I-CAR launches initiative to address industry tech shortage

The Inter-Industry Collision Repair Conference (I-CAR) announced on Monday that it is launching a multi-faceted initiative to address the shortage of technicians in the industry.

The heart of the initiative is a variety of program types for participating schools and body shops, as well as coordinating campaigns and branding for students.

Specifically, I-CAR outlined four key ways it will work to increase the number of qualified entry-level technicians entering the collision repair industry and to retain those technicians. These are:

  • Coordinate industry-wide efforts with like-minded partners to attract more talent through increased industry branding and targeted campaigns. These will be shared with participating schools, repair shops and other organizations to increase reach.
  • Improve entry-level educational programs for Career and Technical (CTE) schools and repair facilities to better prepare entry-level technicians for success. This includes mentoring and an apprenticeship program option for Gold Class repair schools and facilities.
  • Provide additional support to CTE schools to help them take full advantage of new educational programs, including better access to necessary funding equipment and materials. This should attract more students and better prepare them for early career success.
  • Added programs to help Gold Class stores, in particular, recruit, develop and retain technicians more effectively. This includes mentorship and a series of relevant HR training and best practice advice.

Some components of the plan will roll out this year, with additional elements launching throughout 2023 and 2024, I-CAR said.

“The growing shortage of technicians, exasperated by COVID-19, continues to challenge the collision repair industry in the midst of one of the most fascinating and transformative eras in automotive innovation, prompting new opportunities for cross-industry to address with an integrated, collaborative and robust approach,” I-CAR President and CEO John Van Alstyne said in a statement.

John Van Alstyne

Van Alstyne told Repairer Driven News that I-CAR, as a “neutral collaboration partner”, had the opportunity to speak with many industry players affected by the shortage. “Over the past year or so, we’ve multiplied and amplified these conversations, surveyed our key stakeholders, and relied on data from third-party partners to validate what the industry has been feeling for some time: Technicians are leaving the industry and the natural growth of the business outpace new technicians entering the industry,” he said.

“Many factors contribute to the shortage of technicians. It all revolves around the need to attract potential talent to the industry and retain it,” he said. “At the heart of this are the lack of public awareness of the benefits of working in collision repair, the need for better school programs that graduate more talent ready to enter entry-level, and repair facilities tasked with preparing entry-level technicians from schools and general recruiting while working to retain these technicians.

Industry experts told Repairer Driven News that attracting new talent to the field requires competitive compensation and benefits compared to other industries that require similar skills. Van Alstyne said I-CAR plans to “evaluate compensation across the country and in similar occupations and share it with our industry partners so the industry can have a fact-based conversation.” .

“Promoting compensation and other benefits and career paths for entry-level technicians is an important part of the message to attract talent,” he said. “In our research and our conversations with the industry, we have determined that compensation varies based on many factors and from organization to organization.”

Acknowledging that other organizations are also working on recruitment, Van Alstyne said I-CAR’s goal is “not to compete with these programs, but to collaborate and align efforts to improve efficiency and impact with like-minded organizations that are already in the space and those eager to help. He said that I-CAR had already had conversations with several of these organizations.

Van Alstyne said he believed I-CAR would be able to help the industry support and retain new talent. “We believe the holistic solution must include shop mentors and school educators who help entry-level technicians achieve long-term success,” he added. “To attract and retain talent, it will be important for repair shops to step up their staff programming, and we plan to support shops that are willing and committed to doing so.”

Expenses for participating schools and repair facilities will be “nominal”, he said. I-CAR “will be working on these details in the coming months as full program details are further crystallized.”

The initiative is “for I-CAR to step up, as we believe it is the industry body best positioned, to help drive our industry forward on talent,” a- he declared. At the same time, the organization is held accountable for its financial performance by its board of directors and must balance income and expenses.

The continuing shortage of technicians is well documented. According to surveys by the TechForce Foundation, industry needs 258,000 new technicians every year, while schools graduate only one-fifth of that number. Shops responding to a recent I-CAR survey said they needed an average of 2.5 additional technicians.

Van Alstyne said the initiative will benefit all industry segments served by I-CAR: repairers, schools, OEMs, insurers, suppliers and service providers.

Leading the initiative is Dara Goroff, a 10-year collision repair veteran, who joins I-CAR as Vice President, Industry Talent Planning and Programming.

In a statement, Goroff said: “In reality, the talent crisis and the shortage of technicians in particular, is a complex problem with many layers and nuances requiring an integrated approach to address each aspect. From recruiting and vetting, to mentoring, to training and retaining new talent to address the shortage, all of these components need to work together and be part of an overall solution.

Goroff said I-CAR will provide regular cross-industry progress updates.

The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) will collaborate with I-CAR in this effort, Van Alstyne said.

“The current goals of the initiative are centered on eliminating the shortage of technicians and continuing to support cross-industry collision repair, with time to impact significant metrics. This is a great example of how I-CAR and CREF are putting industry support to work on important new industry issues,” he said.

Brandon Eckenrode, chief executive of CREF, said the new programming initiatives “will only strengthen efforts” to meet the industry’s current and future needs for technicians.

“CREF looks forward to collaborating with I-CAR on this initiative and coordinating efforts to elevate the level of support for high school and college crash programs and beyond across the country,” Eckenrode said.

Van Alstyne said expenses for participating schools and repair facilities will be “nominal” and that I-CAR will “work out these details in the coming months as the full details of the program are further crystallized.”

The initiative is “for I-CAR to step up, as we believe it is the industry body best positioned, to help drive our industry forward on talent,” a- he declared. At the same time, the organization is held accountable for its financial performance by its board of directors and must balance income and expenses.

I-CAR has given much thought to the cultural issue of parents keeping their children away from the trades and plans to “promote the auto body repair industry in the most effective way possible” and reach out to parents and students earlier , did he declare. .

“There are great programs and messaging already in place by organizations within cross-industry,” he said. “Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but to build and amplify it.”

Eliza Johnson, director of Ducker Carlisle, recently told RDN that the industry as a whole is suffering from declining interest among young people, low pay for the high skills required, few benefits and lack of defined career paths.

“I think there’s less interest in the field overall for younger people and people aren’t really career oriented anymore like they used to be,” Johnson said. “High school students are much encouraged to attend four-year colleges and much less focused on trades such as automotive.”

In a mid-year update to its 2022 Crash Course report, CCC Intelligent Solutions found that the shortage of technicians is a “key reason” for the accumulation of backlogs at body shops. According to the most recent data from CRASH Network, nearly 80% of auto body repair shops in the United States schedule vehicle repairs in two weeks or more.

“The collision repair industry, like many industries, simply cannot find enough technicians to fill vacancies,” CCC said, citing a CollisionWeek report based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that stores increased weekly wages by a national average of 7.2% over the same quarter in 2021.

These higher wages “now translate into higher labor rates,” the CCC said. He said that according to CRASH Network, “many stores” have reported approved rate increases of between 6% and 9%. CCC called this a “key factor” in rising repair costs.

Repairer capacity and wages “will continue to be a headwind for some time to come,” CCC said.

What you can do to boost technician recruitment and retention


Featured image provided by I-CAR.

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