North Island College Automotive Instructor Prepares Future Mechanics in Port Alberni

NIC automotive instructor Patrick Balfry is looking for students who enjoy a good challenge and have a passion for working on complex repairs and electronics.

“I chose this trade because I loved the challenge of taking something apart, figuring out what’s wrong and putting it back together so it’s just as good as new, or better,” said Balfry, a Red Seal certified automotive mechanic. “There’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you fixed something, especially when it’s complex or intricate work.”

Balfry teaches at NIC’s Automotive Service Technician certificate at the Port Alberni campus.

The rapidly evolving technology in vehicles has meant an evolution in how technicians are trained, said Balfry.

“Even a car that’s 10 years old today will have about 20 computers on board,” he said. “When you look at the electric cars that are coming, that part of the trade is only going to grow.”

NIC’s foundation program covers three main topics; chassis systems, vehicle maintenance and electrical systems.

“The chassis includes the systems you see when the vehicle goes up on the hoist,” said Balfry. “We study the technical aspects of brakes, wheel alignment, suspension and steering. We also study the computers and electronics components and we have a hybrid vehicle for students to practice on.”

The combination of work included in the foundation program helps students narrow down what they’re interested in, said Balfry.

“There’s the work that people typically think of when working on cars – getting your hands dirty, but there’s also the electrical side,” said Balfry. “I’ve had students go on to become mechanics, but some have also discovered they really enjoyed the electrical side and have gone on to specialize as an electronics technician or an electrician.”

The program provides skills you’ll use for the rest of your life, said Balfry. “Odds are, you’ll always own a vehicle,” he said. “It’s helpful to know more about their components and how they work, whether you’re doing the repair yourself or taking it to have work done.”

Automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers are listed as high demand occupations by WorkBC. 6,730 job openings are forecast in BC by 2027, with 63 per cent of openings stemming from retired workers. Graduates with up-to-date technological knowledge are predicted to be in higher demand. 

Seats are available for the September start in Port Alberni.

Learn more about NIC’s Automotive Service Technician certificate.