Facing Staffing Challenges in Collision Repair
by Jennifer Hubbard
Client Engagement Manager
Staffing shortages and employee turnover are realities of today’s collision repair industry. As we look to expand talent entering the industry and fulfill today’s talent needs, it is important as an industry we build diverse teams. To build an influx of new technicians and talents, it is important that we make it easier for people to see themselves in the role. So hiring diverse talent today, can help fill tomorrow’s talent pipeline.
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, women made up just under 2% of auto mechanics in 2021. However, I, like many of you, have seen the difference women in the industry are making firsthand. In March 2021, I highlighted some of my inspiring CCC female colleagues as part of Women’s History Month. This year, I want to showcase some of the incredible women hard at work across the industry.
Technology: Adaptation and Adoption
Fostering a culture of learning and adoption is more essential than ever as vehicles increase in complexity and increase in technology.
Charel Lock from Five Star Automotive Collision Center in Macon, Ga., is taking a proactive approach to embracing evolving technologies. She has taken leadership roles on industry councils, educational programs, and advisory groups to help shops stay informed about emerging vehicle technologies. Charel inspires me to have the energy of a continual learner.
When Charel became Operations Manager at Five Star, she became, in her words, “a sponge.” She is an advocate for staying on top of technology trends, and always thinking about how every team member, regardless of role, can learn more.
“When you think of an industry leader, Charel checks off all the boxes,” said collision industry expert Mike Anderson of Collision Advice. “Charel does not just sit on the sidelines, she gets involved in the industry. You will not find a better person with the exemplary qualities Charel brings to the collision repair industry.”
Charel is a champion for growth, which makes her excited to see the future of the industry. She sums it up well – “change isn’t always easy in the collision industry, but it’s necessary.”
Running a Successful Shop’s Operations
Running a successful shop’s day-to-day operations is a stressful and challenging job. Successful office managers are highly organized, efficient, and problem solvers. They need to have a high-level understanding of each step of the repair process, plus have the emotional intelligence to work with customers who are in highly stressful situations. I have come across several women who provide that perfect mix of soft and hard skills.
Take, for example, Melissa Oliver from Trophy Collision Center, part of Berkshire Hathaway Automotive in Forney, Texas. Across her 30-year career, Melissa has garnered a reputation for her can-do attitude.
When I am faced with a challenge in need of an answer, I channel my inner-Melissa: say to yourself “you’ve got this” and dive head-first into the problem. Melissa’s tenacity has also influenced her leadership approach; she actively trains new team members and serves as a mentor to more junior employees to bring their best selves to work.
She’s influencing more than just her shop to lead with empathy and a can-do attitude. She is a regular attendee of Berkshire Hathaway’s Corporate Collision Performance Group Meeting. Typically limited to Collision Center Managers only, Melissa’s seat at the table reflects her personal contributions as well as Berkshire Hathaway’s commitment to diversity.
“I wish I had a truckload of Melissas because if I did, it would make my job a whole lot easier!” said Darren Huggins, Berkshire Hathaway Automotive’s National Collision Director.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2026 the automotive repair industry will need 46,000 more service technicians to meet demand. Couple that with high technician turnover and cutthroat competition for highly qualified people may leave you asking, “where can I find people?” I think it is important that you make it easy for people to find you, to want to work with you.
Improving the visibility of women in collision roles, either as estimators, technicians, or managers, can serve as a catalyst for encouraging younger females to consider a career in our industry.
If you’re looking to take a more active role in promoting women technicians, the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) has fantastic resources. They provide both education and networking for underrepresented members of the collision repair industry. I encourage you to explore their resources, including their 2020 report that specifically addresses staffing opportunities.
To summarize, shops who bring in diverse opinions, especially those of women, can be much better equipped to tackle technology changes, complex shop operations, and staffing shortages. I am honored to be a part of this industry and can’t wait to see where diverse perspectives can bring us.