I’m a huge football fan and have been for many years. I didn’t grow up one; in fact when I was younger, cars held a greater interest to me than football. No surprise there, but I actually played semi pro football for about five years as a wide receiver. I’m not a big guy. I told my coach on the first day of practice that I was going to be the starting receiver at the beginning of the season. He kind of chuckled and wished me luck.
I knew I had to work hard to make that happen, so I spent many hours before and after practice, working with the quarterback and other players to try and become the best I could be. I ran routes and practiced catching the ball ad nauseam. I practiced hard every day. By opening day, I was the starting wide receiver, and I credit that to the time I put in training. The value of training was very apparent to me.
In the collision industry, sometimes we don’t recognize what value training and continuing our quest to become better at our chosen craft can mean. In football it was easy. I was able to elevate my play to a higher level and be a contributing member of my team. In the collision industry, it can be the difference between success and failure, happy or dissatisfied customers, or at most extreme, the difference between life and death. This may sound dramatic, but a vehicle that’s not fixed properly is dangerous, and it is just as dangerous for a technician to work on certain vehicles without the proper level of knowledge.
I have heard all of the arguments against training: it’s too expensive; I don’t have time; it’s a scam for someone to make money; and on and on. I hardly ever hear someone telling me why they want to take classes. In reality, all companies, especially those outside of our industry, require or provide ongoing training for their personnel. Most of those companies spend a lot of money doing so. Because it is generally very difficult to track the return on investment with training, most companies, even the mega corporations, are very unsure of the tangible benefits their investment brings. That’s a problem. But it’s a little easier to gauge in our industry, so we have an advantage.
I strongly believe in process. All of the processes we are now beginning to use in the collision industry — lean, TQM, just in time — all integrate training into their models. They focus strongly on continuous improvement through training and believe you cannot get better without it. Unfortunately, many collision repairers are not of the same mind and believe they know all they need to know now to continue fixing cars into the future. I hope our industry can turn that thought process around.