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Our Own Worst Enemy

Scarcity or abundance? The future is in your hands.

by Tom Bissonnette, executive director, Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers (SAAR)

The recent pandemic has magnified some ugly truths about the collision industry. Notwithstanding the current supply chain issues, we are seeing a human supply issue in the form of a shortage of qualified collision repair technicians. According to the Government of Canada’s Statistics in 2018, the average worker in the collision industry was 42 years old. Presumably, they are now 45 years or older.1

I have talked to many shops over the last few years, and many of them brag that they simply hire qualified techs from other shops. They cannot be bothered to take on apprentices. Our schools used to have great work education programs where students could try various job opportunities to see if they liked them. With school funds being limited, these programs were the first to be cut. Many shops did not want the bother of mentoring these young people anyway, so nobody missed these programs when they were gone.


I belong to the Antique Auto Club here in Saskatoon, and when I go to its meetings and events, all I see is white hair and balding heads. My fear is that when all these old guys pass away, their widows will have an auction sale and all these vehicles will be sold to somebody that has no idea how to restore and preserve them.

So, what are you going to do about it? Yeah—that’s right. I said what are YOU going to do about it?


Our industry has been its own worst enemy simply due to our lack of engagement. I get it, you are all super busy and have no time to get involved in determining the future of our industry, but you have plenty of time to complain and whine about the circumstances that are hindering your business.

Are there training opportunities you would like to see in your province? Why don’t you engage the technical schools and training providers to make that happen?

So your insurance partners treat you unfairly and do not pay a decent door rate? Why don’t you get involved with your nearest auto body association and start working towards positive change?

You don’t like your auto body association? They don’t do anything for you? Here’s a novel idea, why don’t you get involved and help them make improvements that will benefit all the shops in your marketplace?

“Oh no!”—you say? “I could never do that, make the industry better for my competitors!”

Steve Graves, an online mentor of mine, recently authored an article called, Can You Win Without Someone Else Losing?

In this article, which I hope you take the time to read, he talks about two mindsets—abundance and scarcity. Abundance thinking is that there will be more if we work together rather than “if we all just try and snatch the biggest piece of the pie.”2 The scarcity mindset is always in competition, “looking for the edge to win and to defeat.”3

Some of you might be thinking I am nuts, but if you have the scarcity mindset, I would ask you: “How’s it going so far?”

Look folks, I have good news and bad news, the good news is that your future is in your hands. Interestingly, the bad news is that your future is also in your hands. Unless we can all figure out a way to work together to make our industry one of innovation and collaboration, I fear that shops will end up being run by bald or white-haired old guys who end up passing away, leaving their wives to sell out to a consolidator.

1 Job Bank (November 6, 2022). “Job Prospects: Auto Body Technician—Collision in Canada.” Government of Canada. Retrieved November 26, 2022.

2 Graves, S. (November 14, 2022). “Can You Win Without Someone Else Losing?” The Steve Graves Weekly. Retrieved November 26, 2022.

3 Ibid.