Volkswagen Group Canada Inc. is set to begin training Volkswagen and Audi body repair technicians for the first time on Canadian soil, as equipment arrives and renovations wrap up at a new Milton, Ont. automotive training centre.
VW Canada announced a partnership to create the Canadian Collision Repair Academy just west of Toronto with welding organization CWB Group Oct. 13.
The facility will be the first of its kind for any automaker in Canada and will bring training closer to home for technicians, said Scott Wideman, collision program manager with VW Canada.
“We could potentially be delivering our first beta classes in November,” he told Automotive News Canada.
The facility will host body repair training for technicians from Volkswagen and Audi dealerships across Canada, as well as techs from independent collision repairers enrolled in the certification program. Previously, Wideman said, this type of training was carried out at a pair of Volkswagen facilities on the east and west coasts of the United States.
COVID-19 closures prompted a re-think of the cross-border training regimen, however, and VW Canada has been working on the collaboration with CWB Group since January 2021.
The partnership includes renovations to an approximately 6,000 square-foot (600 square-metre) CWB site in Milton that will upgrade electrical systems and lighting. That work, Wideman said, is nearing completion, with most major equipment required for body repairs having arrived on-site.
“The investments to create this project would be more than $1 million. However, through industry support by equipment suppliers this has enabled the project to get off the ground.”
The facility will offer classes in both French and English, taking technicians through factory-standard repair procedures they can then apply at their dealerships or collision centres.
“Our body repair environment is duplicating what they would be doing in a real-world environment,” Wideman said, noting the curriculum is about 70 per cent hands-on.
“They need to research the model-specific repair procedure, they need to gather their tools that are spelled out and are required, as well as the consumable —adhesives rivets, etc. — and they are going to follow that repair procedure all the way through.”
Along with pre-empting any future border disruptions like those that prevented Canadian technicians from training in the United States during parts of the pandemic, Wideman said the Milton training site will simplify travel arrangements for Volkswagen and Audi technicians in Canada, as well as lower travel costs.
At least 200 technicians from both brands are likely to train at the new academy in 2023, Wideman said.