The solution to the technician shortage is not just a matter of recruiting students

When it comes to recruiting and training new automotive and collision repair talent, a dual problem remains: an increasing number of retirees leaving open technician positions without sufficient of graduates to fill them and a lack of instructors to teach students.

Dara Goroff, vice president of industry talent planning and programming at I-CAR, told Repairer Driven News that recruiting and developing talent “really is the number 1 problem for the industry. collision repair”.

“It’s not just a challenge for us. Many MSOs, like Gerber and Caliber, have set up their own proprietary programs working very closely with I-CAR, in fact, but independents are struggling with the same problem,” she said. “And when we say that the workshops have lost two and a half technicians, we mean that in all areas. It’s not just MSOs. In fact, in a large shop, it’s probably closer to seven technicians than they’re down in all roles. …Even the insurance companies struggle with this.

The I-CAR Solution is a new talent programming initiative that teaches students assembly, disassembly, plastic repair, preparation of small dent repairs for refinishing as well as support through apprenticeships and mentors, as well as teaching HR best practices to workshops to ensure they are top employers. .

“The real intent of this program is to cover the entire body repair world, focusing first on workshops and technical/vocational schools,” Goroff said. “When I say shops and schools, I mean all shops. … We will create marketing materials, including a talent attraction website to open a funnel to bring interested parties, or those who didn’t even know they might be interested, into the industry.

I-CAR hopes for two outcomes from the program’s “funnel” approach: attracting people who want to enroll in a tech school and then accelerating their education to become “viable” in a store, or bringing in students who want to build their skills at an MSO or an independent store.

“The retirement of the oldest employees in this industry will translate into approximately 100,000 job creations over the next decade,” Goroff said. “And really what I’ve read is that because of retirement, there’s about 9% of the whole industry leaving and just not coming back. … Overall, about 60% of the industry can change jobs, you really find yourself in a situation where you recruit and bring in new talent full time.

Next year, Goroff said I-CAR plans to find grants to help fund school and business programs to ease the financial burden of attracting talent. “We want to make sure it’s fair and affordable because the crisis is so big,” she said. “We don’t want cost to be a barrier.”

Contra Costa College in California has been so successful with its collision engineering program that it is also looking to fill positions to attract more new talent to the industry. Three part-time positions are currently open, but the college is facing a shortage of applicants, according to Laura Lozano, co-chair of the automotive department and professor of collision repair technology.

“We’ve had positions open and posted in the past both full-time and part-time and even had trouble getting candidates to interview,” she said. “It shows that, at least in our region, there are no people who are qualified or aware of vacancies. We have more and more registrations…and the Collision Engineering program also continues to grow, but unfortunately our capacity is limited. We can’t take on more apprentices. This is where we are looking to recruit more instructors so that we can open the collision engineering program to more students.

The same problem also occurs in Maryland. The Automotive Collision Repair and Restoration program at the Center for Applied Technology South (CAT South) in Edgewater has a well-equipped workshop, sufficient student numbers to fill its Tier 1 and Tier 1 classes. 2 and numerous job opportunities in the surrounding communities awaiting its graduates. but lacks an instructor.

What makes the position so difficult to fill, said school principal Adam Sheinhorn, is the disparity between a teacher’s salary and what a body technician can earn in the field. The last instructor “went back to the industry because he couldn’t afford to continue on a teacher’s salary,” he said. Based on experience, that salary is capped at just over $67,000 a year, he said.

Courses that need instructors at CCC are Introduction to Automotive Collision Repair Technology (Lab and Lecture), Introduction to Painting and Finishing Technology (Lab and Lecture), Introduction to Damage Report Writing, Automotive steering and suspension systems and headlight aiming, Advanced automotive collision repair, advanced automotive painting and refinishing, automotive heating and air conditioning.

Instructors must hold I-CAR certifications for the courses they will be teaching. One or more of the positions could later be changed to full-time, Lozano said. More information on openings and how to apply is available at www.4cdcareers.net/postings/9259.

Despite the challenges facing the industry, Goroff sees a positive outcome happening right now.

“I see the industry starting to come together on this in a way that it hasn’t in the past,” she said. “Competitors support their competition by speaking the same speech and walking the same way trying to attract seventh and eighth graders and teach them that this is a career that really has incredible potential and opportunities for growth. amazing and also comes with a salary that you can be really proud of and support your family.

Industry perception is part of the puzzle to fill the technician gap, according to a panel speaking at the SEMA show last month as part of a summit session on collision repair technology. Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) OEM.

The panel — Goroff, TechForce Foundation Executive Director/CEO Jennifer Maher, and National Collision Engineering Program Director John Helterbrand — said OEMs, stores, nonprofits, Schools and insurers need to work together to change the perception of auto technician and collision repair roles. from the greasy monkey to high-tech, highly skilled and trained professionals. More on their thoughts, including workplace culture and training, can be found here in a previous RDN article.

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Featured image credit: art159/iStock

More information

TechForce 2022 Supply and Demand Report: Over 100,000 Collision Technicians Needed Over Next Four Years

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