“At first I was stunned, and then I was really … angry,” Edelen said, obviously choosing the adjective carefully, generating laughs among the 200 people gathered in Chicago for an I-CAR event this summer. “I-CAR irrelevant? An organization that was established by the inter-industry 30 years ago to meet the training needs of the inter-industry … irrelevant? After 30 years of efforts by volunteers to provide that training … irrelevant? After the industry had spent $170 million over that period of 30 years … irrelevant? Not if I could help it.”
Over the last three years, Edelen has overseen I-CAR’s efforts to reach out to the industry to find out what the training organization was doing right and what needed to change to ensure that its training and recognition programs were focused, valuable – and relevant – to shops, insurers and educators.
Edelen said the results of that effort, which were rolled out at the Chicago meeting, is I-CAR’s new “Professional Development Program.”
Under the program, I-CAR has identified the knowledge required for three levels of development (“ProLevel 1, 2 and 3”) within each of seven job classifications, such as “estimator” and “non-structural technician.” Other job classifications will be developed over time.
The I-CAR or other training and testing recommended to reach each of the three levels is also identified, providing job-specific training paths.
The “Platinum Individual” and “Gold Class” recognition program requirements will also transition over a 3-year period. By 2014, the “Platinum” designation will require having completed the training to obtain “ProLevel 3” in the appropriate job classification, as well as completion of six hours of training per year. A “Gold Class” shop will be required to have at least one “Platinum Individual” in each of four types of jobs (estimator, steel structural technician, non-structural technician and refinish technician).
One key change to the Platinum and Gold Class programs, I-CAR’s Jeff Peevy pointed out, is that as the transition moves forward, I-CAR’s hands-on welding and sectioning qualification testing becomes part of the requirement to reach various “ProLevels” for some job classifications. The steel welding qualification test, for example, is required in order for a steel structural technician to achieve ProLevel 1.
Similarly, paint company certification is required for a refinish technician to achieve ProLevel 3.
Peevy acknowledges the system is almost a return to one that I-CAR used in the past, before abandoning it in a effort to make it easier for technicians and shops to know what was needed to earn or maintain Platinum or Gold Class status. But that simplified system, Peevy said, sometimes led to students earning needed points by taking any class that was available rather than one relevant to their work. And in recent years, he said, I-CAR has developed tools like its online “Training Manager” that helps a business track what training its employees have or need, making a return to more job-specific Platinum and Gold Class requirements easier for the business to manage, Peevy said.
Edelen acknowledged that he doesn’t believe that all of these changes are apt to cause “people who don’t invest in training today to suddenly start.”
“But I believe the people in our industry who are interested in improving their individual personal performance or the performance of their business now have access to a well-organized, well-structured program of professional development, one that will be better support their personal and business goals,” he said. “And I believe that creates a competitive advantage for them.”
So, too, he said, the changes will help make the Platinum and Gold Class designations more meaningful.
“We as an industry are reaching the point where NOT being a Platinum Training individual or Gold Class facility also will mean something,” Edelen said. “With these changes, it will become quickly and increasingly more apparent which business are prepared through training to address the increasing complexity of repair…and (which) businesses have failed and continue to fail to prepare themselves for the future. By not selecting a Gold Class business, the consumer is unknowingly accepting the risk of having repairs completed by undertrained workers.”
Details on the new training and recognition programs are available at the I-CAR website (www.i-car.com).
In other changes, I-CAR executives at the Chicago meeting said in the coming years there likely will be more variance in the length of classes (currently most are four hours) based on necessary content. Pricing is also likely to change, although they did not provide details; one option may be the ability to purchase all “ProLevel 1” training needed for a certain job classification at a package price.
More online training options are also planned by early 2011. I-CAR is also working on a system, also expected in early 2011, that would allow veteran technicians to “test out” of at least the ProLevel 1 requirements for their job classification.