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Publisher’s Perspective: It’s a Whole New Year, but the Elephant is Still There!

As we tackle the shortage of skilled technicians, we need to extol the virtues of the collision repair industry instead of focusing on its challenges.

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Happy 2017, and welcome to the New Year.

The New Year is an interesting phenomenon. Miraculously, in one day, we’re motivated to change everything we do in life. We all of a sudden only eat healthy food, exercise consistently five days a week, stop doing all unnecessary tasks, spend more time with loved ones, donate our time to worthy causes, keep up our civic duties and maintain a balance with work and home. What? Ridiculous!

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a more realistic approach. This is a good time of year to look at what we’re doing and evaluate if we’re happy with the way things are going. Spend some time to get organized and set some goals for the upcoming 12 months. Then, once that’s done, work to those plans and goals for the year.

Here’s where we talk about the elephant in the living room. I’ve written two columns on this subject and have received more calls and e-mails about it than anything else. It’s the lack of upcoming technicians in the mechanical and collision repair, and also people to own and operate the shops.

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Most people who called me understand the issue and know why it has taken place. What’s missing is how to fix it. After pondering the issue for months now, I believe there is no one answer. When I get these calls, I always try to run through the obvious actions – vocational schools, local high schools, PDR shops, apprentice programs, etc. Usually, the caller has tried/done all of these. Everyone is so focused on solving the immediate problem that they don’t even think of a long-term approach.

The short-term solutions are many, and seem to be only moderately successful. Long term, we need to look closely at how to educate people on the merits of working in this industry. There are young people out there, and they need a profession. Not everyone can be or wants to be a doctor, lawyer, computer programmer or Wall Street wizard. I for one am not suited to be any of those. I love to work with my hands and fix stuff. Cars are my passion, so I’ve been in this industry for over 40 years.

We need to extol the virtues of this industry instead of focus on its challenges. If we don’t want to work in it, why would others? Look in your own families and look for candidates. Go to schools and help the local programs. There are 250 million vehicles on the road. It’s estimated there are over 10 million accidents reported each year – double that if you count the unreported collisions. So there are 20 million vehicles to repair, and someone is going to get paid to do it.

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Glamorous, maybe not. But it’s steady work nonetheless. It’s up to us. Own it!

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