CIC Human Resources Committee: 'Greatest Challenge is Finding Employees for Collision Repair Industry'

Courtesy of FuelLine

The Collision Industry Conference (CIC) Human Resources Committee filed its third report on December 6, 2000, just prior to the NACE 2000 Conference and Exposition in Orlando, FL. According to Committee Chair Mark Claypool, the group’s agreed-upon areas of concentration include recruiting and retaining employees, human resources best practices, training and apprenticeships.

Claypool said the committee is in agreement that the looming issue for the collision repair industry is not aftermarket parts, labor rates or consolidation within the industry; rather, it is the challenge of finding employees. According to the report, committee research among CIC members, organizations and collision repair industry publications reveals the following statistics:

Mark Claypool: "The looming issue for the collision repair industry is finding employees."

  • 90% of shops accept or participate in “raiding” employees from other shops. Previously, employee theft meant that an employee was illegally taking supplies. Now it means that shops are taking employees from other shops.

  • 95% of shops advertise in local newspapers and are not pleased with the results.

  • 80% of shops complain that the vocational trade schools are not effective in meeting demand.

  • Only 5% or fewer collision repair shops participate effectively with trade schools.

  • 20% or fewer of vocational school students in auto body actually enter the collision industry.

  • 100% of shops tend to hire non-industry people, generally in the detail department of the shop and in the office.

  • 99% or more of shops have no specific plan for taking an out-of-industry person, such as a detailer, to a technical position.

  • Less than one-fourth of one percent of shops uses a formal, in-house technician or apprenticing training program.

The report states that large consolidators and franchises are developing professional human resource departments and are continuously recruiting. The most common recruiting practices include calling a vendor (typically a paint supplier or tool manufacturer representative), asking technicians for names of potential hires, advertising in newspapers, putting a sign on their marquee and calling trade schools.

According to the report, those collision repair shops that maintain a working relationship with trade schools on an ongoing, year-in-year-out basis have primary access to recruits. Because only 20% of the students enrolled in a collision repair program actually transition to the industry, instructors are very selective about which shops they recommend to their students.

While the report states that benefits remain a problem in recruiting employees at all levels, it found that benefit gaps between smaller automotive businesses and larger companies are decreasing as more collision repair shops become benefit-competitive. When benefits are lacking, the report notes, applicants continue to search for a position that provides the benefits, even if it requires their going outside the collision industry for employment.

Management practices, productivity issues and pressure for improvements in cycle time pressure the shop manager’s efforts to recruit “A” technicians through employee raiding. “A” technicians (capable of performing all body work, plus structural and medium-to-heavy hits, which takes about two to three years to master and is based on years of training and application of these skills) are sought out rather than built internally, according to the report, which notes that “A” technicians make the best use of their time and space but demand for them is high and supply is low. This, the report suggests, may result in increasing labor rates.

Mentors At, 630-762-0614.

An Apprentice training system is available for shops through Mentors At Work online. The system is specific for automotive collision shops and includes:

  • Attracting, qualifying and implementing Apprentices.
  • Identifying qualified “Mentor” technicians…both body and paint.
  • Mentor training on how to be effective trainers.
  • Apprentice orientation on their role in the process.
  • Ongoing statistical measurement of progress.

Industry-proven task lists are used to select tasks, set completion goals, and learn in a working environment. Owner/General Manager training is considered a key to success and is a mandatory part of the system. Apprentice and Mentor progress is measured electronically and graphical reports are provided to the Owner/General Manager. Information from other Apprentices and their progress helps motivate and identify methods to accelerate learning. The goal is to recruit willing and able Apprentices and turn them into a productive members in the shop.


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