The COVID-19 virus hit the U.S. very strongly in early March and quickly caused schools, restaurants and bars to close across the U.S. and the globe. It was declared a global pandemic, which caused fear and uncertainty.
States across the country turned to social distancing practices and shelter-in-place policies.
You probably remember it well.
A report from the Wall Street Journal at the beginning of the pandemic announced dealerships in Europe started closing their doors early on. Since then, auto plants in the U.S. have shut down operations and have started using production to make medical supplies like gowns, face masks and shields.
MSOs like Service King have moved to take measures to temporarily consolidate business as well.
So, it’s a good time to start preparing for all possibilities of work, including work that uses social distancing. In response to the events, some organizations have announced plans to provide online training so shops do not fall behind or lose certifications.
As a body shop owner, you should always be prepared for the event of a disaster and equip your MSO to continue running effectively during those times.
S/P2 is one example of a training company that instead of in-person training, has offered environmental and health and safety training, and human resources training all online since 2002, says Kyle Holt, president of S/P2.
The Universal Technical Institute (UTI) initially announced that while it will assess the situation and continue to make decisions for the well-being of its staff and students, it will be using the company’s website, www.uti.edu, and www.uti.edu/covid-19, to provide updates. Then, it updated its policy and moved all classes at its 13 campuses to online only. UTI gave all students the option to pause their education without losing credits, tuition or their place in school.
“It’s a brave new world and we’ll be feeling the ramifications for years to come,” Holt says. “We’ll be having new technicians coming out of school that lost two-three months of training and hands-on education. We better get much better at caring for on the job training for young technicians over the next couple of years.”
During tough economic times, a body shop should focus on keeping production moving forward, Holt recommends. However, if business slows down and people are stuck in one place, it is a good time to stay updated remotely on training.
When it comes to training for your shop, here are ways that can be done remotely:
Resources for Online Training
Many training companies offer online training resources. For example, Polyvance offers collision repair technicians the option for plastic repair training through its smartphone app. Polyvance is not the only one.
Holt says shop operators will need to plan ahead for the type of internet and WiFi available to their staff. While he says it is rarer than it used to be, there are people without access to the internet at home or have limited access to the internet. Maybe the technician only has internet access via a mobile device.
So, if shop operators look to supplement downtime and social distancing with online training, they should take into account which companies offer mobile-friendly services along with computer services.
S/P2 offers online training courses for automotive service, collision repair and refinish, heavy duty/diesel and welding technicians.
Automotive Management Institute
The AMI offers online courses for the wiTECH Diagnostic system and more than 300 online courses.
Polyvance has a library of video tutorials and instructions on plastic welding, bumper repair, paint repair, equipment maintenance, dashboard repair, and more. The company advances the technology of polymer reair and also offers an online estimating course for repairers.
The paint company, BASF, offers eLearning modules for collision and restoration shops. Glasurit and R-M re-certification were the first courses to go digital. Certified technicians whose two-year certification is set to soon expire can log on, take the appropriate course through online learning modules, and have their certification renewed immediately.
Hunter Engineering offers Hunter University, an online self-study program for technicians and industry professionals for training on alignments, tire service, and road force balancing techniques.
In 2012, ALLDATA launched an online training site for collision repairers and automotive technicians. It started with the ALLDATA Training Garage. The site offers resources like color wiring diagrams and OEM diagrams.
The diagnostic tool and repair company offers training videos for every tool at no charge
“For career and technical programs, many students are being forced to go to remote learning and I think that’s going to cause a really strained ripple in auto service, collision and diesel industries when you have to put your hands on a car to learn,” Holt says.
Holt does see a silver lining for most body shops. He says that when the economy takes a hit, often, more students turn to technical programs because they will provide an income and a steady career.
“I believe we’ll see a bump in students entering career and technical programs in the next two-to-three years but we probably won’t see them in the body shops for another four years or so,” Holt says.