Smith recently reached out to Autobody News to share some of his thoughts about what is currently happening in the industry and his recommendations to solve this dilemma.
Q: After working as a collision repair instructor for the last six years, what have you found?
The students in my class are between the ages of 16--18 and want to work in a body shop while still in high school, but they can’t due to their age. By the time they’re out of school, the body shops are only offering $10 an hour for entry-level jobs, while local factories are offering $13-$18 an hour, so they choose to take those jobs. If they received the experience needed part-time at a body shop while still in high school, I’m sure they could negotiate a higher rate after graduation.
I’m finding that body shops don’t want to risk hiring someone under 18 due to liability issues (if someone were to get hurt), yet they admit they aren’t finding the skilled technicians they need.
I’ve had several students who would have been excellent entry-level collision repair technicians. Instead, our collision centers in town are competing with manufacturing companies because they offer higher wages in the factories nearby. We’re losing the best of the best---the kids who want to work in the collision repair industry.
I have spoken with a handful of shop owners in our town, which has a population of approximately 75,000, and they have all told me that they are in need of new technicians. They have also said they are willing to train someone to do the work that needs to be done.
The problem that I am running into is that no one knows if they are able to cover students under the age of 18 with the insurance currently available.
If we could get these high school students in a shop working part-time, then I believe that we would have a much better chance of retaining our hardworking students in the collision repair industry. Once they reach out to our competition, I believe we will continue to lose a large portion of our future technicians.