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The Future is Now: I-CAR Overhauls Training Program

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The collision repair industry has undergone incredible change in a few short years. Gone are the days when you could open a hood and see the shop floor beneath; gone are one-size-fits-all technical training for aspiring automotive technicians.

“The reason we’re going through this exercise at I-CAR is because of the evolution of change in the industry and the technical tsunami on top of us,” says Ann Gonzalez, vice president of strategic development at I-CAR, “and we’re not waiting for it—it’s here. Across the board, the bar has been raised in collision repair.”

I-CAR’s new and updated curriculum and Gold Class and Platinum program enhancements are here to help technicians and shop owners stay ahead of the storm.

New Training Curriculum for Maximum Efficiency

“Every course has been overhauled to ensure its relevance; every course has been streamlined for the most effective learning experience,” Gonzalez says.

She cites the overhaul as “purpose-built,” revolving around a core curriculum and specialized knowledge base to work on new technology, materials and specific vehicles. Around the country, shops have different needs; a shop in rural Ohio does not see the same vehicles as one in downtown Los Angeles, for example, and I-CAR has evolved its training to serve the needs of shops around the country no matter their region, specialty, or available services.

“The training material is being streamlined, so there’s no redundancy,” Gonzalez says. “The learning experience is enhanced and interactive with activities and video. The classroom experience is more engaging. Most importantly, technicians will take more classes but will actually spend less time in class.”

That distinction is important. I-CAR knows the struggle of busy shop owners and overworked technicians—time is money, and time is often in short supply.

“Vehicle- and tech-specific courses will be delivered online and our skills-relevant courses will be delivered in-shop,” Gonzalez says.

“Now, the shops are using their own equipment for in-house skills training,” she says.

“It’s how I-CAR is stepping up for the industry. By meeting them there, they have more people willing to participate. It’s much more efficient. Of course, it’s a delivery challenge for us that we’re willing to undertake because it’s important and one of the most impactful decisions we can make for our shops.”

The required hands-on skills courses will number two per year. On average, they’ll run half a day. To meet the requirement, a shop could do two courses in one day. Gold Class will require two skills classes, and two more classes will be added on an annual basis to the overall program to allow the industry time to evolve and to allow shops to catch up. Skills will be prioritized according to the most common OEM repair procedures, allowing the most technicians at shops around the country to hit the ground running.

There are changes to the Welding Training and Certification program as well, In the past, technicians had to retake the whole welding course every 5 years for recertification. Now, I-CAR is instituting a hands-on skills test as recertification, and passing the skills test forgoes retaking the course. This new recertification cycle will be every 3 years, to ensure welds continue to be properly performed.

“It’s a more streamlined and efficient process that encourages long-term commitment,” Gonzalez says.

“It also offers a level of confidence to the owner and manager that their technicians have the skills to contribute to proper repairs; it validates the quality of their repair skill set.”

Level Up from Single Technician to Entire Shop

I-CAR’s overhaul of its training programs is geared toward bringing shops of all sizes and experiences up to speed as efficiently as possible, as well.

“In the past, every shop, regardless of size, had to train one role rep; one for each of  the four critical roles: estimator, refinisher, structural and non-structural technicians,” Gonzalez says.

“Shops had to have the four role reps take full levels of training, and everyone else in the shop had to take annual training. But it was four people in the shop who took the bulk of the training on the premise that they’d disseminate that knowledge in the shop.

“In light of today’s repairs, it’s just not enough.”

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Now, I-CAR is depending upon scalability for every shop’s needs in delivering quality control.  Regardless of the shop size, half of the techs in that role must be role reps. A shop of 20 with four estimators must have two estimator role reps instead of one. Three refinishers, for example, must have two role reps instead of one (shops must round up to ensure maximum quality).


There’s one exception to this rule: safety.

“The most critical role is structural as it has the biggest impact on safety,” Gonzalez says, “so 100 percent of structural technicians must be role reps. They must be fully trained. There’s no compromising the safety impact of that role.”

The new training programs have been piloted with several shops, and I-CAR enjoys support from all the major MSOs, small and large independent repairers, insurers and OEMs The support has been clear—more training for repairers is necessary and is the right thing to do.

“We’ve done our due diligence,” Gonzalez says.

“We’ve gained industry support from major associations and organizations within the industry. We have full support to make these changes. We also know it’s a big step up—it’s a big commitment.”

There are three ProLevels of training, and in the future shops must achieve ProLevel 2 to be Gold Class instead of ProLevel 1. To ease the transition, I-CAR has a plan for all current Gold Class shops.  I-CAR will enable shops to transition from ProLevel 1 to ProLevel 2 and from ProLevel 2 to ProLevel 3 one year at a time. What’s more, for shops yearning to get to Gold Class at Level 2, I-CAR has a full knowledge assessment plan and will give credit for every Level 1 knowledge area a technician passes.

“We have training to bridge the gap and help them get there,” Gonzalez says.

I-CAR is ready for the future. Because of the rapid advancement of technology, the level of shop training is increasing: improved recognition requirements and more classes. Because of a streamlined portfolio, though, the actual hours a technician spends away from the shop floor is going down.

“Technicians will spend less time training and more time applying their strongest skills on the floor, with options to achieve more each and every year,” Gonzalez says.

As major manufacturers embrace hybrid and electric technology, produce their vehicles with contemporary metals and alloys, and seek to stay ahead of the technological tsunami, I-CAR is prepared to help them succeed.

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