In the past, classes were often held at collision repair facilities or other locations. Mike Miller, the northwest regional manager for I-CAR, said many shops in the industry had concerns about the possibility of losing employees by sending them to other collision repair facilities for training.
“There will now be a neutral facility where the whole industry feels comfortable attending,” said Miller. “It is also a way that I-CAR can support the career technical schools and colleges that have supported us over the years.”
This change is part of the national scheduling initiative I-CAR is currently implementing. The ultimate goal is to have training sites at 250-300 schools where students can enroll for the I-CAR Professional Development Program™ (PDP). All I-CAR live classes will be included.
“I-CAR's PDP offers collision repair professionals a role-relevant training path that provides them with the knowledge and skills needed to perform complete, safe and quality repairs,” said Miller.
Established in 1979, the international not-for-profit organization is represented by all segments of the industry including collision repair; insurance companies; OEMs; education, training and research; tools, equipment and supply; and other industry services.
Miller said it’s very common for I-CAR to be approached by someone who is interested in taking a certain class shortly after that same class was just held. Rather than setting up instruction on a reactive basis, Miller said the goal is to be proactive in the future.
"We're looking to give enough advanced notice so that everyone will have an opportunity to plan their training and decide when they need to send their technicians,” said Miller. “By being proactive, it allows the industry to look at our schedules and plan ahead.”
In exchange for using the classrooms and lab space at the career technical school and colleges, I-CAR will provide the curriculum, licensing fees and other student fees at no charge.
He estimates this will be a $5,000 annual savings to the schools, including savings of $1,100 for the annual PDP-Education Edition license, the inclusion of I-CAR’s Reparability Technical Support (RTS) portal access worth $1,700 and a savings of $150 fee per student.
In addition, Miller said I-CAR is putting together a Purpose-Built curriculum. “Depending on the topic of the course and the needs of the course, it will determine whether it is delivered live, online or virtually,” he said. Live courses will typically have a hands-on component whereas online courses will be set up to teach technical information.
During the past few months, I-CAR has reached out to technical schools and colleges nationwide to discuss the national scheduling initiative. The plan is to roll out the program state by state over the year. In states with limited technical schools, such as Montana that only has one, I-CAR will reach out to vendor locations to hold classes. They might be a paint company or a rental car provider.
Depending on the market area, I-CAR will determine the appropriate number of times classes are offered. In urban markets with more technicians, the training cadence will be more frequent. In rural areas, the training will not be offered as frequently, but Miller said I-CAR is committed to delivering all needed training to those areas.
“We looked at the collision repair facility numbers and the student base and facilities that are Gold Class® or on the Road to Gold™ for I-CAR. All of that is factored in to the decision-making process,” said Miller.
The majority of live I-CAR classes are four hours in length, which includes breaks and testing. Miller stressed the importance of staying up with current technology due to the changes in the industry. Part of this he attributes to the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. “They’re having to do everything they can to get vehicles as light as possible to achieve fuel efficiency,” said Miller.
In the meantime, I-CAR continues to focus on educating the industry about collision repair. There are approximately 2,300 individuals who are part of the I-CAR infrastructure, either as a volunteer, instructor or staff member.
In addition to 145 full-time staff, there are 1,760 I-CAR volunteers across the country who help with marketing classes, securing locations and other support. “That’s the reason we are able to do so many great things for the industry at an affordable cost,” said Miller.
All 540 I-CAR instructors have a strong knowledge about the automotive repair industry, with the majority having worked for a body shop or technical school. They all attend an instructor qualification workshop, as well as team teaching exercises with a veteran instructor. In addition, they are required to qualify for every course they teach and go through an Instructor Training Evaluation Process (ITE) to confirm they are prepared.
I-CAR currently has about 270 committees throughout the United States. The committees are represented by all aspects of the industry. While the main focus has been class scheduling, the new national scheduling initiative will shift scheduling responsibility and allow volunteers to help grow I-CAR by reaching out those shops that currently are not training.
Miller encourages the industry to learn more about the new I-CAR classes being offered over the next several months. “It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved,” said Miller. “Career and technical schools win, I-CAR wins and ultimately the industry wins because we’re using a neutral location where students can attend and don’t feel like they are under any pressure. Ultimately, the motoring public wins with safer repairs.”
For information about upcoming classes, visit www.i-car.com.