The rapid expansion and popularity of vehicle wraps has transformed what once was a specialty item into a more traditional request from both car-crazy consumers and businesses with on-the-road advertising needs.
But that growth also means competition for sign companies and installers, not to mention a market flooded with products of various qualities. As a result, many installers are discovering that professional wrap training—and the certification that comes along with it—can help produce more customers, and keep your shop top-of-mind for referrals and repeat jobs.
Marco Oliveria, tech service supervisor for 3M Commercial Solutions, says his company’s Advanced Installer Training, a three-day, hands-on course, will provide even experienced installers with the additional technical skills necessary for perfect jobs.
“The training classes consist of training on many different surfaces, including floors, smooth and textured walls, corrugated surfaces with rivets and vehicles, just to name a few,” he says. “We specifically train on the Chevy HHR, as it’s one of the more difficult vehicles to wrap.”
And while Oliveria says do-it-yourselfers can learn many of the basics by watching videos or even experimenting on their own, personal instruction from a factory-trained installer is critical in getting the best results, every time.
“The most difficult thing we do as instructors is keeping our hands in our pockets, because we always want to jump in and fix the issues the students are having right away,” he adds. “Instead, we try to let them work it out on their own, first. We also encourage them to make every piece work, as if it’s the last piece available at their shop.”
3M’s three-day Advanced Installer Training course costs about $1,500 and will earn a participant the 3M Preferred Graphics Installer title.
“This is a benefit to your potential customers, as they will have the confidence and assurance that their jobs will be done to the highest standard,” Oliveria says. “For the installer, there is so much value in being aligned with the brand, so they continually work hard to keep a positive relationship between themselves, their customers and 3M.”
Destiny Rotuno, who coordinates wrap training classes for Avery Dennison and its partners, the Wrap Institute, holds two-day training courses in 25 cities across the U.S. and Canada.
“The time it takes to learn to wrap depends on the skills of the person and the amount of time they are willing to put in,” Rotuno says.
Participants receive a tool belt with a range of application tools, plus a roll of material of their choice, and are immersed in full days of instruction technique. In addition to digitally-printed film training—learning skills on windows and walls—in addition to vehicle surfaces, the manufacturer also offers training for its own Supreme Wrapping Film, with additional expertise in custom work such as textured, matte, chrome or ColorFlow treatments.
In addition to training, Rotuno says participants can also register for Avery Dennison’s certification exam, which consists of a written component as well as hands-on testing.
“We recommend that an installer has wrapped about 10 cars before signing up for the exam,” she explains. “One an installer passes the course, they are an Avery Dennison Certified Wrap Installer, and can create a profile on our website. The certification is good for life and they don’t have to re-certify.”
Rebekah Starkey Keasling, marketing manager for Lowen Color Graphics in Hutchinson, Kansas, says her company takes an even more intensive approach to installation training, with participants emerging with near-craftsman quality skills in wrap technique. The company does offer on-site training for large crews, but official certification testing needs to be done in an authorized training facility.
“Our classes are five days, 8 to 10 hours a day for beginners, or three days for our advanced installers,” she says. “This includes training on 11 different types of applications, as well as several hours of classroom training on product knowledge.”
Starkey Keasling suggests students have at least some basic sign-making skills, but says the biggest key to success is flexibility and the ability to put in long days on real jobs.
“Good manual dexterity is important, as well as physical endurance for climbing all over a vehicle or being on scaffolding for hours on end,” she explains. “The training procedures themselves can seem simple but take time and training to execute well.”
Those who successfully complete the training will be designated Lowen Certified, which indicates they are in compliance with all stated manufacturers’ warranties. The certification also comes with an invitation to be part of the Lowen Installation Alliance, a national network of installers who are invited to bid on millions of dollars in jobs, annually. Lowen’s training is largely geared toward 3M graphics installers, she adds, but the training is also applicable to all other major manufacturer’s materials.
Jason Yard, marketing director with Mactac and Application Nation, based in Stow, Ohio, says he also suggests shops consider training which can provide PDAA Master Certification, a non-manufacturer-linked certification level created and administered by the SGIA.
“They will train and test on several different manufacturers’ products,” he says. “The biggest benefit to becoming certified by an organization like PDAA is industry recognition and job recommendations.”