When is the training?

I have recently been researching what training opportunities are available for the automotive technician. Wow was I surprised by the amount of training materials and courses available. Also amazing is the many different and varying delivery options from books, on-line, on-site, and even a remote college automotive technician program. It appears that there is no shortage of training, however some may argue it is not all good training and I would have to agree with that to a point. Let me explain, I have attended horrible on-site training before and what it taught me was how not to do something. So, in truth, I did learn something. So, with no shortage of available training and many ways to receive it, why wouldn’t every technician participate in some form of training or another. This was a great question so I started considering the following:

Advantage of Continued Training

I asked myself, why would I want to get more training as a technician? After thinking about this for a short time and understanding that I may not be the normal example of a technician, I believe one of the main reasons for me to participate in continued training is to improve my abilities in my chosen field. You may ask what I mean by not “the normal technician”. I have not actively worked on vehicles as my sole occupation for several years now and by not having a steady stream of vehicles coming in the bay my abilities could become rusty. This is where training for me becomes important. If I am expected to stay up with modern technologies, then I must sharpen my skills through training. If you are a technician that works in the bay daily, you are going to see newer models that can pose different diagnostic challenges. To properly diagnose them you must either participate in training or stumble through the diagnosis. I know some systems operate similarly enough to others that diagnosis is basically the same. However, if you’re paid on flat rate and not being efficient with your time then you’re losing money and I don’t know any technician that wants to lose money. For instance, recently a well known automotive instructor and diagnostic specialist Paul Danner (Scanner Danner) had a drivability problem with an Audi S5 which turned out to be caused by an engine mount. This vehicle had been to other repair shops with no success and Paul diagnosed the problem. What relevance does this have? I mention this because Paul was able to repair the vehicle through his knowledge and training. Watch the repair video.

Why Not Participate in Training?

There is one thing that I have determined from the past six years of providing training to technicians across the country is that some are just not interested in being a part of the industry. They may be burned out or just there to receive a check but, for whatever reason, they don’t go to training. Then, regretfully, there will always be a group that might think they are already too smart to need extra training. It did seem, after visiting the same locations year after year, there was a core group of technicians that always attended each year to hear what was new in the category. I occasionally visited the different individual shops where this group of technicians worked and in each instance the shop was very busy and successful. So, I wondered if the trained technician was part of the shop’s success. Once I reviewed the 2016 ATMC benchmark survey and weighed it against what I had seen for those six years repeatedly, I believe the trained technician brings great value to a repair shop. In fact, in a 2015 study done by ASE, a certified technician had 40% higher productivity.  This ATMC study also showed a 38% greater revenue from parts and labor sales by a trained and certified technician.

Technician + Training = Value

So, if a trained technician provides value to a repair shop then why does the shop not make it easy for the technician to attend? According to 39% of the technicians asked in the 2016 ATMC survey, they stated that they were unable to have time away from work to attend training. Another factor was 31% of the technicians paid for their own training. These types of numbers could lead to the reason more technicians don’t participate in training.

Is There a Lack of Technicians or Trained Technicians?

I think there is a lack of properly trained technicians and the reason for this lies squarely on both the shop owners and the technician’s shoulders evenly. You might ask how, as a shop owner, you have been a part of the trained technician shortage? The first thing I would ask you is, with 70 percent of today’s technicians over the age of 45, have you invested any time in your local community college automotive programs? Do you have an apprentice/mentor program at your shop? Do you ever volunteer your time to speak to prospective future technicians at local high school career day? What are you investing in your future technician?

Now, for you technicians, I could ask you these very same questions and quite possibly your answers will mirror your employers. Do you see a pattern here? I do, it’s a consorted effort between everyone in the service side of the industry not just one group. Understand, I don’t intend to group everyone into this stigma.  Those of you technicians or shop owners that are working to promote your industry deserve a big congratulation and have my utmost respect for your efforts. The problem is that too many of us, myself included, at times will say the industry needs to do this or that to improve. I want everyone to fully understand that you and I are “the industry” and if we wait for “the industry” to fix it and we sit on our laurels waiting, it won’t get better.

How to Get More Trained Technicians

I am not going to single out any one section of the industry but here are some thoughts on how to get more trained technicians into this industry. Our industry makes up 2.4% of the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generator. First, current technicians should become active in local community college automotive programs. Just volunteer to go talk to these future technicians. Second, be willing to improve your abilities through training. This can only improve your W2 at the end of the year. Next, shop owners should go with your technician to these programs and talk to the students yourself about the positives of being a shop owner. I am sure some of them could become great future shop owners with just a little encouragement. Shop owners should also consider giving your technicians paid time off for training if it’s offered through the day or paid time off if it’s at night the next morning. Remember, the training they get will help to increase your bottom line. I recently spoke with quite possibly one of the most successful repair shop owners, Judy Zimmerman, that I have ever had the pleasure to talk with. She has implemented several of these ideas over the years with great success. These suggestions have come from discussions with her and not just pulling them from thin air or from a mind that has consumed too many exhaust vapors. Listen to our podcast Episode #5 to learn more about Judy.

In Comparison

I know many people that are successful in their respective industry’s such as health care, the manufacturing industry, and education professionals. One thing I have noticed of all these different occupations have in common when it comes to continuing education or re-certification training, it’s during the day and most of the time paid for by their employer.  Yes, a couple of these occupations require certification to work within that industry, and surprise I have some opinions about that as well as the repair industry, but that’s another article. I welcome your opinions and positive ideas about this subject just send me an email.


By: Richard Young