According to Robert Half International, there are four principal reasons a professional certification program benefits an entire company.
Certification leads to happier employees who stick around longer. It encourages greater peace of mind. It gives customers greater confidence in the business. It increases productivity.
Professional certification can also help boost credibility and prestige of an industry.
Consider the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE is a professional certification group that certifies professionals and shops in the automotive repair and service industry in the United States and parts of Canada.
ASE is an independent, non-profit organization created in 1972 in response to consumers needing to distinguish between potentially incompetent and competent automotive technicians.
The aim of the organization is to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service through the testing and certification of repair and service professionals.
For example, in the early 1970s, I attended General Motors Training Center, Fisher Body School. Following apprenticeship, I took tests and received certification in auto painting and refinishing.
Certification allowed me to move from lot porter, to auto detailer, to auto body and paint technician accompanied by a significant increase in earnings.
Today there are nearly 400,000 ASE certified professionals that can be found at repair shops, auto dealerships, service stations, parts stores, independent garages, and municipal fleets.
CAR WASH INDUSTRY
Is there a need for a professional certification program within the commercial car wash industry?
Arguably there is because, like many other business sectors where mom and pop operations predominate, the commercial car wash industry is basically unregulated.
For example, the use of hazardous chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid (HF) and ammonium bifluoride (ABF) has been debated for decades. Thankfully, the International Carwash Association finally issued a chemical safety position on the use of these chemicals:
“Because of the unique hazards and human toxicity of HF and ABF that can cause catastrophic personal injury and because of the necessity of proper training and protective gear for the handling and use of HF and ABF in a car wash environment, the International Carwash Association strongly recommends that car wash owners not use HF or ABF.”
Although the recommendation is a good thing, we can question its effectiveness. Will folks who continue to use these chemicals actually heed the recommendation? If not, what can the ICA do about it?
There are also other questionable business practices to consider.
For example, I’d like to forget the number of times I’ve gone onsite and found an owner who advertises national brands but uses generic products instead. The same applies to operators who promise an environmentally conscious business but bypass the reclaim system.
More obvious are car wash operators who engage in underground economy activity and employment fraud or use disclaimer signs or draconian policies to avoid legitimate vehicle damage claims.
I’ve also come across some car wash facilities replete with decals plastered on the windows from various professional business organizations only to discover the owner is not a dues-paying member.
Unfortunately, these are the types of things that can create a black eye for the great many professionals in the commercial car wash industry.
Arguably, a professional certification program would have the potential to benefit the car wash industry as much as ASE has benefited franchised car dealerships.
CAR WASH EDUCATION
Although there is more education and training available to participants in the car wash industry than ever before, it’s fragmented. Sources include ICA, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, and consultants.
For example, ICA sponsors the Car Wash Executive Management Institute provided at the University Notre Dame. ICA also offers professional development resources online such as podcasts and videos from past editions of The Car Wash Show™.
Sonny’s The Carwash Factory has two car wash colleges that provide training in multi-site management, equipment repair and maintenance, and car wash management.
NCS College of Clean has a 10,000-square-foot facility to provide training courses from car wash chemical management to equipment repair and car wash management.
Washcourse.com is an online source that provides video training for customer service attendants and to create exceptional managers.
Simoniz USA also has a training center (Simoniz University) as well as video training and a Simoniz Express Technician Certification Test.
Carolina Pride runs Car Wash Academy Online™ to provide operators and employees with tools and knowledge to consistently, efficiently, and safely train staff on many aspects of car wash operations.
Similarly, Washworld, among others, are rolling out online education and training resources mostly specific to their make and models of equipment.
If there is a need and opportunity to create a professional certification in the car wash industry, how should it come about? According to folks who have gone down this path, the process begins by aligning the certification program with a well-established brand name. Arguably, the most logical approach would be to align the program with the International Carwash Association.
Another requirement is to obtain a registered trademark for the certification program to establish its own brand name.
Certification programs consist of a series of training courses. Consequently, program developers would need to identify specific knowledge and skills to be certified, duration of courses, testing parameters, and measures to gauge performance.
Other factors to consider are where and when to conduct the program (e.g., online and/or onsite), who qualifies, how much is it going to cost, etc. Also, how will a certification be maintained once it’s achieved (e.g., continuing education) and under what circumstances will a certification be rescinded?
The mission statement of the ASE is to protect the automotive service consumer, shop owner, and the automotive technician. Arguably, the car wash industry stands to benefit from aligning itself with these goals and objectives.