Collaboration key for Irish market

The final session at IBIS Ireland 2016 saw a panel, comprising five regional experts, discuss the current and future developments within the Irish collision repair sector.

Moderated by IBIS conference director, Jason Moseley the panel comprising: Peter Daly, managing director, Synergy Vehicle Refinish Solutions; Colin Hagan, managing director, Riverpark Training; Trevor Lee, body and paint business manager, VW Group Ireland; Noel Maher, chair, Irish region IAEA and Jayson Whittington, chief car editor, Glass’s debate training, investment, leadership and standards amongst other topics.

On the subject of training and attracting candidates to the industry, Colin said, ‘The industry has an image issue with young people.

He continued, ‘From an adult perspective, we have tested over 200 technicians for ATA and initially 70% of those failed largely down to believing they can always fix things as they always have done. They simply weren’t aware of much of the technological changes.

‘We have since worked closely with 40 bodyshops in Northern Ireland to gain BS10125 accreditation and it has made a lot of difference – there is now more attention to detail, especially with regard to methodology.’

Noel suggested training had been frozen for a number of years within the vehicle body repair sector with a ‘huge lack of investment’. He said, ‘Only now are we seeing some investment coming back in. There is a need for a lot of investment.’

Paul suggested training was a constant issue, ‘The future of the industry is creeping up on us very quickly. Young people want to see a progression – where they are going – they’re not as easily pleased as we would have been.’

Highlighting the progress made in the creation of a new apprenticeship standard, Trevor said, ‘We do need to get better at inviting people into this industry – it is a technology industry. We as manufacturers need to get better at that, likewise there is a responsibility on the part of the training providers.’

A representative from the DiT contributed to the debate suggesting the new apprenticeship scheme would require an investment of £350,000 in new equipment just to deliver. ‘It will require lots of support,’ was the statement.

Following further discussion on training and investment in vehicle damage assessor upskilling, Noel called for the industry to work ‘collectively’. ‘There is a need for insurers, engineers, bodyshops, VMs to let the government know what is coming to help secure any funding that might be required,’ said Noel. Paul agreed, ‘As an industry need to put in resource to gain government support.’

Touching on standards and the voluntary Certified Steel Standard (CSS) in Ireland which has 80 bodyshops signed up at present, Noel said, ‘CSS is great but now there is possibly a need for government to come in and legislate. Safety should be the priority and would it not be better to have a standard that everyone is working towards?’

Trevor agreed that CSS had been a ‘very welcome introduction’ and the fact that it is voluntary gave a good insight into the appetite of the sector. ‘VM standards will always be more comprehensive but in a more specific way,’ said Trevor. ‘As VMs I think what we would like to see is that when it comes to a revision to the current standards, the VMs get involved and help contribute towards a standard that is more inclusive.’

Jason closed the panel discussion and day’s event with the statement: ‘It’s clear we’re on the right track here in the Irish market – there is a lot of energy and optimism.’

IBIS Ireland 2016 was headline partnered by AkzoNobel and Audatex, along with partners Fastcare and Enterprise.