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You and the Youth: If you don’t invest in training, you are a ‘ticking time bomb,’ say IBISTV panellists

London, United Kingdom — It’s a secret to none that the collision repair industry is amid a skills shortage–and dated mindsets have plenty to do with it.

During Thursday’s International Bodyshop Industry Symposium’s IBISTV Summit, a seven-strong panel of global collision repair reps sat down to discuss the topic of attracting young talent to the collision repair industry.

“Why is it always such a surprise that, when we employ 40-year-old hiring methods, we get 40-something-year-old applicants, not 18-year-old apprentices?” asked Robert Snook, conference moderator. “We need to speak in their language.”

“Exactly–why are we printing two sheets of A4 paper to say something that could be communicated in a 30-second video?” asked Eric Kenar, manager technician environment and service technical college for General Motors’ Dealer service and warranty operations.

With dated terms like “panel beater” and “crash repairer” giving strength to persisting industry stereotypes, panellists said the global collision repair industry is not painted in the glowing light it deserves.

“Very, very brilliant-minded people are repairing the cars of today,” said Shannon Tardiff, CSN Collision Centres’ manager of field operations for Eastern Canada. “This is an idea we need to bring into our secondary and post-secondary schools.”

“Students need to understand that cars of today are highly complex,” commented Leanne Jeffries, who serves as vice president of Assured Performance Network/Certified Collision Care. “If you look at the young people preparing to enter the field today–they grew up using an iPad. They’re really a perfect fit for their skillset.”

The baseline problem? Other industries are reaching youth first.

“Our industry is one of the fastest-growing tech sectors–but the youth are finding careers in other sectors before we can get to them,” said Snook. “We need to start at the school-level and promote not just technical jobs, but all the other opportunities that go with the support of the industry.

“We have to get to them between the ages of 13 and 15,” said Snook.

While the idea of taking a chance on young people that lack the skills of collision repair may strike fear into the hearts of any seasoned businessowner, IBISTV’s panellists said it’s a fear we’ll all have to face head-on.

“We’re taking a risk if we don’t do it,” said Snook. “We cannot afford not to bring in new talent.”

And any businesses that fail to invest in new talent will almost certainly pay the price.

“You’re a ticking time bomb,” concluded Kenar.

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