“It’s almost like you have to relearn each of those skills in a live production environment working with all of the additional demands that a body shop has,” said Ritter.
Bickett and Ritter have found that apprenticeship programs are helping to bridge that gap.
“We don’t think there is a shortage of candidates,” said Bickett. “We actually have a shortage of collision shops that are willing to engage with them.”
One of the key strategies that Bickett said CCI focuses on in its business model is ensuring a trainee isn’t washing cars and running errands. Instead, the collision student is integrated into the production environment.
“A lot of times, we hire them and hand them a broom and show them the lot instead of showing them their opportunities,” said Bickett. “When you make that commitment, the natural outcome is you start to develop a learning environment.”
Students then have a clear pathway and know the steps they need to take to be successful.
“A lot of times, this helps motivate them to keep moving forward,” said Ritter.
However, Ritter said it’s not always easy.
“You are going to have successes, and you are going to have failures,” she said. “It’s ok to try apprenticeship with someone and have them not make it. That doesn’t ruin the whole process. It just means you have to start over.”
She said the ones who make it through are going to be the “cream of the crop.”
7 Ways to Take Action
Take Personal Responsibility: With recent statistics showing there are more Millennials than baby boomers, Luehr said it’s becoming increasingly important to build shops and environments they are going to want to come to work for.
Bickett said you can’t just put an ad on Indeed.com and expect to find someone who is qualified, and has the aptitude, attitude and learning ability to complete the job.
“It’s a great industry and a great career,” said Bickett. “It’s just a matter of us being able to articulate and demonstrate that.”
Build a Learning Culture: Bickett recommends creating a system that incorporates training and becomes part of the shop’s culture.