Ongoing technician and staff training is key to future success.
Over the years the collision industry has experienced many changes and ensuring that a technician’s skills and knowledge kept up has always been somewhat of a challenge. Today, due to the rapid advance of vehicle technology and repair methods, that situation has only become more acute. Many of us struggle with change at the best of times, which is why it is so important to create a learning culture within our workforce to ensure they engage in ongoing training for the challenges we face both today and tomorrow.
For the collision repair industry here in Canada, I-CAR has become a very valuable resource. Originally formed in the U.S. in 1979—as a collaboration across six segments of the collision repair inter-industry, and working in conjunction with its alliance partners—I-CAR was developed as the industry standard for collision technician repair training.
While I-CAR training is readily available and collision centres that reach I-CAR Gold Class and technicians who achieve Platinum Certification are recognized as among the best in the businesses, there must be a drive toward achieving and maintaining these repair standards.
While part of that is driven by necessity, including advancing vehicle technology, as well as OEM repair requirements, often a bigger challenge is getting shops and the technicians themselves to adopt a learning mindset and commit to ongoing training.
The fact is, even if your shop has seasoned technicians that might be resistant to change, the way we correctly analyze damage and repair vehicles today is very different than it was even, 5-7 years ago. A good example is the “estimate”. Today writing a traditional estimate is typically a waste of time because it simply is not possible to discover and analyze damage without the vehicle being properly dismantled and measured, and then researching OEM procedures. We also need to ensure that not only do we discover the full extent of the physical damage, but that the vehicle’s systems, including ADAS functions are properly diagnosed so they can be accounted for in the repair plan, and then correctly repaired and calibrated. It is simply no longer possible for shops, technicians and even insurers to follow the same repair procedures they did in the past. And this impacts not only your technicians but also everybody that is involved in the process, including administrative staff and estimators.
Going forward, vehicle and repair procedure complexity will require roles within the collision centre to become even more specialized, which also means more opportunities to hire and develop staff to become highly proficient in a specific area of expertise. To do that effectively requires having a focused approach to training, which includes a set budget specifically for your people in their respective roles. In most organizations, training budgets are typically 3-5% of salary. This is money that is specifically allocated to training and spread across your entire team. You then need to ensure that each team member has specific goals set during the year and that a roadmap is developed to help them get there.
At the same time, the shop management team needs to make sure that each individual team member is held accountable for achieving those goals, with reviews every quarter to monitor their progress. Also, if your technicians require an off-site, hands-on course, that course needs to be worked into the shop’s production schedule and the technicians themselves need to be responsible for completing that course. Ultimately, it’s about creating a learning culture within the organization that extends to every person and every aspect of the collision centre.