I-CAR shared its plans for helping recruit more talent into the collision repair industry during a recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meeting.
Dara Goroff, I-CAR’s vice president of planning and industry talent programming, said strategies aimed at bridging the industry’s talent gap have come a long way in the past year, with the newly launched Collision Careers marketing campaign poised to further bolster interest.
“Our industry is most sustainable, not just when we have a host of fantastic technicians that work with us every day at our repair centers, but when we have a really eager population across the United States and in other countries who want to join the collision repair industry,” Goroff said.
Goroff told Repairer Driven News that there are a number of objectives for the campaign, including:
- Providing information specifically targeted to job seekers and students that illustrate the benefits and growth opportunities within the industry;
- Sharing information on where to find support resources, such as scholarship opportunities, education, and advice;
- Distributing print and digital brochures for school advisors or guidance counselors so they can guide students to appropriate educational sources for collision repair; and
- Shared advertising that all industry segments can use to amplify the message to the future technician audiences they are closest to.
I-CAR’s latest talent sourcing initiative involves branding the industry as a “great place to work, thrive and make an impact on the lives of others,” Goroff said.
“There are many people across this room making efforts to try to lift the reputation of our industry,” she told conference attendees Tuesday in Indianapolis, Indiana. “There are many people across this room that have fought this battle internally in their own companies and are doing lots of good work to recruit talent directly to themselves. But really, we have to defragment this approach and we want to stand together to be able to lift that industry reputation and to tell the story of why it’s great to work in collision repair.”
She shared TechForce data indicating 642,000 technicians would be needed through 2024, with 80,000 of those people needed within the collision repair space.
Goroff said demand is likely to continue to rise given the amount of planned retirements within the next five years, combined with the onslaught of extra work that shops are seeing due to the complexity of repairing cars equipped with sophisticated technologies.
“We also know that across the United States, there are 8 million skilled trade jobs that were lost during the pandemic,” she added. “So that means that not only are we competing against other automotive verticals for excellent talent, we are also competing with skilled labor, construction, flooring, [and] agriculture.
“Shortages are everywhere. The competition for new recruits is fierce.”
I-CAR’s strategy to encourage more talent, from teens to those reentering the workforce, involves presenting the ways they can grow both personally and professionally by joining the collision repair space.
“We need to talk about the career pathing that is available if you come into the door of a shop and how you can grow when you get more competent and more confident,” Goroff said. “[And new hires can] discover the different paths you can take to realize the goals that you have in your personal life.”
Attracting talent also means finding a way to reach people who have never heard of collision repair as a possible career path, and who don’t know what it’s like to work in a shop every day, Goroff said.
Part of the solution involves focusing on people who’ve considered going to tech school or enjoy problem-solving and whose interests are a match with daily responsibilities in the collision space, she added.
Goroff said there’s an opportunity to connect with high schools and educate them on the opportunities within collision repair so they can equip students with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.
“We really want to bring solutions from a talent attraction perspective to describe the roles in our industry for guidance counselors to [be able to share] at the early stages of the seventh and eighth graders,” she said. “That’s when they’re being told they need to understand what they want to do with the rest of their lives.”
She added that I-CAR also hopes to work with schools to ensure their curriculums support students interested in becoming collision technicians.
It’s equally important for students to be engaged when they begin their apprenticeships, Goroff said.
“We want to work with our shops to make sure that if someone walks in the door on day one of their career, they have meaningful work to do so they’re not pushing a broom,” she said. “They’re not standing there and helping somebody else prepare a workstation for the day, they’re actually able to do something like prep a vehicle for being refinished, or do some small damage repair.
“We know that the more that they’re able to contribute to that safe quality, complete repair we already talked about, the more that they’re going to feel hooked in. They’re going to stay with us and they’re going to feel like they’re making a difference.”
Another part of the initiative is ensuring grants and funding are in place to help offset the costs of training talent.
“We don’t want cost to be an impediment to somebody recruiting new talent,” Goroff said. “We also don’t want cost to be an impediment for that student.”
Arianna Stefanoni Sherlock, I-CAR’s senior marketing director, said she plans to help raise awareness about career opportunities through a modern marketing campaign that highlights the new Collision Careers initiative.
“We need to let people know that it exists,” Sherlock said. “We have a very, very detailed plan about how we’re going to not only bring candidates in. We’re [also] going to bring in their parents, we’re going to bring in their educators and we’re going to keep them engaged as they follow that decision-making journey about what they want for their future.”
The Collision Careers website went live in April but was officially launched this week with the aim of building a bridge between job seekers or students exploring a career path and the collision repair industry.
I-CAR said benefits of the initiative include:
- Educational resources including, tutorials, and curriculum “to build a foundation for collision repair knowledge and skills;”
- Giving prospective talent a community “where professionals, industry experts, and enthusiasts can connect, engage and garner valuable insights;” and
- A search function that lets users input their information to stay connected with Collision Careers as they “consider the industry and peruse listings of local Gold Class shops and CTE schools within a state range for career or education opportunities.”
“It is no secret that there are increasingly more available jobs in collision repair than there are people to fill them, and while there are many successful programs in the industry, individually we each lack the scale necessary to address this nationwide, generational issue,” I-CAR CEO John Van Alstyne said in a press release. “I-CAR will use our unique position as an organization of collaboration to unite and align efforts for the good of the broader industry.”
I-CAR, in collaboration with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, is seeking input from the collision repair community on how it can further work to attract more talent. Those who wish to contribute to its research can provide feedback through an online survey. When filling out the occupation section, they should select the job that most closely aligns with their current role.
Featured image credit: ablokhin/iStock
Dara Goroff, I-CAR’s vice president of planning and industry talent programming