In a groundbreaking move to overcome the critical shortage of skills in vehicle body repair and improve the status of its technicians, the IMI and the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre at Thatcham have formed an alliance to produce the first accreditation scheme for the sector.
The initiative has the formal support of leading crash repair distributor Brown Brothers. Gerry O’Hara, the company’s sales and marketing director, commented: “The programme will provide a rewarding and motivating environment in which people can contribute positively and continue to develop their skills. At the same time, it confirms to all industry stakeholders that those individuals and businesses pledging their support for the initiative are safeguarding the future reputation of the body repair industry by reassuring the motorist of the highest levels of crash repair service."
The result of a year of collaboration between the IMI and Thatcham, the programme involves the “rigorous assessment of body fitters, painters and panel repairers technicians through a robust and regulated process” It covers three different bodyshop disciplines, and accreditation is awarded progressively at three levels.
The scheme gives individuals specific industry recognition of their professional competence, which the IMI and Thatcham claims will encourage technicians to seek accreditation as a means of improving their employability and status.
The route to accreditation includes a demanding one-day practical assessment, either at Thatcham or one of its approved regional training centres, and an on-line examination of knowledge from the IMI. Successful technicians will be accredited for two years, after which validation must be renewed through further re-assessment.
The IMI, Thatcham and Brown Brothers believe that a process of individual accreditation is the preferred solution to raising standards, addressing skills shortage issues and improving consumer confidence.
More specifically, it’s designed to address concerns highlighted in a research study carried out by the IMI last year, which examined technician recruitment, training development and competence assessment in both the mechanical and body repair sectors.
Key findings were:
“This initiative answers the findings our research, which identified a need for a rigorous and consistently applied process of assessing, developing and recognising technical skills,” said IMI chief executive Sarah Sillars. “The body repair business is beset by a series of problems including loss of skilled people – 3,000 in the past year alone – low morale and inconsistency of standards.
“In partnership with Thatcham, we believe that the Bodyshop Technician Accreditation Programme will bring tremendous benefits to individuals, their employers and the body repair industry. We are delighted to have the endorsement and support of Brown Brothers which will help us promote the programme and raise the status of skilled people.”
Thatcham’s chief executive Peter Roberts commented: “The crash repair industry desperately needs to attract tomorrow's technicians, and a vital element in this is a career structure for advancement through the recognition of personal skill levels. Thatcham is delighted to be providing the skills assessment element of this programme, and to be working with the IMI as awarding body and Brown Brothers as sponsor on this important new national quality initiative, which has the full support of the UK motor insurers."
Jeffrey Mack, head of bodyshop and recovery services at the Retail Motor Industry Federation, described the move as a “great step forward for the industry” – one which could ultimately lead to licensing.
“Body repair is safety critical, arguably even more important than MoTs which only provide a snapshot in time of a vehicle’s roadworthiness,” he said.
Commented Mike Monaghan, managing director of the MVRA: “This is a progressive move which provides structure and definition. With employment laws becoming ever more onerous, employers simply can’t afford the cost implications of recruiting someone unless they are sure of that individual’s competence.”