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The dismal state of training in the collision repair industry

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - 07:00
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DETROIT — With an estimated 35,500 total shops in the collision repair industry, two thirds are not active in consistent training.


I-CAR’s Gene Lopez, head of the Education & Training Committee with CIC presented statistics on training in the collision repair industry that painted a bleak picture at the group’s Detroit event, July 21-22.

With an estimate of 35,500 shops, Lopez broke down the industry: 

  • 17,500 are in repair networks;
  • 12,000 shops are actively training;
  • 8,000 shops training with I-CAR;
  • 3,266 shops are I-CAR Gold Class; and
  • 2,102 shops are on the Road to Gold, meaning they are soon to become Gold Class

Lopez then focused specifically on welding training. With an estimate of 180,000 technicians in the industry, 30 percent — 59,410 techs — are performing steel structural welds. Of these, 79 percent do not have basic welding certification through I-CAR. Eighty-two percent do not have squeeze-type resistance spot welding certification, and 93 percent do not have advanced structural steel welding certification.

“This is a tragedy for our industry. Every weld and bolt counts. This is a recipe for a disaster at some point,” said committee member Mark Olson with VeriFacts.

Jeff Peevy with the Automotive Management Institute and another committee member presented two questions —“Do we believe poor welds compromise structural integrity?” And “Does compromised structural integrity lead to a lack of occupant safety?”

“When you say yes to those two questions and then we as an industry turn around and continue to have these numbers, it is scary. We’ve pointed these numbers at the collision repair shops, but as an industry we need to own this and be ashamed of this,” Peevy says. “Regardless of the segment we are in, we need to ask, ‘are we contributing to this problem or are we a solution to this problem?’ As an industry, we need to do something about this. There needs to be a solution. This is an ethical issue that we allow this as an industry to be OK.”

“Instead of talking about training, we should be talking about learning. Only when we learn will things get better,” Peevy said. “It is a cultural thing. We need to listen to the silent mandate that should be demanding that we learn. When we don’t get that, we put our businesses and our industry in jeopardy. Learning is our only way to get through this.”

You need to set the expectations for technicians at the time of hire that place value on training, but shop owners also need to change their expectations of their employees, said Mike Anderson with Collision Advice. “We have to carve time out for them. It is unfair when we want them to produce all day and still maintain their training. We need to suffer some short-term pain for a long-term gain. I want our industry to win. But it scares me with what people don’t know. “

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