I have served as an Active Duty Airborne Infantry soldier, in Combat, for most of my adult life. I did change over from NCO to Officer, by earning a slot for Officer Candidate School. After which time, I became a 13A Field Artillery Officer. I was wounded in combat, which led to my honorable discharge from the military.
My father bought into the Dent Wizard franchise in Memphis, TN in the late 80’s early 90’s. I grew up having to fix dents and it was something I hated. I wanted to get a college education and the military provided me a way out. The U.S. Army paid for my Undergraduate Degree from Crichton College and Masters of Divinity from Liberty University.
Wisdom is supreme--so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
Unlike all of the other memberships, bestowed awards, and "certifications" from passing a workshop, Vale doesn't play favorites or care if you passed their test or not.
The Vale Certification is not without its problems:
However, it does one thing very well, it answers the question, "can this person fix a dent to perfect, under a computer gaze." In every profession, however, that's often not enough. We all know people who are qualified but lazy, which is in part why this certification has gotten lots of negative feedback within the Paintless Dent Repair community. Vale Certified technicians were hard to come by originally. They were sought after by insurance companies and there were a multitude of technicians who simply couldn't pass the exam. The price tag, along with the penalty for failure, made it a challenge for the young and hungry technicians, who wanted to make a name for themselves. The older generation of technicians initially loved the concept of Vale, it was also no surprise that they universally passed the exam. It seemed like a shoo-in for many generations to come.
Vale then made a fatal mistake after it reached about 2500 technicians. They added three ranking stages to the hardest and final exam: Master Craftsman. This wouldn't have mattered very much if it actually had any real value, but it didn't. Essentially, during the exam, you can ask for a series of computer checks, before the final check. Think of it as a grade from the computer before the final grade. However, since the test is on a very tight timer, getting a check hurts you twice. Essentially, if you repaired all of the dents within the time allotted and you only needed three checks, you get Master Craftsman III. In contrast, if you did the same procedure with four checks, you get Master Craftsman II. With a maximum of five checks, Vale didn't really find the "break" point that added any value to the title. Furthermore, they further ostracized the older generations because they felt snubbed for joining at no small fee and time without the opportunity to earn the Master Craftsman II and III titles. Furthermore, it seems like VALE were just going for a money grab. As a result, the certification still holds value within the industry but at the moment, they are disliked within the community.
In conclusion: Vale Certification at the Master Craftsman level has value on straight ability to repair dents and dings. However, we are looking for VALE to make some changes to how they do business.
ARC is not something that you can seek out and earn. Rather, it is bestowed by members within the community. It isn't just handed out for being good. It's designated by the PDR world for being amazing.
Where VALE falls short, ARC picks up the slack:
ARC stands for Accountable, Reliable, and Credible. Quite simply, it is the only definitive way to know, without having met a technician that they are ready to work without additional guidance or support.
It meets a very real need in an industry that is driven on trust. Often times when a large hail catastrophe hits a region, hundreds of Paintless Dent Repair technicians are mobilized. They arrive at the location and find a spot at a body shop or dealership, etc. With millions of dollars worth of damage, they waste no time and break into teams. A hail damaged car is typically processed in teams of two or three technicians working on one vehicle at a time, with another team of removal and reinstallation professionals on standby.
Once the car has been broken down to its least common denominator, the real work of paintless dent removal begins. The interior is removed, hood off, trunk off, and anything else that might stand in the way of a tool touching the backside of metal. Then the dance of tapping and pushing begins, the sound is deafening with dozens of small taps and tinkering continues in the background as dents and dings are removed. None of the techs have spoken yet, other than a nod since they work in silence to protect their hearing. One guy seems to be in his own world and you have completed 90% of the car by yourself on this 50/50 split pay. You look over at his 10% and it needs to be reworked. He is gone! He is not forgotten as word spreads throughout the ranks, he may get another shot next year, but not with this group. This is where VALE fails and ARC succeeds.
Instead of a blacklist, its a whitelist of the very best, the guy that can stand toe-to-toe with you and earn his keep. The guy that understands that the mad dash to finish line of this storm, to get to the next one is the difference between a 200k year and a 500k year. There is no place for amateurs in this world, its dog eat dog, and it's not personal, it's about our families livelihood.
ARC was instituted by David Haxton. He owns and operates a large paintless dent repair company that has grown to be one of the largest in North America. If quality per technician was the metric, they would be the largest by far. Unlike Vale and other memberships or certifications, ARC is bestowed not saught out. To take an example from the culinary arts, it is a Michelin star. The technician receives this honor by secret shoppers and specifically being pointed out by another member of ARC.
In fact, we had no voice at all until the National Alliance of Paintless Dent Repair Technicians. If Vale answers the question, “Can you fix a dent” and ARC answers the question, “Can you work with others”, then NAPDRT answers the question, “If I'm being asked to do something unethical to your car, by big auto, where can I turn?
In short, it helps us lobby for more comprehensive guidelines that are less arbitrary.
This includes an outdated pricing matrix that was built on a direct repair model in the mid-1980’s. In the 1980s, I could put a tool virtually anywhere on a vehicle without fear, today if I put a tool near your headlight and you have road tracking assistance, I just spent 1500$. As a result, we have had to master every year, make, and model of vehicle with zero fiscal motivation. Consequently, many of the best technicians have moved away from hail damage and into other fields within the industry. There is no shortage of Paintless Dent Removal procedure technicians in the hail realm. They are being trained in record numbers, but there is no oversight. All that they seem to care about is the dollar sign at the end of the repair, and since most customers cannot tell the difference between an 80% repair and a 100% repair, the deck seems stacked against quality. Furthermore, those that are in power seem to like the 80% repairs more, since that feeds the body shop machine. We are seen as outsiders that have encroached into their very lucrative operation. Not only have we stepped on their profits, but we also have an unbeatable set of truths.