Although he sees himself as an I-CAR instructor first and a body shop owner second, Doug Roach, 66, has been wearing both hats successfully for the last 36 years.
As the owner of Collision Repair Specialists in San Jose, CA, and an I-CAR instructor since 1983, Roach is well-known and highly respected in the collision repair industry for having the knowledge to repair cars to OE standards and using it to teach countless collision professionals to do the same.
The numbers are impressive---Roach has taught thousands of technicians in approximately 25 different states over the years. He has conducted 1,700 classes, not including special training sessions. Each class normally lasts four hours, so Roach has taught his students for approximately 6,800 hours---more than 283 days total.
As I-CAR celebrates its 40th year, Roach looks back at how the organization and the industry have changed. It all began when he was inspired to pursue a teaching career back in 1970 while a senior at Irvington High School in Fremont, CA.
"One of my shop teachers suggested that I might be a good instructor, something I never thought about until then," Roach said. "So after graduating from San Jose State University, I earned a California life teaching credential and began my professional career at age 21 teaching auto mechanics and metal shop at the high school level and for adult education."
In 1983, Roach left his teaching position at Leigh High School in San Jose to work at the family shop and then began teaching I-CAR classes, he said. He later opened his own shop, Collision Repair Specialists, with a partner in 1987. He enjoyed the challenge of building a business, but never lost his passion for passing his knowledge on to collision repair professionals.
"I've always considered myself a teacher first and a shop owner second," Roach said. "When I can find someone who is hungry for information and really seems to get it, teaching is so satisfying. Teaching is not financially rewarding and it takes me away from running my shop, but I love it.
"My parents taught me to give back, and teaching is a great way to do it. I've taught and mentored a lot of people over the years, but now they're all retired. I tell my students that knowledge is a tool, just like a piece of equipment that they can use to be better at their jobs."
Roach hasn't altered his teaching style, but the technology changes literally every day---new metals, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and more sophisticated equipment, tools and processes are taking over the industry.
"A lot of things have changed, especially within the last 5--6 years, but I tell my students that you still have to learn the basics first," he said. "To stay up-to-date with today's vehicles, the learning can never stop, and training is more valuable than ever as a result."
In 1989, a major change took place: I-CAR began providing special classes for the insurance companies, primarily at the middle and upper management levels, Roach said.
"The insurers realized that their people needed to know more about these cars and the technology if they were going to be effective,” he said. “I have to give them credit for wanting to do a better job and encouraging that the shops have to maintain a certain level of training to work with them."
The body shop business climate has also changed dramatically since Roach began, he said.
"Back when I started, there were a lot of shops in San Jose, but now there is a lot of competition in this area, and that has changed the business environment in many ways," he said. "The MSO managers feel like they're working more for their accounting department now, so it's all about the numbers. It's push, push, push when it comes to production, and they're taking the McDonald's approach.”
Getting young people in the collision repair industry now is tougher because the high schools are no longer teaching shop classes, Roach said.
"The schools are cutting all of the industrial studies programs, including drafting, woodworking, metal shop and all of the classes that teach people how to work with their hands,” he said. “So that is why body shops, for example, are having problems finding qualified people to fill these positions. It's happening in all the trades, and that's why we have a huge need for plumbers, electricians and mechanics, for example. I tell parents with high school kids that they need to push the school boards and school district administrators and let their voices be heard because if they don't do anything, the schools and the politicians will eventually eliminate these curriculums altogether if they haven't already."
Thirty-six years ago, when Roach became a part-time teacher at I-CAR, there were only a few instructors on staff, and the curriculum was continually evolving.
"I-CAR was established in 1979, and I got involved in 1983, so I was there at the beginning," Roach said. "There were only seven classes back then. [They were] in the process of developing class numbers eight and nine, and I took them all. During the breaks, I started talking to the instructor. He found out that I was fairly knowledgeable, so he invited me to co-teach with them. The first class I taught was at a body shop in San Jose in front of 20--30 people, and it grew from there. I remember having to turn people away back then because we limited the attendance to 60, and the classes were popular. Eventually, I helped develop many of the early classes and trained several other instructors along the way."
In 2004, Roach and his wife, Brenda, adopted four children from Siberia, Russia and homeschooled them for many years. Pasha "Paul" Roach, 26, is the shop's general manager, and his brother, Artem "Arthur,” 20, works part-time at the shop.
"They're fourth-generation because my wife's grandfather started a body shop back in 1949 in San Jose," Roach said. "Paul is very hands-on, and Arthur is a fast learner."
Roach is proud when he looks at what I-CAR has achieved in the last four decades.
"It's a huge business now, and we're still the industry leader," he said. "There are a handful of smaller independent schools out there and some of the MSOs are training their people in-house, but they're not recognized like I-CAR. I still love teaching the classes and have no plans to stop because I can see we're still a strong organization that is doing positive things for this industry."