I-CAR Enhances Curriculum for 2021 to Meet Future Industry Needs

John Van Alstyne, CEO of I-CAR
John Van Alstyne, CEO of I-CAR

With the rapid changes taking place in vehicle technology, training is an important investment that will help every business thrive, according to John Van Alstyne, CEO of I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference of Auto Collision Repair).

“If you think about it in the context of critical repairs to vehicles and consumer safety, it’s an essential component to business survival,” said Van Alstyne. “If you aren’t educated on repair fundamentals, including new repair methods and skills that are prevalent today, what a particular OEM’s repair strategy is, how they designed and built that vehicle, what the OEM procedures are for repair, and know how to apply those methodologies, you will undoubtedly have a problem.”

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Van Alstyne about I-CAR’s ongoing initiatives to meet the industry’s needs and ensure vehicles are repaired correctly.

Can you share some of I-CAR’s milestones during 2020 amidst the coronavirus pandemic?

2020 has been quite a year for everybody---from an overall business perspective as well as personally, socially and politically.

I-CAR started the year transitioning into our new curriculum and credentialing updates that were part of the “Even Better I-CAR” program launched in October 2019. Both work together to raise the knowledge and skills bar to meet the industry’s rapidly changing needs and utilize more sophisticated technology to help shops perform complete, safe and quality repairs for the ultimate benefit of consumers.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus broke out. Our principal focus was to ensure the safety of our customers, instructors and employees. Like others, we had to pivot on a dime.

We made some adjustments to how we delivered training and with our credentialing programs. Our industry relief program offered credentialing grace periods and deferrals, as well as financial assistance.

We could not send instructors out into the field until early June, when they again began .visiting shops to conduct welding and skills-based training. That ramped up during the summer and accelerated in the fall of 2020.

As we approached the end of 2020 and there were spikes in COVID cases across the country, we monitored all of the state rules and restrictions every day. As new information becomes available, we review our delivery policies and procedures to help ensure we keep instructors and customers as safe as reasonably possible while still meeting their training needs.

It’s a balancing act trying to do the right thing following the government’s policies. Given the disruption that COVID has brought everybody, we have been able to navigate this challenging environment pretty well.

What prompted the changes to I-CAR’s curriculum?

The changes were driven by extensive industry feedback and input, as well as benchmarking of OEM and other best-in-class educators. They were based on the need to deliver even more accessible and relevant training, while also ensuring related credentialing is relevant for today’s repair challenges and for repair facilities of various sizes from a technician count perspective.

The program changes have been well-embraced by industry partners who rely on I-CAR to achieve Gold Class status. These include OEMs that require shops to be Gold Class to qualify for their repair networks and insurers that require Gold Class to be part of their DRPs.

We have close working relationships with OEMs and that continues to expand and grow. Our goal is to continue delivering the latest repair knowledge and training to every collision repair technician.

How is I-CAR preparing for 2021 and what can the industry expect?

2021 is a big year for us. After launching the changes associated with “Even Better I-CAR,” we put a transition plan in place for our existing Platinum individual designation and Gold Class recognition for collision repair and insurance businesses. That transition will advance in 2021 and details are available on the I-CAR homepage.

One of the major changes is the enhanced Gold Class credentialing requirements are scaled by role to shop size. This means .50% of all estimators, refinishers and non-structural technicians in a shop and 100% of all structural technicians must be trained in the new Gold Class requirements. This scalability ensures both small and large shops can achieve an equal percentage of trained employees.

Shops new to I-CAR must meet these requirements now in order to qualify as Gold Class, whereas existing Gold Class shops must step up to the new scaling requirement in 2021.

We’re also advancing our training related to ADAS. We already launched a new role, the electrical and diagnostics technician, which includes ADAS knowledge areas.

We also introduced a number of new related ADAS classes in 2019, and implemented a shop-level knowledge requirement regarding ADAS for Gold Class achievement.

Based on findings from the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committees and other research, we will continue to add to the ADAS curriculum and work closely with the industry to meet future needs. I expect we will ultimately end up with a more specific role around ADAS like we have with structural refinish and estimator.

Electric vehicles are a big deal as well. We already have some initial offerings we have built in collaboration with OEMs, and we’re looking to advance that work in 2021. Each OEM has its specific requirements for every vehicle model. It’s important for technicians to have the fundamentals and know-how to apply them in a vehicle-specific manner.

What is the importance of collaboration?

Formed in 1979, I-CAR by its core DNA is built on a collaboration model across the six segments of the collision repair inter-industry we are designed to serve in a neutral, unbiased manner: repairers, OEMs, insurers, service providers, suppliers and educators.

Collaboration is really central to everything we do. If you look at the I-CAR board and governance model, there are representatives from all six segments on our board.

One of our five core values is “collaboration”---to collaborate effectively inside and outside of I-CAR. As a result .much of the training and credentialing we do is in partnership with other organizations, and thus we make a great effort to coordinate such.

It’s important to know we don’t act in a vacuum. Everything we do comes back to collaboration, which is part and parcel of how we go about developing and enhancing our programming, training and related services. We work with the industry to ensure we understand our stakeholders’ needs and what is relevant.

Congratulations on your 10th anniversary with I-CAR. What are some changes you’ve seen over the years?

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years---it seems like yesterday. Over the last decade, I-CAR has evolved tremendously.

The I-CAR mission is “to deliver increasingly accessible, on-demand and relevant education, knowledge, services and solutions for the collision repair inter-industry.” That’s exactly what we have been working on for the last 10 years every single day.

We have a much broader portfolio of classes to offer. We have continued to grow our online presence to meet the needs of stakeholders.

For example, we launched 264 new courses in the Q4 of 2019. We now offer more skills-based training, building off our core welding programs, and cover a broader range, including MIG brazing, spot welding, rivet bonding, etc.

When I started with the organization, we had one insurer---Allstate---that required Gold Class designation. Today, we have 36 brands that require it, including both insurers and most OEMs.

In terms of collision repair shops, the number of Gold Class shops has quadrupled. In 2012, we had 2,661 Gold Class shops, and there were 8,359 by year-end 2019. We expected to end 2020 near 9,000 Gold Class shops, or nearly 25% of the industry.

Our Sustaining Partner program didn’t exist even three years ago. Now, we have 38 sustaining partners. We’ve also added programs such as the I-CAR Repairability Technical Support (RTS) Portal and Ask I-CAR that rolled out in 2014.

We are proud to say that over the past 12 months we had over 80,000 active users of the I-CAR learning management system who completed 818,000 courses.

However, we still have more to do. We have not yet achieved our vision, which is to ensure “that every person in the collision repair industry has the information, knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs for the ultimate benefit of the consumer.”

That’s why we exist and our true north. Everything we do is centered on meeting the needs of the industry to ensure cars are repaired correctly.

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

AkzoNobel Beta web graphic v2 600px

Shop & Product Showcase