As independent entrepreneurs, Bickett said the focus is typically on short-term goals and getting the job done rather than setting up programs to encourage new talent to join the business.
Often, shop owners turn to hiring employees from competitors.
“That has resulted in a lot of issues and challenges for us,” commented Bickett.
Through his experience over the years sitting on advisory boards of local institutions and trying to help support their needs, Bickett has found there is no demand for the “product” -- students.
“As crazy as that sounds, there are very few collision shops that reach out to schools and get actively involved and hire students,” said Bickett. “This problem is not going to go away. It’s going to get worse.”
He said shop owners and leaders need to make a commitment to take action. This requires discipline, planning and an investment in time, resources and capital.
“Once you have demand, you have more students; once you have more students, you get more funding,” said Bickett.
Therefore, consistent industry support is going to be crucial to help make a change.
Bickett founded CCI in 2016 to help bridge the gap between Career-Technology Education (CTE) programs and industry jobs. Through the work he is doing with CCI, Bickett has observed that trades with a union involved usually have flourishing apprenticeship programs in place.
The CCI is following this example and setting up apprenticeship programs for the collision repair industry. Over the past three years, the institute has been prototyping an apprenticeship on-the-job training program. Trainees, trainers and body shops are first put through an extensive series of assessments. Then, intensive training programs are put into place and CCI matches qualified candidates with participating shops.
“Apprenticeship programs work because there is commitment and requirement, but it’s on the industry to solve this problem,” he said.
Often, students haven’t experienced the same type of demands that occur in a production environment. Ritter said the challenge is to find a way for new talent to enter a production environment and learn.