A growing shortage of body shop technicians could create one of the most serious staffing problems that fixed ops managers will face in the next few years.
Nick Notte, senior vice president of I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Repair, which provides collision repair training and education, says thousands of body shop techs are leaving the industry each year and are not being replaced at the same rate.
"I won't say it is an epidemic today in the collision repair industry, but it is getting close," Notte told Fixed Ops Journal. "The average age of a [body shop] tech is approaching 50. It's difficult work, and they retire or move out of the industry."
Job website Monster.com lists more than 1,000 openings around the country for body shop technicians at new-vehicle dealerships, independent shops and fleet operations. Among them are 24 openings, as of mid-July, at dealerships operated by Penske Automotive Group, the second-largest U.S. dealership group.
Such groups and other large employers often provide a long list of spiffs to attract and retain collision techs. Some companies pay body shop technicians signing bonuses of as much as $5,000, subsidize the cost of techs' tools and training, and offer other generous benefits.