An I-CAR Platinum™ Passport to an American Dream

10/03/2023 by I-CAR

 

Rickey Nanlall

Collision repair unlocked a world of opportunity for Rickey Nanlall, who found his auto body and mechanics skills highly transportable from his native Guyana. His passport to the American dream he is now living has been I-CAR training and Platinum credentialing. Looking to give back to the industry that has given him so many opportunities and success, Nanlall is an active I-CAR volunteer keen on recruiting youth to the industry.

Nanlall learned about I-CAR a few years before immigrating to the US, and ever since, “I've followed I-CAR. I'm all about I-CAR. Knowledge is power in this industry. I-CAR and ASE are the only things that could take me to the next level. I've come a long way from being a 13-1/2-year-old high school dropout in Guyana.”

 

Learning to Re-Think the Repair Process at Gold Class® Shop

Shortly after arriving in the U.S. in 2015, Nanlall landed a job as a frame technician at db Orlando (Florida) Collision Center, where he had unlimited access to courses through the shop's I-CAR training subscription plan. Working at the I-CAR Gold Class® shop “changed my way of thinking,” he says, explaining he now saw industry standards as the starting place for every repair. The shop owner's vision to open a shop that consistently performs quality repairs parallels I-CAR's, and Nanlall says that “I-CAR is a big part of our business plan.”

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Nanlall worked his way laterally through different tech jobs at Orlando Collision and then upwards. Early in 2023, the shop owner began preparing him to advance from production management to a key leadership post. While the owner will concentrate on building business at a 33,000-sq.-ft. facility the shop is moving to, Nanlall will be second-in-command with general oversight responsibilities.

“I'll be holding everyone accountable for their job responsibilities and making sure all procedures are followed,” he explains. He'll also manage vendor relationships and oversee human resources functions including payroll, employee performance reviews, recruiting, and conflict resolutions. His I-CAR volunteer activities, promoting collision repair careers to youth, complement his management of the shop's student apprenticeship program.

A Journey Undertaken by a South American Teen

It's been a hard-won American dream, not an overnight success story, to get to the award-winning, independent shop where Nanlall is today. Just barely into his teens, he left an auto body trade school program early to help support his family. The paychecks he turned over to his parents helped support his siblings' dreams - a large wedding for a sister and a college education for a brother who wanted to become a teacher - but Nanlall never felt he was sacrificing his own dreams. In fact, he was getting a jump start on them. “There's a saying, 'learn a trade or go to school; choose.' I loved school, but I chose a trade. I knew it was the way to success,” he says. He worked both for his father, a painting contractor, and an uncle, an auto mechanic and welder. His technical skills steadily grew under the watch of caring mentors.

“Between the ages 13 and 20, I bounced around a lot between my uncle and father. When the volume of work was slow at one business, I'd jump over to other side,” he says. Never losing his interest in body work, he began contracting his services to collision repair centers. “To survive, you need to be well rounded. You can't specialize like in U.S. body shops.”

A lot of what Nanlall learned in these formative years of his career overlapped, reinforcing his knowledge and helping him refine his technique. Working for his father, for example, Nanlall “found it interesting that application of paint on buildings had lots of similarities to body refinishing. The chemistry of the product, the need to shape surfaces until level and smooth, the taping — this all helped me with body work.”

With his early start and cross training in multiple disciplines, Nanlall was already a seasoned pro in his early twenties. He offered nearly a decade of experience over other techs his age that he competed with for work. Now with a wife and baby, he pursued a better life, moving first to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on a work permit sponsored by a Land Rover dealership. He adapted to life in the BVI without experiencing culture shock or language hurdles. Guyana is a Caribbean rather than Latin American country, lying on the northeast coast, and is the only English-speaking country in South America.

In addition to on-the-job training, Nanlall researched industry and OEM information on his own, always wanting to learn. “I never stopped reading collision repair articles. I was always pushing myself. I wanted to continue my education with online courses and to get certifications.” He asked a trainer at a paint clinic how he could improve his skills and learned about I-CAR, although I-CAR training was not available in the islands.

Nanlall's strong work ethic brought him extra income opportunities to help support his growing family. He worked so many hours that his wife began to join him at the shop in the evenings to spend time with him. She picked up some basics along the way. “She knows about the tools, the different grades of sandpaper. She knows how to prep a car, mask it and prime it,” Nanlall says.

Finding a Place to Put Down Roots and Grow

It was Nanlall's wife who suggested leaving the BVI. Life was good for the dozen years they spent there, says Nanlall, “but there was no way to advance, and there were many restrictions to opening your own business.”

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Nanlall finally put down roots in the U.S. where he could grow. “We'll never move from here. There's so much freedom and opportunity.” The couple chose to settle in Florida where they had some relatives and friends. One of those friends referred Nanlall to his current employer. The new shop seemed an ideal fit for Nanlall, and the shop owner felt the same way about Nanlall. A well-rounded tech was a godsend for new shop owner Drew Bryant whose first-hand experience with collision repair was not skills-based but rather a botched-up repair of his car. It was a chance partnering that seems meant to be. Wrapped up in the success of Orlando Collision are two American dreams, that of Bryant, a former restaurant manager, and Nanlall, a jack-of-all-collision-repair-skills tech from South America.

Nanlall's story doesn't end here. “I still have room to grow,” he says, including his I-CAR volunteer work to recruit young talent. “I want to catch kids when they're 13 or 14. I want to motivate them and let them know there's a future in this industry.” He believes his early decision to enter the auto trade gives him insights in how to connect to young teens. When looking for student apprentices - the shop now has four - or entry-level techs, he explains, “I'm not hiring skills. I want to hire young people who are hungry (for success), and I look for loyalty. I ask how long they stay at jobs and what their plan is. If they can't tell me what they plan for next year, where they expect to be in a couple years, that's a problem. They need to know what they want.”

Nanlall's American dream still is unfolding. “I have to teach and mentor. I'll be so unfinished if I don't.”

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