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Service King led the pack at the first Technician Mentor/Mentee competition hosted by the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF).

The first place team included Bradford Amison, mentee technician and Frank Allen, mentor, from Service King in Leander, Texas.  

The inaugural competition was held the last week of September in order to recognize the performance of the next generation of collision technicians and their mentors.

The third place team also represented Service King, with Ian Chambers, mentee technician, and Ralph Gonzales from Dallas, Texas.

The teams at the CREF competition  were put into a real-world setting, which the experts at Service King share , is an application they expect other technicians do to help manage time and work. 

The victories come shortly after Service King enhanced its apprentice development program, adding additional focus on digital training, while refining the approach to hands-on, on the job training aided by mentors.

“We were tasked by executive leadership to take a look at the program’s overall effectiveness, ideally in this environment and in collision repair,” says Rachel Blackman, senior director, learning and development at Service King Collision. “Ideally in this environment and in collision repair, the best experiences are hands on.”

Blackman in collaboration with Roy Villarreal, director, technician and apprentice development, shares more on the changes to the program and what they mean to the success of younger collision repair technicians.

 

What was the change in the program that had the largest impact?

One of the primary changes was ensuring through selection criteria, that we had the best possible supervisor and mentee and apprentice combo chosen. Villarreal looks for mentors with a proven track record of not only repair quality and personal performance, but also developing helpers and leading a technician team.

We looked for mentors that had previously been helping others. Maybe that meant they were an instructor at a school, maybe they did some type of training. We wanted to make sure they were productive.

 

Tell me more about the program. Where do you find mentee candidates?

We primarily recruit apprentices from technical schools. Most of the mentees either apply from a recruiting event, on the website or through an employee referral. We definitely looked for candidates that had previous body shop experience, knowledge of repair basics and a commitment to a career in collision repair.

Could the candidate disassemble a car? Can the candidate reassemble a car? Can the candidate read an estimate or do small body repairs? We also looked closely at the candidate’s attendance. If they had poor attendance, it’s an indicator that they’re not responsible to show up to work on time. Even being 5 to 10 minutes late means a car which should have been in paint in the morning is now in paint in the afternoon. That’s a whole day lost.

 

What is your current enrollment?

Right now, we have 20 students enrolled in the program as mentees along with 20 mentors. The program is growing monthly. The program lasts one year but that can be extended or shortened depending on incoming experience and development pace.

Initially, the program had one instructor to four students.  Now with a one-to-one or one-to-two ratio, learning is more on-the-job, working side by side with the instructor versus a more traditional classroom and instructional approach.

 

Tell me more about the curriculum. What does it entail?

We’re focused on a blended learning approach. We work with the managers of the shops but we can’t control the type or amount of work coming into the body shop at any given time.

We've learned repetition is key-fundamentals paired with hands-on learning at a shop pace, and repeat. We offer videos and e-learning opportunities for work like dent or plastic repairs. That type of work is something the mentee or apprentice might see a lot in the shop so they can learn fundamentals online and then when the work comes into the shop, be able to follow the procedure.

Originally we asked our supervisors to present a theory piece that would have been an online piece in more of a classroom setting. 

 

What are some goals you have for the program?

We’d like to expand on it slightly and strengthen the program with other technical schools and programs. For instance, we can work with CREF, and other schools.

Our goal is to develop the next generation of technicians prepared for the dynamic and technical environment of today’s body shop. As for the mentors, we can all stand to receive more training. We’d like to see if there are career paths open up not only for apprentices entering the workforce but for the instructors as they progress in their careers.

On a whole, the industry is full of opportunity and efforts such as the apprentice development program that is focused not only in developing talent, but on attracting talent.

 

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