On the job: An automotive arbitrator's journey
Working out a fair deal can be a tough job — especially when you’re the person responsible for bringing the agreement to a close. As a Senior Arbitrator, three-time SAIT grad Ashley Luker (Business Administration Automotive Management ’16, Automotive Service Technology ’09, Intro Automotive Maintenance ’05) mediates deals between dozens of buyers and sellers every day.
“Mediating between two people when there is money involved can be very challenging,” explains Luker. “As an arbitrator, I can ruin someone’s day or I can make their day. Unfortunately, you can’t help everyone, so there are tough calls to make most days.”
Luker’s years of experience in diagnosing and assessing automotive maintenance issues ensures her mediation is based on a solid technical foundation.
She spoke with LINK writer Zach Robertson about her journey from tinkering around on family cars as a young girl, to working as a senior arbitrator at a large North American automotive auction company.
What sparked your passion and interest in vehicles — particularly automotive maintenance and repair?
AL: I started to be interested in cars when I was about 10. I remember seeing a ’58 Buick Special sitting on blocks in some guy’s driveway in Airdrie and I begged my dad to get it. So he did, and we built it together, and to this day we still own it. That was more than 20 years ago! Working on cars with my dad as a child made me interested in learning how to do more with them. I pretty much got into auto mechanics because I have a passion for cars and I wanted to be able to keep up with my dad when we built cars together. I just love the challenge, and there’s always something new to learn.
From keeping up with your dad on projects as a kid to where you are now is a considerable journey — how did you get from there to here?
AL: So when I got to high school I started focusing on automotive and in Grade 10 I took my first mechanics course. After high school, I began my career in the automotive repair industry straight away after taking Introduction to Automotive Maintenance at SAIT. Once I got a job at a dealership, I completed an apprenticeship with that company and came back to SAIT for the four-year GM Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP) course. I really enjoyed working on older vehicles, pre-1970s stuff, usually, GM products, so that’s why I chose the ASEP course because it’s GM specific. With that course under my belt, I was able to work as a light-duty mechanic for 10 years with GM.
But that wasn’t the end of your time at SAIT was it?
AL: Once I decided that I wanted to move onwards and upwards to either teaching a class or having my own shop, I came back to SAIT for the third time for Automotive Business Management. When I first came to ADESA I applied as a mechanic, but they didn’t have any openings. But, they did need an arbitrator. I didn’t even know what that was, but I agreed, and shortly after I completed my course which did deal a bit with arbitration. Eight years later I’m still an arbitrator! I feel this work keeps my foot in the door with the new technologies and such that come out — so I can still be updated within the trade.
What’s a typical day like for an arbitrator?
AL: As an arbitrator, I mediate between a buyer and a seller if there is a problem with the car. So, if someone buys a car and it fails the mechanical inspection I call the buyer and seller, discuss the mechanical issues and costs to repair, and work out a deal between them to try and keep the sale together. I can have anywhere from five arbitrations to 60, depending on how many vehicles failed inspection.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in this role?
AL: Getting a hold of people to make the sale an easy process. Or getting yelled at because people can get very frustrated when we are either asking them for money or telling them that their vehicle sale can’t go through because of an issue. That’s when you really have to keep calm and unbiased. It’s one of the hardest departments to work in and my coworkers know that. So we try our best to keep the day as light and fun as possible. It would be an incredibly tough job if I didn’t have my great coworkers!
You were planning to offer an automotive basic maintenance course for women before the pandemic. Can you explain what you planned to offer and why you thought this course was needed?
AL: I really wanted to teach some basic skills to women to help them feel more independent with their vehicles. The course would cover some basic maintenance stuff like how to boost a battery, check tire pressure, basic tool usage, what different oils do for your vehicle, and what to know when you take your vehicle to a shop. I wanted women to have the opportunity to expand their knowledge about vehicles and give them the confidence to look at their own vehicles.
What’s in store for the future?
AL: I really enjoy doing what I’m doing now — working on cars in my spare time, and working with customers during the day. I don’t have any complaints and am happy with where I am. I have a wonderful career that I love and have many options to share my knowledge with the community!
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