Sherwin-Williams Ecolean University Announces Free Virtual Courses to Support Industry During COVID-19

Sherwin-Williams Ecolean University Announces Free Virtual Courses to Support Industry During COVID-19

When the COVID-19 situation was first becoming more prevalent in the U.S., Sherwin-Williams realized the importance of offering educational content to the industry.

“As we looked at the trends in the industry and the massive changes happening with the COVID-19 situation, we realized shops needed access to information and training very quickly,” said Ted Williams, global director of business services for Sherwin Williams. “We recognize that business operators are going to need to be much more efficient as the industry returns to work and turn that efficiency into profit.”

As a result, the company implemented a virtual series of online courses in March open to the entire industry, as part of its Ecolean University program. They have held 16 free live webinars in April, with more than 32 hours of educational content, focusing on operational processes and best practices for collision repair facilities. These include a broad range of topics such as damage analysis, estimating, the millennial takeover and global industry perspectives. Another 11 sessions are planned in May.

The sessions typically run an hour and a half to two hours. All of them are recorded and available for replay online at

“We want to look at the longevity of the collision repair industry and help it grow. In times of crisis, our industry has to think big and support each other,” said Williams. “The need for information, education and support is universal.”

Prior to holding virtual classes, the company regularly delivered educational content to customers through their Ecolean University program. This involved holding two-and-a-half-day training sessions several times a year, as well as full-day sessions in regional markets across the country.

“Thousands of hours have gone into building this content, and we made the decision to open that up and offer it for free,” said Williams.

Some of the current online courses are based on the content previously delivered in person, while other courses have been recently developed by their consultant team.

“In a normal, pre-COVID-19 situation, these consultants, averaging 25-plus years of experience each, spend three-quarters of their year on the shop floor, in order to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry,” he said.

Over the years, Williams said the company has recognized collision centers have become busier and busier. As a result, he said it has become more difficult for them to send their employees out of the market for training.

“Training needs to be more agile, real-time and available when and where it is needed,” said Williams. “This trend accelerated with COVID-19.”

Since launching the virtual program, they have had more than 2,500 attendees. These include collision repair facilities, OEMs and distributors.

“I always tell distributors, ‘The better you understand the needs of the shop, the better you can actually help them meet those needs,’” said Williams.

In addition, the Collision Repair Educational Foundation (CREF) shared the information with trade schools across the country.

“Because these students aren’t able to do their regular classroom work right now, they have been attending our classes as part of their training,” said Williams. “We feel this will help them be better prepared when they go into a shop. For example, how many shops wouldn’t want an entry-level tech that understands proper damage analysis?”

The company plans to continue offering free online classes over the next few months. In addition to having Sherwin-Williams business consultants present, they are also collaborating with well-known leaders and inviting them to share their perspectives and expertise. These include Mike Anderson of Collision Advice, Elainna Sachire from Square One Systems and GB Outlaw from GB Outlaw and Associates.

Long-term, Williams said they will evaluate the best fit for their customers and the industry, whether that is holding live or virtual classes.

“Ideally, it’s going to be a blend of both,” he said.

“Even after we get through this situation, there is going to be some reluctance to travel to meeting sites,” said Williams. “Some of that may be due to health and safety concerns and some may be due to the crisis creating such a financial impact on their businesses that they are going to be leery about the expenses to send people to train.”

Overall, he said the company looks at the virtual training courses as an investment in the industry at a time when it is facing unprecedented headwinds into the foreseeable future.

“In times like these, we have to be open-minded in our efforts, care more and be willing to invest in others,” said Williams. “This is the type of partnership needed for all of us to thrive in a changing world.”

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.

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