Learning Curve

Learning Curve
Training should be aimed at seasoned technicians as well as apprentices. (Photo: Huw Evans)

Training seasoned technicians should be an integral part of your strategy and process.

There is a lot of talk in our industry about hiring the next generation of collision repair technicians and providing them with a path and development to success. But what about those technicians that are well-established, with five, 10, 15 or even 20 years’ experience in the industry?

Make no mistake, it’s difficult to find seasoned technicians today and it can be even harder to find technicians that are willing to constantly upgrade their skills to stay current with repair technology and procedures.

Building a pipeline

At our shop, my former mentor, Sam Piercey, was an advocate for building a career path for technicians early on and today, many of those young apprentices are now seasoned technicians and currently training apprentices to follow in their footsteps. As a shop that repairs a lot of high-end luxury vehicles they understand what’s required and what’s needed to stay ahead of the curve and by building technicians this way, it helps ensure a steady and progressive skilled pool of labour.

In many shops across the country, however, finding technicians can be a problem, especially for those shops that rely on mainstream vehicles as their bread and butter. Many OEMs are now requesting specific repair procedures that are either online or available through different media channels. Older technicians who have not adjusted to this new world often won’t adapt to it or elect to retire, leaving a serious labour shortage.

With the younger generation, such as Gen-X and Millennials, they tend to be far more technology savvy, willing to learn, and can become very skilled and talented technicians who require a shorter and less strenuous learning curve.

The trouble is, there often aren’t enough of them. In this industry we are trying to replace people, but fewer and fewer are entering the pipeline. The result is that a lot of the leverage is increasingly being placed in the technician’s hands, requiring shop owners and managers to make specific concessions just so they can hire technicians.

Tough situation

If the shop isn’t willing to make the investment in hiring the technician, then in order to complete repairs properly, it will have to reduce the number of R/Os it puts through or limit the type of vehicles it actually works on. It’s a difficult situation, and the only way to avoid it is to ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure you train and develop technicians, whether they are apprentices or have been working in the industry for a while.

Not only that, but you need to ensure your technicians understand the long-term objectives, especially if they come from another shop. It might be hard for them to see the benefits of spending a great deal of time learning about specific repair procedures at first, especially if they are on a flat rate pay system, but ultimately, if they understand that they need to do this, the end result is that in the future, they can make more hours and repair more vehicles because they have the skills and qualifications to do so.

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