You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tricks

An established technician changed his mind on a new repair tool once he saw the success an apprentice was having with it.

Brandon Candelria, an apprentice at Marina Auto Body, uses the KECO Junior K-Beam to lift a dent.

You have heard you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but I want to refute that adage---you can.

Gen Z---slightly under 30 years old---are constantly on the move and less patient, which leads to a higher degree of anxiety. They are more motivated by money than Millennials, the next generation up. They will not be motivated by the things we Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were. When I was growing up, I was always told by adults I needed to pay my dues before advancing to the next level in the business world. These young men and women were brought up with cell phones and computers and don’t want to wait around in a body shop sweeping the floor or washing cars---they want to make money. 

I remember when I was in 10th grade and tried out for football. I made the team and I needed a pair of cleats. I got on a bus, went to a store and bought my first pair. I was so excited, that night I slept in my cleats. The experience told me if we want to keep Gen Z employees, we need to think outside the box.

I started giving tools to young men and women who want a career in the collision industry, and the shop furnishes a new tool box. The tools and tool box are free, but there is one condition---they need to stay at the shop for one year. To date, I have furnished tools for 32 young men and women. One young man at Scandinavian Coach Craft started to cry when he was told the tools were his and they were free. 

Last year, Tom Williamson, the owner of Marina Auto Body in Huntington Beach, CA, took his award-winning 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix to a car show in Orange County. Brandon Candelria was positioning the cars that were to be judged and struck up a conversation with Tom. He told Tom he wanted to become a collision technician. Tom gave Brandon his card and told him to call Cyndi Osthus, manager of his Huntington Beach location, for an interview. He was hired on the spot. He was introduced to Jack Cook, his soon-to-be collision mentor.

Tom knew about my program supplying tools for apprentices and wanted to participate. I ordered the tools and made a date to drop them off and train the techs on the KECO Level 2 Glue Pull Repair Collision System kit. I showed up the following week and gave Brandon his tools, and Cyndi gave him a new tool box.

Jack and the two other technicians, along with Brandon, spent the next two hours understanding the Glue Pull Repair System. I have known Jack more than 20 years, and he is an excellent tech and mentor. Being in his early 60s, he is very set in his ways and did not think he would use it except on rare occasions, like when doing an aluminum panel repair. I have noticed younger techs will embrace this new technology, whereas older techs want to repair panels as they have done over their entire careers.

About a year later, Cyndi called me and said Brandon was really progressing, and she wanted him trained on the KECO system. I set a date and arrived at the shop to train with just Brandon. We started by using the light to determine the size of the dent and what tools would be necessary. This is not an article on the steps for using the KECO system, but I thought it would to nice observe some of the training KECO offers.

Last year, about two weeks before Christmas, I received a call from Jack Cook. He called to apologize to me. I didn’t have a clue why.

He said when I did the KECO training, he really was not interested. He told me Brandon, on his own time, would take damaged hoods and doors and practiced collision damage removal using the glue tab system, repairing the small damage using the system on vehicles after Jack finished the major repairs. “I realized from the start that Brandon was going to be a high level technician,” Jack said. 

He said Brandon was recently able to flag 70 hours in two weeks. “I really was impressed that most of the repairs were metal finished. I finally realized that I was wrong about the glue tab system and that is why I called to apologize," Jack said. "I asked Brandon to teach me how to use the glue tab system." I laughed and said the mentee was now the mentor. 

Jack told me he fixed a quarter panel that had been damaged in the lot at a Toyota dealership. The sliding door would have needed to be removed and a metal tab would need to be welded on to pull the dog leg out, but Jack, with his newfound knowledge, used the KECO system to pull out the panel, without removing the door and welding. I thanked him for his honesty and said call me any time if he needed any help.

I have been teaching a number of these apprentices on how to use the Glue Pull Repair Collision System from KECO. The training the company offers is by far the best in helping these entry level young men and women learn how to repair dents. It keeps them motivated and accelerates their contribution to the repair process. 

If I can be of any assistance in future, send me an email at Please type "apprentice" in the subject line.

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