I-CAR shifts to national scheduling, new course locations

Dec. 11, 2017
I-CAR has announced a major shift in its course scheduling approach.

I-CAR has announced a major shift in its course scheduling approach. In 2018, the organization will shift from an on-demand scheduling structure to regularly scheduled courses that will be offered based on market demand. Courses will also be held at designated training sites (including schools and supplier facilities) rather than at individual shops.

“I-CAR strongly encourages collision repair shops to begin looking at 2018 course schedules immediately in order to plan their future training needs,” said Nick Notte, I-CAR’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “This is especially important for shops renewing their Gold Class recognition so that they can ensure the courses they need to satisfy Gold Class requirements are available to them prior to expiration of their Gold Class status.”

I-CAR’s 22 live Professional Development Program (PDP) courses will be offered multiple times per year in larger markets. Rural markets will be offered courses on a more limited basis. I-CAR has also established 225 Official Training Sites that were selected based on geographic location.

Course schedules will be more predictable this way, but shops in smaller markets may have a harder time accessing the training if there isn’t a nearby participating school.

According to the company, this will provide a more effective way for shops to plan and schedule training while also making the learning environment more consistent. The economics of the training will also be more sustainable for I-CAR. “We held classes at shops, at schools, and if we couldn’t get a location, we’d rent a conference room at the Holiday Inn and hold a class,” says Bill Stage, I-CAR’s director of delivery. “We also held classes almost on-demand. Sometimes we’d hold a class for just one person. It was very inefficient for us and for the industry.”

After surveying industry stakeholders across the country, Stage says it was clear that having a neutral environment was important so that owners, managers and technicians would be more comfortable. “There’s a lot of competition in attracting technicians,” Stage says. “At times there would be active recruiting going on at the classes if we held them at a large MSO.”

I-CAR has been working with vocational schools to offer its curriculum at a discounted price, and Stage says that 650 of the 1,000 or so schools that still teach collision repair are now using the curriculum. The program also allows students to potentially graduate with Level 1 Platinum Certification.

I-CAR is leveraging that network to gain access to their facilities in the evening and on weekends for holding its regular courses for local shops. “They have a professional environment, classrooms, AV equipment, and access to a shop floor,” Stage says. “It’s a perfect match for everybody.”

Schools pay $1,100 per year for the curriculum, and students pay low fees to start the program and take the exams. “Most schools have 60 or so students, so we’re giving them about $4,000 to $5,000 in value, and in exchange we can utilize the school. It’s a good trade-off,” Stage says.

After running a pilot this past fall, I-CAR established contracts with both schools and several large suppliers to create the training site network. There are roughly 100 other potential locations that are pending. “A lot of schools don’t know what I-CAR is, so there’s a lot of back and forth for several months,” Stage says. “It takes a while to get them on board.”

Stage says the location of the current training sites was established with the “next 10,000 shops” in mind. “The number of shops we aren’t touching affects these locations,” Stage says. “We strategically identified where we’d like to have a neutral site, and where we could get critical mass.”

The regular scheduling cadence should help shops know in advance when they can schedule classes. For shops in more rural or remote areas, the training approach is still a work in progress.

“We’re not sure there are enough vocational schools to satisfy the needs in some of our regions,” says Jordan Hendler, executive director at the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA). “That got brought up in a town hall meeting we had in West Virginia, where members said they struggle to get the I-CAR classes they need already. If availability is lessened, that could be even more of an issue.”

“We know there are gong to be places like West Virginia or Montana where there isn’t going to be a school where we need it,” Stage says. “We’ll do our best to find a neutral site. We may have to rent it, but we are going to offer training wherever people need it. We’re not going to ask them to drive 100 miles.”

Stage is also asking shops in those more challenging geographies to contact I-CAR with location suggestions. “If there’s a good repair school close by, let us know and we will take a look and see if they fit in the program,” Stage says. “It’s better if we cooperatively approach that school, but it helps to have local shops involved in supporting those schools, too.”

The 2018 course schedules are being posted at www.i-car.com.

About the Author

Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a freelance journalist based in Columbus, Ohio, who has been writing about manufacturing, technology and automotive issues since 1997. As an editor with Frontline Solutions magazine, he covered the supply chain automation industry for nearly eight years, and he has been a regular contributor to both Automotive Body Repair News and Aftermarket Business World.

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