Edmonton, Alberta -- October 17, 2013 -- One era closed and another opened recently in Edmonton, with the official transition of the Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) to new administration. Since its first meeting in Edmonton in 1999, CCIF has provided a venue for informed debate on the issues and challenges facing the industry.

All meetings in 2014 will be under the aegis of AIA, with the first taking place in Toronto on February 1, 2014. 
 
Chairman Tom Bissonnette of Parr Auto Body opened the Edmonton meeting with a positive message regarding the co-operation between collision repairers and the principal insurer in his home province of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan General Insurance (SGI). The provincial trade association representing collision repairers had engaged an agency to study the industry and had used the resulting report to support discussions with government representatives on how to sustain a healthy industry capable of meeting insurer and vehicle owner needs. This led to further discussions with the insurer and agreements to work together on critical issues, such as improving the ability of collision repairers to attract and retain staff.
 
Next up was Larry Jefferies of CARSTAR Automotive Canada, discussing the upcoming changes to CCIF and new ways to take action. Jefferies is a past chairman of both CCIF and AIA Canada. 
 
During his remarks, Jefferies noted that CCIF had been established by design as a forum only, not an action group. As a national body aiming to engage all industry stakeholders from coast to coast, its neutral status enabled CCIF to support regional trade associations, rather than appear to be competing with them. On occasion, though, CCIF participants did act within the Forum on projects such as contributing to the first ever national human resources study of the collision repair industry, Prep for the Future, producing a CD promoting careers in collision repair to young people, as well as creating and funding the CCIF Skills Program. CCIF participants had also shown interest in a national accreditation program, but ultimately there had been insufficient support for it to proceed.
 
Observing that there has been much change in the industry since CCIF was formed, Jefferies explained that it was time for CCIF to evolve in order to keep meeting the needs of the industry. At the start of 2014 the administration of CCIF will be taken on by the Automotive Industries Association (AIA), through which CCIF was originally created, and which already manages the national training body, I-CAR Canada.
 
The Chairman’s Council will be renamed as the CCIF Steering Committee and will comprise:
 
•        4 collision repair representatives, including networks
•        2 supplier representatives
•        2 insurance representatives
•        2 OE manufacturer representatives. 
•        AIA’s Director, Collision Programs /Director, CCIF Skills Program
•        AIA’s Senior Director, Industry Programs 
 
The role of the CCIF Steering Committee will include:
 
•        Guiding the establishment of priority areas for action and ensuring the continued success of industry networking events and projects. 
•        Representing all CCIF stakeholders
•        Operating a succession plan with members serving staggered terms of two years, renewable upon the recommendation of the Committee. 
•        Setting term limits of four years to ensure turnover.
•        Being run on a consensus model.
 
With some members of the Chairman’s Council retiring as it reforms itself as the CCIF Steering Committee, vacancies have opened up for new members.
 
Applicants must apply in writing and will be selected by CCIF’s current Chairman’s Council members by early December.
 
Through the will of its participants, CCIF will in future direct AIA to take action on behalf of the industry. Following presentations and discussion at CCIF, participants will vote on items for action and their majority opinion will be reviewed by the CCIF Steering Committee to decide how the issue should be carried forward.
 
The diagram above illustrates the new structure of CCIF and AIA.  
The diagram above illustrates the new structure of CCIF and AIA.   
 
Jefferies confirmed that, going forward, the plan for CCIF and AIA is to focus on three core issues:
 
• Industry Profitability
• Vehicle Technology/Repairability/OE Certification
• Human Resources – Attracting, Training and Retaining Employees
 
The first action taken relating to industry profitability will be the Business Conditions Survey, designed to provide knowledge of industry metrics. Jefferies illustrated the need for a national survey by asking participants to vote on the number of collision repair facilities they believed to be operating in Canada. Opinion was widely split, with 29 percent indicating they thought there were over 6000, 35 percent choosing 5000 to 6000 and 26 percent choosing 4000 to 5000. That there is no clear consensus on such a basic question highlights the need for solid and dependable industry metrics. 
 
Jefferies noted that Fix Auto, CARSTAR, CSN Collision & Glass and Assured Automotive have agreed to participate in the first survey, providing their sales by region for the last seven quarters. Audatex and Mitchell have also agreed to provide their claims data by region. The results of the first survey will be presented at the next CCIF meeting in Toronto on February 1, after which all other collision repairers will be invited to participate in the survey. 
 
Those who submit data will also benefit from receiving the full results. A vote among CCIF participants indicated a high level of support for the Business Conditions Survey and a high level of willingness to take part in it.
 
Next on the slate was Ian Hope, Executive Director of Alberta Automotive Recyclers and Dismantlers Association (AARDA). 
 
“AARDA members recognise the importance of the collision repair industry as a major customer,” said Hope. He proposed closer collaboration with repairers and insurers to better understand their needs and how they make their choices on which parts to use. 
 
Leanne Jefferies of the CCIF Skills Program discussed the continuing success of the CCIF Skills Program. She acknowledged the success of the Program as an outcome of the tremendous team work between Skills Canada, industry stakeholder groups and educators, all contributing their money, time or know-how and collaborating with the CCIF Skills Program manager. Just a few years ago there were no provincial painting competitions, but now eight provinces hold them and over 300 industry volunteers work to ensure that they run smoothly and showcase the industry in a positive light.
 
Doug Harbak of Apprenticeship and Industry Training, Alberta, was next to take the podium, sharing some of the feedback he had received from apprentices leaving the industry. The most common reason for leaving was that their employers either did not encourage them to attend technical training for advancement or didn’t allow them to attend training due to workload. The second most common reason for leaving or contemplating it, was employers promising to indenture individuals, but then procrastinating in the process of signing and submitting the application.
 
As a follow-up to Doug Harbak’s presentation, Mike Bryan invited two young industry entrants to share their perspective of the industry. He spoke with Lisa Little, a second year painting apprentice and Cecile Bukmeier, a certified painter and Gold Medal Winner of the Alberta Skills Competition and National Skills Competition. In both cases,  it was their love of cars and their fascination for the artistry involved in returning a mangled vehicle into its pre-accident condition that prompted their entry to collision repair. While they enjoyed using their skills as painters, both saw their future as business owners and hoped it would be possible for them to stay in the industry. Their realistic view of why that might not happen was their uncertainty about earning enough to be able to buy a home and live a reasonably comfortable life.
 
When asked what advice they would give to employers taking on apprentices, they echoed the comments of Doug Harbak regarding technical training and treating apprentices with integrity. They also advised employers to pay pre-employment students for their work and allocate time to mentor young entrants. As females in a traditional male environment, they recognized that there could be a certain amount of negative attitude, but had been surprised at the extent of it. They felt it essential that owners take action on inappropriate behaviour, otherwise young females would leave and take their skills and energy to an industry where attitudes are more progressive.
 
The Future of CCIF and the OEMs
David Adams of Global Automakers of Canada discussed the future of CCIF and the OEMs.  His trade association, Global Automakers of Canada represents 16 import OEMs, while the “Detroit Three” are represented by the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association. The two associations often work together on common issues.
 
Adams noted that OEMs have come to recognise the value of involvement with CCIF, as vehicles have become increasingly complex and the use ofadvanced technology has created new repair issues. These issues have drawn attention to the disconnect between the collision repair industry and OEMs, and raised concerns about the potential ramifications of improperly repaired vehicles. 
 
With collision repairers, insurers and OEMs all having a vested interest in their common customers, it was essential that they work together to overcome the disconnect, said David. OEMs would seek to cultivate a better dialogue with insurers and collision repairers and they would be looking more closely at repair capacity and the use of correct repair information and practices. 
 
The OEMs’ goals are to ensure correct repairs to OEM specifications, to help retain vehicle values and to work with the industry to ensure the utmost safety in collision repaired vehicles. Adams concluded by acknowledging that these goals must be compatible with repairer profitability, access to repair information and standards and training. 
 
Andrew Shepherd of AIA Canada wrapped up the day’s speakers, with a report on I-CAR Canada’s Gold Class. Shepherd reported that I-CAR live training seats were at 4,189 so far this year, compared with a total of 6204 for the whole of 2012. Among those, Gold Class seats numbered 2116 year to date, compared with 3263 for the full year 2012. Over 51 percent of trainees came from Gold Class shops.
 
Current I-CAR developments included work on the re-establishment of I-CAR training in British Columbia. There is also work underway in the U.S. to update I-CAR’s welding qualification and also to develop 8-10 new courses to support OEM certified repair networks for Chrysler, VW, Honda, Nissan, Infiniti, Toyota, BMW, Porsche and Jaguar. Shepherd also announced new training delivery partnerships with NAIT and Color Compass.
 
The next meeting of the CCIF will take place at Marriott Toronto Airport in Toronto, Ont., on February 1, 2014. 

 

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