by Bob Beranek

We are all consumers, but what we want as a consumer and what we know as an auto glass professional or shop owner may be two different things. Some may think that licensing technicians will raise prices due to higher labor costs, while others will look at the licensed technician as a true professional and have higher expectations of the completed job. The fact of the matter is that both are right.

Licensing technicians will result in somewhat higher costs in the long run because licensed auto glass technicians would then become harder to find. In states with licensing requirements, technicians will have to go through training, apprenticeship and testing that costs money and time. The technician or employer will have to pay fees for the privilege of doing business in a state. Those costs will have to be passed on to consumers to remain profitable and stay in business. So, yes, the cost of a windshield installation will go up. How much may be difficult to predict, but it will increase.

However, as consumers, the assurance that the job is done right is a strong incentive to support licensing. We put our families and friends in our vehicles and it is important to make sure that the vehicles we drive are safe and secure. We, as consumers, want our choices in service providers to be the correct. If we can eliminate the questions involved with choosing the right auto glass replacement company via licensing, we will take that assurance. Wouldn’t it be easier if the only decision that needed to be made was “Is the installer licensed and certified?”

Sites like Angie’s List, Yelp and Trip Adviser have become popular because the consumer does not want to make a bad decision. Shoppers increasingly look for reviews and advice before they choose a product or service. By licensing and certifying technicians we will help the consumer make the right choice and improve the chances of a safe installation. To me, this sounds like a win/win situation.

If you think that I lean more in favor of licensing technicians than away from it, you would be right. However, there is good licensing and bad licensing. As I alluded to in earlier posts, bad state licensing exists to provide revenue only. Good state licensing produces better service and safety to the consumer. The problem in many states is that bad licensing is easier to get through state legislatures; it is revenue producing and there is less work needed to implement. Good licensing bills will take more work so the chances of passage may be less likely. It will take a concerted effort by the AGR Industry to bring about a good state licensing program, but I think it would be worth it.

Is licensing of technicians a benefit or a detriment to the industry? I have heard strong opinions from a number of sources, including technicians, shop owners, the insurance industry, the government and lastly the consumer or end user.  What I intend to do these next few weeks is to discuss the issue through the eyes of each group. I will give my opinions based on what I see as a member of three out of the five interest groups named above. I am a technician, owner and consumer. Some readers may disagree with my conclusions so I welcome them to share their own opinions.

Let’s start with the technicians. What are the pros and cons of licensing for the technician?

—There may be more training or apprenticeship required;

—There will be fewer technicians, so salaries will rise with demand;

—There will probably be an annual re-licensing fee involved;

—It should raise the auto glass technician in the eyes of the consumer to a higher level of professionalism;

—It may require the need for each tech to purchase liability insurance for protection.

State governments that mandate professional licensing usually require some proof of competence. This proof usually consists of an amount of dictated training and then testing to assure the public of minimum competence. How that training is developed, sanctioned, administrated, delivered and paid for is the big question.

Obviously, training is not free. It will take money and effort to comply with state licensing regulations no matter how user-friendly the programs are. However, compliance may pay for itself by reduced competition and higher product and service prices.

I think it goes without saying that a licensing program will reduce the number of auto glass installers in the states that adopt the program. Of course, the actual number will be dependent on the type of program and how it is administered. The easier it is to obtain a license, than the fewer the installers who are lost.

Conversely, the more demands put upon the licensees and the more expenses there are, the fewer qualified techs there will be for hire. Having fewer licensed techs available means higher salaries for those that go through the process. Though this may look like a big benefit for the technicians, it may be a wash because of training costs and annual licensing fees.

Licensing means annual costs. Each year there will be either added training requirements or licensing fees or both. Some of these costs will be minimal, but depending on a program’s training requirements, the money spent can be higher.

Anyone who has spent any time in our industry knows we are sometimes thought of as unskilled service providers that rank near predatory mechanics, roofers or used-car salesmen. We know differently, but the recent press we have received from the media and the insurance fraud cases that have been made public, do not bode well for our industry and our reputation. Licensing would raise our status to the consumer. Think about how it would look to our customers to have a government issued license to prove our worth. Wouldn’t that be easier to sell? Wouldn’t there be a certain sense of pride?

Licensing does somewhat individualize the process of installation. The technician is a state licensed individual that installs glass for the driving public. The technician replaces a safety device that protects the occupants of the vehicle. The technician works for a company but the company is not licensed the tech is, so there is some level of liability that will fall onto the shoulder of the tech. That individualization comes with a certain amount of responsibility that might require some protection for the technician. Does that mean another expense is required for the technician in the form of a liability insurance policy? Possibly, that would be a question that would have to be asked of an attorney or the legislator writing the bill. How much liability would be placed at the feet of the technician? That is the question that must be answered.

Next week I’ll put on my owner’s hat and see where this subject leads. I would love to read your comments to get a feel for how this subject is playing in the real world.