Keeping You Relevant
I-CAR realigns collision training to meet real-world needs
It's one thing to notice declining enrollment in training classes, especially in tough economic times. But a year ago, when a prominent industry figure told John Edelen, president and CEO of the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR), that "I-CAR training isn't relevant anymore," it sparked a serious self-examination, Edelen said. The self-examination involved seeking more industry feedback - from collision repair businesses, technicians, insurance firms, suppliers, educators, students and associations - to redesign collision repair training.
From that point on, I-CAR's quest was defined: Be relevant and meaningful to participants and consumers in implementing safe and complete repairs - not only in today's marketplace but tomorrow's. Last July, I-CAR unveiled its redesigned Professional Development Program.
Role-based training, advancement and recognition
Doing things as they have been done in the past is not viable or responsible anymore. High-strength metals, carbon fiber and other new materials that allow lightweight design without compromising strength or occupant safety require access to accurate collision repair information, more effective equipment and tools, as well as material-specific repair procedures.
"Today's more technologically complex vehicles require new knowledge and repair competencies," says Edelen. "In just a few years, materials, components, tools, equipment, procedures and techniques have changed so drastically that many experienced I-CAR Gold Class Professional shops and Platinum Individual technicians are lagging behind the times. With the help of the industry, we've addressed this now with the new program. It provides a plan, as we move forward, for the industry participants to remain current and relevant."
I-CAR's new professional development curriculum organizes collision training around seven professional roles, each of which has three professional levels of knowledge that build upon each other.
The new performance-focused program presents the core competencies for each of seven distinct roles needed in today's collision environment. These key roles are:
• Nonstructural Steel Technician
• Steel Structural Technician
• Aluminum Structural Technician
• Refinish Technician
• Electrical/Mechanical Technician
• Automobile Physical Damage Appraiser
Collision training that will keep pace with change
Not only does the new curriculum identify key specific collision roles, its focused content for each role requires a progressive advancement of role-specific knowledge and competencies. In addition, it requires a defined pathway to top-industry recognition for both individual technicians and collision facilities.
Each role features relevant courses that provide technicians with a comprehensive training experience to perform complete and safe repairs for consumers' vehicles. It also offers them the opportunity to remain up-to-date and leverage their experience, over the course of their careers, by building their knowledge and skill base.
"Today, a lot of people can be Platinum, but they can't properly repair a new car," emphasizes Jeff Peevy, I-CAR director of field operations. "Recognition will now be structured with roles in mind, whether it is personal achievement, such as becoming an I-CAR Platinum Individual, or a business achievement, such as the I-CAR Gold Class Professional designation."
He adds that while these designations will stay in place, they will require participants to gain relevant knowledge and skills and also maintain competency over time. For those who may not be able to maintain their designations by shifting immediately to the new requirements, or those for whom roles have not yet been identified, the former "5&2" and "10&2" requirements will continue to be recognized through 2011. Beginning in 2012, however, participants will need to reach incremental milestones toward full training requirements to maintain their designation.
In addition, the new program features three levels of increased competency for each defined role - ProLevel 1, ProLevel 2 and ProLevel 3. Because there is more training required to achieve ProLevel 1, it is important that new and experienced participants identify roles early on and take training that is role-specific to meet the requirements for it and each incremental level. In addition, technicians must complete a minimum of six hours of I-CAR-approved continuing education annually. This will ensure there are no breaks in designation or competency as well as provide continuous recognition for a participant's achievements over time.
Change can sometimes seem overwhelming at first glance. But the transition laid out by I-CAR provides clear paths for current collision facilities and technicians, as well as new participants.
"I-CAR has structured the transition into the program over four phases through 2014," Peevy explains. This will ensure that those who have currently achieved the I-CAR Platinum Individual and Gold Class Professional designations continue to be recognized for their achievements and have ample opportunity to retain it by taking the training necessary.
For Platinum Individual recognition, the four-year transition breaks down as follows:
• Phase 1 - In 2011, to retain Platinum Individual recognition, participants must obtain at least 60 percent of the new ProLevel 1 requirements. Alternately, Platinum Individuals can retain that recognition until, but not past 2012, if they continue to qualify under the former "10&2" rule.
• Phase 2 - In 2012, to retain Platinum Individual recognition, all participants must obtain 100 percent of ProLevel 1 requirements.
• Phase 3 - In 2013, to retain Platinum Individual recognition, all participants must obtain 100 percent of ProLevel 2 requirements.
• Phase 4 - In 2014, to retain Platinum Individual recognition, all participants must obtain 100 percent of ProLevel 3 requirements.
Since July 2010, the industry has responded positively to the program and is acclimating to the transition timeline. Currently, of the nearly 30,000 Platinum Individuals, approximately one-third has already achieved their Platinum Individual status under the Phase I requirements.
Insurer or noncollision repair businesses can also continue to qualify for the Gold Class Professionals designation under the former "5&2" rule through Dec. 31, 2011, Peevy notes, provided they continue to qualify under the former "5&2" rule. Beginning in 2012, however, to be recognized as a Gold Class Professional facility, a business must meet the following requirements:
• Declaring role representatives is an imperative part of the new program - For any business, regardless of size, to achieve/ maintain its Gold Class Professionals designation, it must designate and employ Platinum Individuals in four key roles: refinish technician, steel structural technician, nonstructural and estimator.
• Ensure that all technicians who are not pursuing the Platinum Individual designation achieve a minimum of two points (i.e., six hours) of I-CAR-approved training annually.
Peevy notes that information about a new role tailored specifically for businesses not directly involved with the physical repair will be available in the coming months. He also suggests that because this pending program will recognize professional development training relevant to the declared role, any new training taken should be within the role-specific menu of the program's courses.
New participants in I-CAR training will simply merge into the new curriculum stream, Shawn Collins, an I-CAR instructor, shared during collision courses at ASRW 2010. "If you are starting from zero and had never taken an I-CAR course before, by taking one I-CAR class every 10 weeks, you'd be done in time for 2014."
Experienced technicians may wonder if there are opportunities to test-out of certain courses.
Kelly Wolfram, an I-CAR marketing communications specialist, commented on the test-out opportunity. "I-CAR recently met with a focus group of inter-industry members and discussed which competencies within the program have the option to test-out. Business rules and processes for implementation have not been determined at this point, but I-CAR will keep the industry informed of its progress toward launching a test-out procedure in the first quarter of 2011."
Beginning the transition is a matter of taking the following steps. Individual technicians should declare and notify I-CAR which specific role they wish to qualify for, and then focus on successfully completing role-specific training within that program. Businesses should also declare individual employee-technician roles and notify I-CAR, then plan training paths for each.
"The program provides more relevant and focused training, with continual support," advises Jason Bartanen, I-CAR technical director. "I-CAR also has a new redesigned website available now, which offers visitors resources and other key information."
Based on industry input, visitors can review information about roles; associated module and detailed course descriptions; the duties, tasks and competencies required; and the credit given. Bartanen adds that a free evaluation checklist tool - to aid instructors, employers, managers, etc. - will also be on the website, which can be used to check out the expectations of, as well as the competencies achieved by, students, technicians, job applicants and others.
"The new professional development program is expected to lead to not only more relevant training, but training that eliminates redundancies and also remains current within the collision industry," notes Bill Stage, I-CAR director of marketing and distribution. "With training now tied to roles and the necessary competencies, when gaps are identified, the needed training will be developed and delivered, with the assistance of our industry partners."
"I-CAR will continue to explore a framework that addresses auto collision education and the needs of the collision education market segment," Stage adds. Since July 2010, a task force of industry professionals from both the collision repair and the education segments has been meeting to develop an educational matrix for collision training. Based on discussions to date, I-CAR and its industry partners have determined that there is an opportunity to improve auto collision education and training for secondary and post-secondary schools.
"I believe there are people in our industry who are interested in developing their competencies and shops that want to have key personnel with those key competencies," concludes Edelen. "The new program represents a core of training that the industry believes is essential to serving those people meaningfully."
Through collaboration with the collision industry,
I-CAR has ensured that every person employed in the industry, current and future, has the opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills relevant to their position to achieve a complete and safe repair. For industry professionals, insurers, regulators and motorists - who jointly face continual change in vehicle technology, materials and complexity - it is a win-win solution for all.
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