On April 17, the East Bay California Autobody Association (EB-CAA) held its monthly meeting at Scott’s Seafood in Walnut Creek to network with other collision professionals and listen to the evening’s featured speaker, Gene Lopez. Lopez was hired in 2009 by I-CAR as a regional manager to head the organization’s Southwest region, headquartered in Glendora, CA. Before receiving the assignment, Lopez was the Director of Development for Seidner’s Collision Centers and was also a part-time instructor for I-CAR.
Lopez’s experience includes material inventory management in aerospace, medical implant devices and automotive refinish sales. He has received numerous awards and recognition in management, sales and personal development. He is the recipient of the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) “Tom Babcox Award” for his desire to improve the automotive service industry through management education. He has been certified by the California Department of Insurance to facilitate Continuing Education course work to insurance agents. Lopez has earned the AMI accreditation AAM (Accredited Automotive Manager). He has also held several volunteer positions in the collision repair industry, including serving as a committee chairperson for CIC, participating on several high school and college advisory boards, and serving as a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s task force on Monitoring, Recording, and Reporting Volatile Organic Compounds. He has been a former part-time I-CAR instructor and an I-CAR volunteer since 1994.
Lopez shared valuable information about recent changes within I-CAR and hoped to dispel any misconceptions amongst collision professionals and body shop owners/managers about the renewed purpose and new direction for the training entity.
First, you need to say goodbye to I-CAR’s former requirements and say hello to the new and improved but more stringent rules, Lopez said. “The old rule was that anyone who worked on cars in the shop had to complete five I-CAR courses and pass the associated post tests. But now in 2012, the requirements have changed and each organization’s four role representatives (one estimator, one non-structural tech, one structural tech and one refinisher tech) need to fulfill ProLevel 1® Platinum individual requirements to qualify their company as a Gold Class Professional designation.
“The old rule was this—if everyone passed five tests and took two more courses every year ongoing—that fulfilled the requirement,” Lopez said. “ But, we changed it in July of 2010 when we started Phase I of the Professional Development Program® and until 12/31/11, we offered two options: 1) They can stick to the original 5/2 plan, as long as they maintain it; or 2) They now have to achieve 100% of the ProLevel 1® for the organization’s four role representatives, and that’s very important. Everyone else in the organization that repairs vehicles has to complete a six-hour annual requirement (two classes) to maintain a ProLevel 1®.”
Up until 12/31/11, the four role representatives within each organization could reach ProLevel 1® by completing 60% of the required class work. But now, those individuals have to be at 100% of ProLevel 1® right now. In 2013, they will have to meet 100% of the requirement for ProLevel 2®. And then in 2014, they will have to complete the classes that are acquired to achieve ProLevel 3, which is the highest recognition any individual can achieve through I-CAR and in the collision repair industry. Everyone else in the shop only requires six hours training annually, but those four role representatives are key personnel and they need to proactively hit those levels every year, Lopez outlined.
Another big change with I-CAR revolves around what they call “relevant training,” Lopez explained. “All of the training now has to be relevant to each collision professional’s particular job capacity. Everyone in the shop has to take classes that apply to their specific job. For example, a refinish tech will not get credit for taking estimating classes. If someone wants to take training outside of their role, it’s fine, but it just won’t progress them along in their Platinum Individual requirements. In the past, there was a lot of what we call random training, because we allowed people to take courses that they weren’t going to use in their jobs. Before, a body shop would have everyone come in on a Saturday and take the same class, whether it applied to their role or not. You could take two damage analysis courses and everyone would fulfill their ongoing training requirement. But the problem was—is that helping a painter? Is he going to be able to use that information when he comes into work on Monday? Obviously not.
Now, if you’re a painter, you take re-finishing courses. If you’re a body man, you take collision courses, and if you’re an estimator, you take damage analysis classes.”
Body shops who reach the coveted Gold Class Professional® status are exceptional and among the leaders in the collision industry, according to Lopez. “Of the approximately 35,000 collision repairers in this country, only 4,100 are Gold Class Professional® businesses. To reach that designation and maintain it, the organization has to make training and education a priority from their four role representatives and everyone else on the staff that fixes vehicles.”
Other misconceptions in the past about I-CAR revolved around the misnomer that businesses had until the end of 2012 to meet the professional development requirements, but the deadline for businesses is their Gold Class Professional renewal date. If you’re not currently a Gold Class business, you have until December 31, 2012 to achieve 100% ProLevel 1® status for your four role representatives and everyone else has to adhere to the same six-hour ongoing training requirement. If you don’t get it done by the end of 2012, then you have to complete both ProLevel® 1 and 2 by the end of 2013, Lopez said.