When talking about industry training, most collision repairers typically assume such training is technically oriented.
However, a survey conducted late last year by the Automotive Management Institute (AMi) found that more than 30 percent of the essential skills a technician should have are listening, communication and interpersonal skills. The remaining 70 percent was shown to be technical knowledge and know-how.
AMi President Jeff Peevy said the organization has found that most technicians tend to stay at the same shop longer if they don’t struggle with listening, communication and interpersonal skills.
“If they lack developed skills in these areas, they tend to leave a shop in order to try to improve their environment because they don’t have the skills to talk or negotiate,” Peevy said.
To address this widespread issue, AMi offers industry professionals the opportunity to receive certificates and designations in management, leadership and customer service.
“We are working to become the overarching nonprofit that helps organize non-technical training for the industry,” said Peevy.
Currently, there are approximately 2,200 AMi-designated professionals and 2,000 pursuing a certificate or designation.
Whether an individual is looking to gain knowledge about customer service or become an accredited automotive manager or master-level estimator, a variety of AMi-accredited live courses are offered throughout the year at tradeshows such as NACE Automechanika and SEMA, as well as through associations. In addition, online training courses are available from industry experts such as Mike Anderson, Mike Cassatta, Frank Terlep and more.
“We’re experiencing tremendous growth right now,” said Peevy. “Online alone is growing over 250 percent a year.”
AMi was established in 1989. At the time, many business owners in the collision repair industry didn’t have experience in business administration and management. Leaders from the Automotive Services Association (ASA) were looking for a way to formalize the training available. As a result, AMi was set up to be an industry collaborator and supporter of training providers and manage industry-recognized, role-based verifiable professional designations.
Peevy, a prior senior director at I-CAR for 16 years, joined the national 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization in 2015 as president, charged with growing AMi’s offerings and relevance to the industry.
“Hiring someone is risky,” said Peevy. “You can invest a lot in the wrong person and they can hinder or really hurt the culture in your business and its reputation.”
He said that AMi seeks to minimize that risk and offer a way to give better insight into the person being hired, their overall philosophy about being a professional and what they are likely to know.
“AMi provides verifiable, role-based credentials for customer service reps, office managers, general managers and estimators that you can actually confirm,” explained Peevy.
Rather than create its own courses, AMi works closely with training providers to standardize their education.
“We’re a support mechanism for them to help organize their training, so it becomes meaningful and relevant education,” said Peevy.
Training providers submit their course information to AMi, which then goes through a review process for approval. A learning management system was recently created by AMi to organize all of the courses offered.
“Building content, especially online courses, can be very expensive, “ said Peevy. “We now have the ability to offer training providers their own branded learning portals to help them get their training to the market. The system works as a learning portal that trainers can use to advertise to their clientele as well as those who are working toward AMi credit.”
Recently, the organization began awarding students credit for articles, videos and podcasts though the Alternate Methods of Learning (AML) program.
“A lot professionals are reading, listening and watching things they are learning from,” said Peevy. “We created a program we refer to as Alternative Methods of Learning to recognize all of the different ways that professionals learn.”
Over the last couple of years, AMi designations have been divided into mechanical service repair and collision repair. The typical timeline to receive a designation varies from several months to several years. When individuals complete their credit hours, they may participate in a cap-and-gown graduation ceremony and are given a university-quality diploma.
By earning a professional designation, Peevy said it demonstrates that an individual is a continual learner, cares about maintaining his or her profession and has a way to verify it.
“We can impact a lot of people’s lives who maybe didn’t go to college or have a certain level of education,” he said.
After going through training and receiving a designation, Peevy said many professionals have found they have not only improved their skills, but have also grown their businesses.
“The education I received through AMi helped me transition from a technician to [a] management [position],” said Anthony B. Brooks, the collision center manager at Heritage Collision Center in Joppa, MD. “I found the training helped me navigate through each step of my career path. I would strongly recommend that anyone in the automotive industry look to AMi for future training opportunities.”
Maria H. Carrillo, owner of Carrillo & Sons Collision Center in San Diego, CA, also shared her positive experience. “AMi courses have increased my knowledge and expertise as an owner. Attending AMi courses have given me more confidence in my leadership position.”