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Is it time for certification?

October 11, 2010
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With the rapid changes in technology occurring in the detail business, with detailers transitioning from wholesale to retail detailing, and with all kinds of vehicles coming at us from every manufacturer, there has never been a more critical time to contemplate why certification might be an important consideration for the detail industry.

Professional image

Detailers all over the country complain about the difficulty of finding qualified individuals to work for them.

Employees who demonstrate a professional work ethic and who will commit themselves to the detail industry are critically important to a successful detail business.

The problem is that nearly anyone can get into the detail business because it is a low-cost of entry business. There are a number of uneducated people in the industry with the "I go my own way" attitude. They paint a picture of detailers that isn't much more than a shoe-shine boy. Certainly it is not a professional image.

It's nice to think you are an artist, but what the detail industry needs are qualified technicians. With each new vehicle that hits the streets, the need for professional detailers who know and respect what they're doing becomes more and more essential.

Experienced employees

It's important to note that there can be different levels to a person's credentials. The basic detailer might have entry level skills, and while that can be very good, they simply do not have sufficient experience.

Read that again: Basic detail training is not intended to be a substitute for experience. That's what the higher levels of training and ultimately certification should address.

When you want to distinguish between a professional who has both quality training, and experience and one who is just starting out you have to look to a certification program as an accurate method of measurement.

If you've been detailing for more than one year, and have had some formal training, you would be eligible for certification. There must be a study guide and follow-up exam to qualify for certification.

In the auto trades there are entry-level certifications that demonstrate that an individual has read and understood the fundamentals required to perform the job.

Once a person achieves that merit, the next step is to get advanced training, which in our industry happens for the most part on the job and over a period of several years.

At that point, the detailer validates their skills in their own mind, but has no documentation to prove they are what they say they are.

Master of your domain

If there were a way to acquire an Advanced or Master Detailer certificate this could be a huge step in bringing credibility to the industry.

Those detailers who could qualify for certification would enjoy:

  • Better job opportunities;
  • Increased pay;
  • Greater respect and recognition; and
  • The satisfaction in knowing they have elevated themselves significantly above entry-level requirements.

These are the detail professionals who employers agree are so difficult to find these days. These are the professionals who have recognized their future is in the detail business and will carry the industry and their own detail businesses forward.

How about you? What have you done this year to improve yourself professionally? Many manufacturers are making it more convenient than ever to participate in training seminars. Even Car Wash/Detail Associations offer many seminars on detailing.

This isn't certification, but it is a start. There aren't comprehensive examinations administered in a supervised test location. However, materials covered reflect changes in technology and techniques.

Test yourself

There are currently no tests to make the certification process valid, but there are opportunities for detailers to improve.

Before, there was simply trial and error, but not anymore. Now an interested detailer can find information on detailing they want from suppliers, associations and the Internet.

You need to take charge of your future and put your plans into action today. Then you need to press your colleagues, suppliers, associations, and anyone who will listen to figure out a way to develop a Detail Certification Program.

You are more than half-way there if you take the initiative to do your own studying for the Detail Certification Program to come. If you have any ideas on how to set up a certification program for the detail industry please contact me.

R.L."Bud" Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR. Bud is a 36 year veteran of the carwash and detail industries and currently serves on the International Carwash Association Board of Directors. He can be contacted at

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