Auto glazier training… Is it what the windscreen industry requires in Australia, or may it just need an ethical clean up?
We should be aware that in Australia the auto glass industry is unregulated. This means anyone can load some tools into the back of a ute, subscribe to a network group as a contractor and start work tomorrow. So how does the unsuspecting public know if they can trust the repairer that they have selected, or that their insurance group has selected for them?
In recent times an organisation by the name of The Auto glass association (AGA) was formed in an attempt to clean up the industry. The AGA consists of several of the larger national corporations and a mix of the smaller local ones, that in many cases contract to the larger ones. In addition, the group has several product suppliers that think it good value to pay for a seat on the AGA Committee.
The AGA proposes that the industry requires direction/certification and with their guidance the auto glass industry in Australia will be a better place to work, a safer place for the motorist to shop.
So after several years of operation how are they doing? The AGA proposes that by implementing an auto glazier training program the industry will be sanitized of poor quality workmanship and positive things should follow. However, first this requires every technician to attend TAFE to study a series of modules based on the fundamentals of auto glazing. Seems like a fair proposal, so why would we want to question it?
Many of the technicians operating their own business today have been doing so for many years. In fact I am yet to meet one that has been installing auto glass for less than 15 years. With this in mind it makes me wonder what these technicians could learn from a fundamentals of auto glass at TAFE.
Now you may be saying to yourself “Well, it can’t do any harm, so why not enroll in TAFE anyway?” Well there are many reasons and I will point out a few.
The expense, these programs cost money and for what in return for your business exactly? The certificates that are obtained are elementary and have zero industry recognition. Then there is your time, many hours that could have been better served being productive elsewhere. What about the principle of the matter. Why would you spend your time and money to study a course that has little value, simply because a small group of individuals suggest to.
I speak from experience here. See image of Level 4 of 4 Certification Program I completed back in 1998. The whole program was completed in a little over 1 year and I can’t say it made me a better technician.
I’m not dismissing training altogether. For new starters/trainees there could be some value. However, trainees are not small business owners. They generally work for the larger organisations who have the funds to carry and coach them. So you could say that the majority of the inexperienced technicians work for the larger groups.
Lets suppose i’m incorrect and training is needed by all AGA members and small business in general. If this is true, then insurance groups should consider this skills gap when they “recommend a repairer”, which they currently do not. I know when I “recommend” someone it’s a priority they have the skills for the task in hand.
Opinion aside, say you are one of the companies who have decided that auto glass training is the solution, how is it currently working out for you and your employees?
I personally work as a field technician so I spend a lot of time out and about. In doing so I get to randomly see 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 it many times over.
It may also come as a surprise that in many cases these technicians are employees of businesses who are members of the AGA. In addition they are also on the “Recommended List” of insurance groups.
Im not talking about undercover observations either. I could link this Blog to many web pages were AGA members advertise their own work and unsafe short cut methods are being practiced in the images. With the age of the internet/handheld devices, it appears we have given people enough rope to hang themselves without the need to point fingers and accuse.
So how is the certification program working out so far? It would appear not so well. Now i’m not suggesting that AGA business owners are directly instructing staff to take shortcuts to save time and money. However, what I am suggesting is that no amount of training can change the ethics of an employee. If an employee wants to get though the day quicker, or has a productivity incentive, then short cuts will be taken. Unfortunately they can’t teach this out of you at TAFE, it would appear.
Could it be that the proposed auto glass training is simply a program designed to give everyone a false tick of approval. You know, like what the Heart Foundation used to do with it’s “Healthy Tick of Approval” on food packages. They used to stamp that thing everywhere, even on chips, margarine and oil. Seems if you fund their program, you get their approval.
In our case it could be seen as 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, diverts liability and makes it appear they care, all good selling points. If a group/network is certified then its more appealing for an insurance group to contract. Could be wrong, its just an observation.
So is training the solution? For me, it’s a quick and simple no, i’ve been there before. I believe the vast majority of technicians already know how to perform safe installations. Technicians are also aware they should not take unsafe short cuts to save time. We know these things, however, many technicians still choose to make unethical choices. As we speak, there are technicians in the field who take short cuts, use untested products and have the “Tick of Approval/certification”. This is confusing the unsuspecting public and is the cause of many industry problems.
Just like passing a driving test and obtaining a driving licence does not mean you will not commit traffic offences. Completing an auto glass certification does not ensure the technician will not take short cuts.
What’s really required here is an “Ethical Clean Up”. Technicians taking short cuts that compromise safety should be dismissed. Small businesses taking short cuts should be exposed and terminated from insurance contracts. This is a culture of short sighted individuals that are causing most of the problems in the industry.
Businesses taking short cuts severely damage the industry by undercutting the prices of repairers using safe methods/products that cost more and take longer to install. This confuses the public into believing a job that is quick and cheap is a good thing. “Cheap and Quick”, are not indicators of quality, however they do go hand in hand. A cheap job is generally quick for a reason.
But 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.
As H.L Mencken once pointed out. It’s difficult to get a person to understand something when their income depends on them not understanding it.