make a mistake if you make a mistake on a metal panel. A two-hour job can turn into a four-hour job.” Customers pick on silly things sometimes.

Enjoys earnings

Trying to save to buy a house. Buying and refurbishing old cars and reselling them as a hobby.

WHAT THE BOSS SAYS

As the owner-operator of Bodyworks, Ron Bavis says he is struggling to meet the demands of his customers. He has a staff of 30 in a 20,000 square foot facility.

“In the near future, we are going to find a shortage of skilled labour in the collision repair and autobody repair business”, says Bavis. “With the population in St. John’s exploding, the need for skilled labour is in more demand.”

Trade hurdles: wages and motivation

One of the hurdles in meeting that demand, says Bavis, is offering higher wages to young people entering the trade. “Ours is a bit lower and we just can’t seem to get the rate higher, so that’s a challenge every day, every month, every year, trying to increase that rate to pass the earnings on to the workers,” he says.

The other hurdle says Bavis is the desire to find workers who want to work on automobiles. “As we all know, Newfoundlanders are hard workers,” he says. “But it seems like today’s younger generation there’s just so much more things for them to be doing, other types of trades.”

“They don’t seem as motivated as they did at one time. A lot of them feel that the world owes them something and you know, they have no desire to work.”

Bavis says doing bodywork and painting is a specialized skill in an industry full of opportunities. But to benefit, the desire to do the work must come from the individual.

With interest, comes opportunity

In the case of Peter Coates, Bavis says he had an interest in learning the trade, and now his career is taking off.

“I said I’d give him the opportunity to try it out. He went onto trade school, and did his first-year apprentice program. And ever since, he’s been excelling in the trade, and he learns quickly,” he says.

“He likes what he does and I guess that’s one of the key things in any job, you’ve got to like what you’re doing.”

Bavis says, despite that, wages typically start off in the $12 to $14 range. A good journey person can make upwards of $30 to $35 an hour.

“Typically it would be based on their skill set and how quickly they can adapt," he says. “In two to three years, you can get up there, pretty quick.”