CIC Panel: Wages and Public Perception of Collision Industry Contribute to Tech Shortage

A panel of store owners and Oklahoma State career program officials agreed last week that outdated perceptions often prevent students from considering a career in collision repair and that there are other barriers that also need to be removed to address the shortage of technicians.

The discussion was held by the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) government committee on April 14 in Oklahoma City. Panel members were John Day, Oklahoma CareerTech Trade and Industrial Education program manager; Virginia Oden, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Program Specialist; Darrell Amberson, president of operations at LaMettry’s Collision in Minnesota, and Amber Alley, manager of Barsotti’s Body and Fender in California.

Day said the perception is that stores are dirty and smelly, which is something a lot of parents saw 10 to 20 years ago discourage their kids from entering the industry because of it. However, he said, that is no longer the case. Oden agreed that parents are often the problem, but so are school counselors because they don’t know enough about the industry to encourage students to get into it. Amberson said he thinks counselors encourage college over skilled trades because they went to college.

Oden went on to describe a different approach than the rest of the group when it comes to the lack of automotive technicians.

“We don’t have a recruiting problem. If you can sell it, you have it,” she said. “We have a retention problem. How we treat our employees matters. If you don’t empower them; if you don’t give them the chance, they’ll look elsewhere. They’ll tell you it’s because of the dollar. People don’t leave a job that they love and feel happy and appreciated. They leave management.

And the instructors, Oden added, “work hard every day to instill the passion that they have for this industry in these kids and these adults. When they come into the industry and they’re treated badly, they can leave your store and walk down the street to the next store, but if they are treated badly in that store, they will leave the industry. They can get a better salary. [and] better hours with less hard work at Amazon. Once we recruit them, once we get them passionate about what we do, we have to treat them with respect.

When meeting attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments, Wichita Falls Independent School District Vocational Education Center Motor Vehicle Collision Instructor Adam Miller took the floor to make making some of the same points as the panel members.

“We need to change all the stigma. These advisers push the university,” he said. “Not everyone can make it through college. We have to be able to make these young people feel worthy of these kinds of jobs. … We’re automotive engineers. You’re an engineer when you work for General Motors and you’re building a car. You have to be able to qualify as an engineer to be able to take that car that’s been wrecked and be able to put it back together. But they’re not. They’re told that those kind of jobs are for people lower level and they are not. They are intelligent and educated people.

Day agreed and shared a suggestion he heard about – schools should recruit pre-engineering students. According to Yahoo News, Oklahoma is tied for the fifth-lowest unemployment rate, meaning there are more jobs open than people to fill them with engineering having the labor shortage. most important work.

James Grimsley, executive director of Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation Advanced Technology Initiatives, told Yahoo there is a national science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) shortage. “And a lot of big companies are kind of desperate because they’d like to work with universities to get universities to produce more,” he said.

Grimsley went on to say that “Oklahoma should focus on expanding the pipeline even earlier than in college, exposing pre-high school students to opportunities for those following the STEM pathway” and “noted the continuing lack of gender diversity in STEM professions”.

Day and Oden said at the CIC meeting that the younger students are exposed to collision repair, the better.

“It’s about planting seeds,” Oden said. “There are summer camps that Career Tech. [Department] has set up so that kids in grades five and six can come and watch programs and see it. … It makes parents and counselors aware of the opportunities that exist.

Eighth graders also visit career and technical education facilities to see what programs are available and decide when they are in second grade, during what is called the “Sophomore Showcase,” whether they will enroll, a she declared.

“The industry tends to want the fruit of the tree. They don’t want to plant the seeds to grow the tree, so they’re not involved in those eighth-grade visits. They are not involved in these Sophomore Showcases. … It’s a two-way street.

She also suggested companies create career paths with sample compensation packages to give students an idea of ​​what their future might look like.

Day said it’s important to reach students when they’re younger because “they’re much less exposed at a younger age than before. [to] what’s out there. What are my possibilities?

Alley said she believes the solution to the lack of skilled workers in the collision repair industry is two-fold: Industry professionals should come together to have a “serious conversation” about how much repair technicians are getting. workshop should be paid for and how small workshops can afford it. as well as repairers who get involved in apprenticeship programs and local auto body repair programs at community colleges or technical schools.

“If you can’t charge what the job has to cost and there’s this constraint, you can’t pay people what they have to earn to stay in the industry,” she said. “It has to be, really, a priority to have this conversation.”

And telling parents that their kids can make $80,000 to $90,000 a year by age 25 isn’t always the best way to attract students to the industry, she added, because there’s no It’s often not possible to pay technicians that much and isn’t that a reasonable expectation.

Day also mentioned a few obstacles specific to the US Department of Labor in recruiting new collision repairers. He said the department’s “bureaucracy” and many, sometimes unnecessary, steps to get an apprenticeship are cumbersome, and the department does not allow students under the age of 18 to work in auto shops because they are classified as dangerous jobs. To address the latter issue, Oden said she helped employers work with a local temp agency that would take on insurance liability for underage employees and suggested stores consider this as an option to hire. student apprentices and/or employees.

The panel also encouraged stores to participate in public or independent learning programs. For example, the shop in Alley participates in a national independent program that she said she was very happy with and would like to see more programs like this. Amberson said his store welcomes apprentices through a state-run program at a local technical college that provides stores with criteria by which students should be taught and feedback is also given to schools.

“We are working harder than ever to recruit new people,” he said. “We are expanding further geographically. We are more inclined to be at a better introductory pay level simply because we have to; we have no choice. It’s just harder to have people and I think we’ve really come to the conclusion that it’s going to be a bigger challenge, we’re going to have to work harder and we’re going to have to put more money into it.

Tomorrow’s Technician recently spoke with three automotive instructors, each based in a different state – Florida, Alabama and Connecticut – to learn more about the reasons for the technician shortage. All were united in the position that “low wages continue to contribute to the shortage of technicians at a dangerous rate”, according to the article.

“Some of these students are getting an entry-level salary equivalent to what they can earn with something less strenuous and less work,” said Roxanne Amiot, head of the CTECS Automotive department at Bullard-Havens Technical. High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Technician of tomorrow. “They need to see a raise, a growth chart of some sort, or we’ll continue to lose them fast.”

The article also notes that there is a misconception that auto technicians are not smart.


Government Committee Chairman Robert Redding shared details of two pieces of federal legislation the committee is following: HR 447, known as the National Learning Act of 2021, and the budget proposal for the fiscal year. 2023 of President Joe Biden. HR 447 outlines program requirements, quality standards, and agreements between sponsors and apprentices. The House passed the bill in February 247-173. He currently sits on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The budget proposal, Redding said, includes $100 million for community colleges to work with state workforce development agencies; $303 million for registered apprenticeship programs in technology, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and transportation and investing $200 million in Career-Connected High Schools to support grants for partnerships between local education agencies, higher education institutions, community colleges and employers.


Featured Image Credit: izusek/iStock

Virginia Oden, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Program Specialist. (Photo by Lurah Lowery)

Amber Alley, manager of Barsotti’s Body and Fender in California. (Photo by Lurah Lowery)

Darrell Amberson, president of CIC and president of operations at LaMettry’s Collision in Minnesota. (Photo by Lurah Lowery)

Robert Redding, Chair of the CIC Government Committee. (Photo by Lurah Lowery)

More information

Industry groups call for greater involvement in collision repair education

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