The Collision Industry Conference’s (CIC) Education and Training Committee held a panel discussion recently in Detroit, taking a hard look at the training and educational needs of all collision repair facilities nationwide.
Gene Lopez of I-CAR moderated the panel and kicked things off with some surprising statistics:
- 67 percent of collision repair shops have no consistent training
- 22 percent of collision repair shops have some level of consistent training
- 9 percent are I-CAR Gold Class 40 percent of techs in shops weld (104,410 total techs)
- 30 percent are doing steel structural welding 10 percent are doing non-structural welding
- 11,401 of those 104,410 techs have basic I-CAR welding training and certification
- 3,927 have advanced I-CAR structural steel welding training and certification
- 10,448 have I-CAR resistance spot welding training
- 79 percent of techs who weld are not I-CAR-trained in basic welding
- 82 percent of techs who weld are not I-CAR-trained in spot welding
- 93 percent of techs who weld are not I-CAR-trained in advanced welding
Panelists were then asked their thoughts on those stats. The panelists included: Jeff Peevy, AMI; Mike Anderson, Collision Advice; Mark Olsen, VeriFacts; Jerry Goodson, Fox Valley College; and Mark Woirol, Tech-Cor.
“If the general public saw those statistics, they would be quite frightened,” said Olsen. “Ninety percent of techs welding your car aren’t trained. The bigger problem is how do you ever find these techs? The techs don’t even know to know that they’re doing repairs correctly. This is why we’re seeing the OEs going to rivets and glue. This is a recipe for disaster at some point.”
Peevy commented that at a prior meeting, repairers were asked if they believed that poor welds compromise structural integrity. And then, whether that leads to occupant safety being compromised.
“Everyone answered yes, and then we turn around and still have these kinds of numbers. As an industry, it’s scary,” he said. “We as an industry need to own this and be ashamed of it. It’s on all of us. We need to take an honest and sincere approach to say ‘Are we contributing to this problem or are we a solution?’ As an industry, we need to do something.”
Mark Woirol of Tech-Cor shared the insurance perspective on this issue.
“From our standpoint, what I’m trying to share with Allstate is that the customer is the No. 1 issue here. I have to differentiate myself from all the other insurers, and part of that is giving the customer peace of mind about what they are going to get back, something safe. If you want to do business with us, getting it right needs to be part of the conversation.”
From the vo-tech instructor angle, Jerry Goodson added, “I tell all my students who graduate ‘If you think you’re done learning, you’re wrong.’ The need for lifelong learning is amazing. It’s a requirement of the job.”
Mike Anderson addressed the need for a different type of training.
“We have to make our training more interactive so more people are engaged. We also need a training matrix and the ability to take people from a zero to a hero. When I owned a shop, I asked my techs ‘Where is your weakness?’ Then it was my job as an owner to find that training. People complain that it takes five to six years to train an entry-level guy, but maybe we can cut that down.”
Added Peevy, “We talk a lot about training, but we should be talking about learning. It’s only when someone truly learns something that things get better. It’s not that some insurers are mandating training as much as it is the ‘silent’ mandate of the advancement and momentum of advancing technology, which is silently mandating that we must learn. When we don’t get that, it puts our business in jeopardy.”
Anderson followed up that comment by explaining that when you hire someone, you have to set expectations. “Like 90 hours of training a year or 40 hours of community service. Or that the second Thursday of every month will be after-hours training for refinish. At my shop, we also opened that after-hours training to the local SkillsUSA, so we ended up getting the best of the best students. The key is we have to carve out time for them. It’s very alarming to me how undereducated people are in the industry. I love our industry and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it scares me what people don’t know.”
VeriFacts’ Olsen took the discussion toward equipment by saying, “It’s three phases: do you have the piece of equipment, does it function and does the tech know how to use it, and does it produce the result? It all comes down to training. Thirteen years ago when I founded VeriFacts, it was, oh my God, if you have a plaque on the wall, it doesn’t mean you’re properly trained. How our industry has operated for years is if you have a welder, compressor and spray gun, you’re in business. How many of us are scanning cars for fault codes, with all the collision avoidance systems they have? This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“It has been easy to point at shops and techs and say, shame on you for not training,” added Peevy. “But every segment in the industry owns that.”