Longtime instructor and shop owner puts teaching in practice every day
San Jose, Calif. — Doug Roach has been in the collision repair industry in two different capacities since the 1980s and enjoys wearing both hats. As the owner of Collision Repair Specialists in Silicon Valley and an I-CAR instructor of 35 years, Roach wants to repair cars right and then teach others to do the same.
“I have always looked at myself as a teacher first and a shop owner second,” Roach said. “I always stress craftsmanship and an eye for detail with the proper procedures. Information is important, and it must come from the factory via I-CAR or some educational source, but some things can’t be taught. The cars are changing all the time, with new metals and complex computer systems and those require new techniques, but many aspects of this industry are the same. You have to learn the basics first and that opportunity has been is lost in many instances.”
The fact that many high schools are no longer teaching auto tech classes is a big problem for the future of the collision repair industry, Roach said. “It’s a shame, because all of these classes are now gone and not just in the automotive segment. Drafting, woodworking, metal shop and many of these hands-on classes have been eliminated by shortsighted administrators or school boards, so who is going to be doing these jobs in the future? The young person has no introduction to the trades. I have never met a parent with high school kids who doesn’t agree with me about shop classes, but the schools and the politicians are dropping them right and left.”
A graduate of San Jose State University who taught auto mechanics and metal shop at the high school level upon graduation, Roach left the profession to work at a family shop and then began teaching I-CAR classes, a job he has held now for the past 35 years, he said.
In the early days of I-CAR, there were only a handful of trained instructors and the curriculum was limited. “I-CAR was established in 1979 and I got involved in 1983, so I was there at the beginning,” Roach said. “There were only seven classes back then and the curriculum was rudimentary. I was one of the 10 instructors who helped developing many of the classes and taught them all. We used to teach at NACE every year back then and I worked closely with I-CAR’s first director of curriculum development, Steve Nagy, who is now retired. There are 10 of us who have donated 1,000 hours to the organization, but as far as I know, I’m the only still teaching from that experienced and talented group of instructors.”
Roach is proud when he looks at what I-CAR has achieved over the decades. “It’s a huge business now and still the industry leader,” he said. “There is no second-place contender out there — some smaller independent schools and organizations offer training, but they’re not recognized like I-CAR. I still love teaching the classes and have no plans to stop, because I can see we’re still a strong organization that is doing positive things for this industry.”
In 1983, Roach went to work at a shop that was owned by his father-in-law and four years later he opened his own shop with a partner who he bought out eight years later. Today, Collision Repair Specialists employs seven people and is considered to be a shop that won’t deviate when it comes to proper OE repairs, he said.
In 2004, Roach and his wife, Debra, adopted four children from Siberia, Russia, and home schooled them. Now Pasha “Paul” Roach, 25, is the shop’s general manager while his brother, Arthur, 19, is learning everything from at least one very experienced teacher. “They’re fourth generation, because my wife’s grandfather started a body shop back in 1949,” Roach said. “Paul is very hands-on and Arthur is a fast learner. Right now he’s doing disassembly, assembly, prepping cars for paint and learning everything he can and I’m proud of both of them. They’ve both also taken many I-CAR classes themselves.”
Roach has seen the industry change and has been able to adapt every step of the way to succeed, he said. “Back when I started, there were more shops in San Jose, but now there is a lot of competition in this area and that has changed the business climate in many ways. We used to spray lacquer and worked primarily on full-frame American cars. We took Polaroids for the estimators, wrote estimates by hand and most shops pulled the vehicles right on the floor, without a lift or a hoist. We would use shims to make the fenders and headlights fit, just like the factory. So things have really changed and body technicians today need to know so much more than their predecessors.”
Living on a seven-acre dairy farm in Gilroy, Roach wants to set up his adopted sons and employees for ongoing success at Collision Repair Specialists before he steps down. “I still love what I’m doing, so why quit now? This is an exciting time in this industry, so I may cut my hours gradually, but I want to stay involved for as long as I can.”