AGA Auto Glass Certification Program
Auto Glass Certification, is this what the Australian windscreen industry really requires, or perhaps just an ethical clean up?
You should be aware that in Australia the auto glass industry is unregulated. This means anyone experienced or otherwise can subscribe to a network as a contractor and practice auto glass replacement. So how does the unsuspecting public know if they can trust the repairer they selected. In addition, how do they know if they can trust a repairer that their insurance group has selected for them?
The Auto Glass Association
The Auto glass Association (AGA) was formed in 2013 in an attempt to clean up the industry, in their own words “to lift the standards of the windscreen industry”.
The AGA consists of several large corporations and a mix of smaller local independent auto glass companies. In many cases the smaller repairers contract to the larger ones. In addition, the AGA has several product suppliers that pay an $8k+ fee for a seat on the committee. The AGA proposes that the auto glass industry requires direction and certification and with their guidance the auto glass industry will be a better place to work, and a safer for the motorist to shop.
AGA Proposed Auto Glass Certification
After several years of operation how is the AGA doing and more importantly how are the members/motorists benefiting? The AGA proposes that by implementing an “Auto Glazier Certification Program” the industry will be sanitized of poor quality workmanship. However, this requires every technician to attend TAFE to study modules based on the fundamentals of auto glazing. (Cert II Auto Glazing)
At a glance this seems like a fair proposal, so why would I want to question it? Many of the auto glass technicians operating their own business today have been doing so for many years. In fact, I’m yet to meet any that have been installing auto glass for less than 10 years. With this in mind, what could be learnt from a fundamentals of auto glass at TAFE. The course is only a Certificate II. Put simply, the course will teach a novice how to remove, prepare and install a basic windscreen. With that said, I think we could all agree any technician with more than a months service is already doing this.
Now you may be thinking, “Well, it can’t do any harm, so why not enroll in TAFE anyway?” There are many reasons and I will point out a few.
Expense. These programs cost many thousands of dollars and for what in return? The certificates obtained are fundamental, only a level or two above a basic public school certificate and at the time of this original writing had zero industry recognition. Then there is your time, many hours that could have been better served being productive elsewhere. What about the principle? Why would you spend your time and money to study a course that has zero value. Finally after you have invested all the time and money into your staff, whats to stop them going to your competitor down the road because they offered $1 per hour more.
Speaking from experience, I personally completed Level 4 of a 4 part certification program back in 1998. The entire program was completed in a little over 1 year. So in summery, I was considered level 4 which was the highest degree at the time with only 1 years experience. Did this make me a better technician? I don’t think so. The experience I have accumulated over time and my ethical approach has.
This image below is for fun, im not stating technicians are suckers. However, I am saying that the proposed certification has no recognition and is not worth the paper it is written on. Even if it was a required certification it would not make technicians competent on completion. (Please see addendum at bottom of page).
Experience Is The True Gauge Of Skill Levels
Lets not dismiss auto glass training altogether, notice training is not the same as certification. For new starters/trainees there could be some value in certification, however, its important to point out trainees are not small business owners. Trainees generally work for the larger organisations who have the funds to carry, coach and teach them the skills. So its a fair statement that the majority of the inexperienced technicians work for larger groups.
Opinion aside, suppose you are a company who has decided that auto glass certification is the solution to your quality issues. How is it currently working out for you and your employees? Do they still take short cuts? Are they installing 10 windscreen per day? Do they use roll out tools, and lifting devices? Or did you simply enroll to allow your business to hitch it’s wagon to a insurance network sometime in the future.
Windscreen Short Cuts Are The Problem
I personally work as a field technician, so I spend much time out and about. In doing so I randomly witness other technicians in the field installing windscreens. When I do I often stop to observe from a distance. It’s not uncommon to see technicians taking major unsafe short cuts, I have witnessed this many times over. It also comes as no surprise that in many cases these same technicians are employees of businesses who are members of the AGA, work for larger corporations and many are on the “Recommended List” for insurance groups.
I could link this paper to many posts were AGA/Recommended Repairers practice unsafe short cut methods on their own Facebook page as advertisements for their work. With the introduction of handheld devices, it appears we have given people enough rope to hang themselves without the need to point fingers.
So how is the certification program working out so far? It would appear not so well. I’m not suggesting that companies are instructing staff to take shortcuts to save time and money. However, what I am suggesting is that no amount of certification can change the ethics of an employee. If an employee wants to get though the day quicker, or incentives are offered for productivity, then short cuts will be taken. Unfortunately they can’t teach this out of you at TAFE, it would appear.
Conflict Of Interest
Could it be possible that auto glass certification is designed to give everyone a false tick of approval. You know, like the Heart Foundation with it’s “healthy tick of approval” on food packages. They stamp that tick everywhere, even on chips, margarine and oil. Seems if you fund their program, you get their tick of approval.
It could be a benefit for networks to be seen recruiting the services of only “Certified Technicians” to obtain insurance contracts. Insurance groups gravitate towards certification, it looks good on the self assessment. In addition, it diverts liability and makes it appear they care, all good selling points. If a group/network is certified then its far more appealing for an insurance group to contract with the group. Just an observation.
So Is Auto Glass Certification The Solution?
In my opinion, for experienced technicians it’s a quick and simple no, I’ve personally been here before. Service 8® Auto Glass believe the vast majority of technicians already know how to perform basic safe installations. Technicians are also well aware they should not take unsafe short cuts to save time. We know these things, however, many technicians still choose to make unethical choices.
There are many technicians who take short cuts, use untested products and have the “tick of approval” from insurance groups. This is confusing the unsuspecting public and is the cause of many industry problems.
Like passing a driving test and obtaining a driving license. This does not mean you will not commit traffic offences. Completing an auto glass certification does not ensure the technician will not take short cuts.
Human Ethics Is whats Required
What’s really required here is an “Ethical Clean Up”. Technicians taking short cuts that compromise safety should be warned and dismissed if repeated. Small businesses taking short cuts should be exposed and terminated from insurance contracts. This is a culture of short sighted individuals that are the cause of many industry problems.
Corporation management should not be able to hide behind the brand. Stating clerical errors and communication problems as the cause of poor practice. After all we are talking about motorist safety here, not just auto glass certification.
Businesses taking short cuts severely damage the industry. They do so by undercutting the prices of repairers using safe methods that cost more and take longer. This confuses the public into believing a job that is quick and cheap is a good. “Cheap and quick”, are not indicators of quality, however, they do go hand in hand. A cheap job is generally quick for a reason.
Don’t expect change any time soon. Why? Because when it comes to making a profit and doing the wrong thing, the person in charge always seems to be looking the other way. Network managers will always turn a blind eye so long as the job gets done on time and under budget. It’s how they preserve their place in the scheme of things, its how middle management make a living.
Since publishing this paper the State of NSW has proposed that Auto Glass Certification/Licensing be mandatory. Please follow link to my recent paper. Statutory Review of the Motor Dealers and Repairers Act 2013. This has not come about accidentally, you would have to assume that an organisation played a role lobbying for influence/control.
In any event, I spent a moment polishing this paper as it had been getting many hits in recent weeks. No doubt as a result of people wanting information on the current proposed NSW regulation.