From coast to coast, collision repairers are talking about the talent pool shortage facing the industry and what can be done to address what some are calling an impending crisis.
As vehicles are becoming more difficult to repair due to the increasing amount of technology being used, shop owners and leaders are recognizing the risks associated with not having qualified technicians on staff.
During a recent Elite Body Shop Academy webinar, host Dave Luehr explored the issue in-depth with Erick Bickett, co-founder of Fix Auto USA, founder of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) and founder of the Collision Career Institute (CCI), and Amber Ritter, CCI’s chief operations officer.
Luehr, owner of Elite Body Shop Solutions and the chairman of the Collision Industry Conference’s Talent Pool Committee, asked Bickett and Ritter to share the reasons behind the shortage, what the barriers are to solve it, and how shops can work with schools to attract more talent through apprenticeship programs.
Available talent has been in decline for decades, Luehr pointed out. Now, with aging baby boomers retiring, the technician shortage is becoming a critical problem for businesses across the country. According to statistics from the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), the average age of a technician in 1995 was 35 years old. Today, it is over 40 years old.
“As this trend continues, and the baby boomers retire, we really need to get to work on this and do something about this challenge,” said Bickett.
However, there are certain barriers to address before solving the dilemma.
Some of these, according to Ritter, include a lack of cohesion in the industry, the absence of business culture and little structured training.
Bickett said many shop owners joined the industry as a result of working in a family business or helping a friend. As a result, structured training wasn’t often part of the learning process.
“This is an industry that didn’t learn from being trained with any kind of formality,” said Bickett. “Many of us didn’t plan on being in this industry and somehow we fell into it and have become passionate about it.”