The industry’s shortage of collision repair technicians is cause for great concern. Talking about this major issue is one thing, but creating an internship program within our shops is how we feel we create a career path for future technicians and cultivate new talent within our company.
Earlier this year, two students became the first to complete a 9-month unpaid internship with our company – something we’re calling the “Collision Repair Opportunity Program” (CROP) – and now both have full pay and benefits as productive employees with us. Because of the success of this pilot program, we’re expanding it to include more students at more of our locations.
CROP grew out of a strategic planning session we had in 2012, when “cultivating talent” was among the issues we saw facing not just our business, but the industry as a whole. Once we created a basic framework for CROP, Max Sorensen, who manages one of our locations, took the lead and did a lot of the legwork on the project, working with our marketing director Craig Comacho to get the word out to the vocational and technical high schools in our area.
Here’s how it works: Graduating high school seniors apply for the internships through our website, just as if they were applying for a regular position with our company. We then select interns using a basic aptitude test and a three-interview screening process. Our employee who will be serving as that student’s mentor during the program participates in the third interview to help us ensure the two will be a good fit.
The chosen students then begin a nine-month internship working with the mentor in either our body or paint department. We provide them with a starter set of tools, as well as a workbook that spells out the curriculum.
At the end of the first three-month “term,” the intern must complete both a written and hands-on test. Upon successful completion of the testing, they can move on to the second and third three-month terms of the internship.