Do you remember being in school and looking forward to graduation? I’ve told a lot of students and technicians that no one ever really gets out of school. Life is a constant learning process. When you stop learning, you’ve stopped living.
In the automotive world, that statement is twice as true, especially today. New technology five years ago is ancient history now. Today’s automotive professional has to be constantly learning and relearning to keep up. Any shop that plans to stay in business in the future must be aggressively training everyone, including its owners, managers, advisors, and technicians. I know the focus is normally on the technician, but let’s also look at the advisor and management positions.
Digital inspections have made a huge impact on how an advisor can present findings and help remove the doubt that has been so prevalent in our line of work. Now, we can clearly show a client exactly what we are seeing. We can send those inspections to the client’s email or by text. If you are already using this technology, you have probably already noticed how much faster customers respond to this type of communication compared to the telephone. In the past, I would ask the customer what phone number would be best to reach them. Today the question is “Do you prefer email or text?”.
Just as technology has changed the ways that vehicles operate, the way we learn has changed as well. Taking notes in class has even evolved to the point where those of us with pencil and paper are in the minority. Laptops and even audio/visual recorders are taking the place of good old pen and paper.
So what does that mean for us?
We have to adapt to more modern learning methods as well. Training and information sources abound in today’s world. Just google “Automotive Training”. Google lists 147,000,000 results.
Having been an instructor in the Navy and trained several Service Advisors, I know that there are different ways that students learn. It is generally accepted that there are 5 learning styles. They are: Visual, Audible, Verbal, Logical, and Hands-on. Tailoring a learning plan for an individual can be a challenge. The advantage of having technology and so many learning options is that there is likely something for everyone.
Online training can be a blessing, but you also need to be careful. Just because it’s online does not mean it’s good. The statement “You get what you pay for” is true of training just like everything else. I’m sure by now we have all had a customer that attempted some “free-and-easy” repair method from YouTube that turned out to not be so easy. I always advise people to ask someone that’s already tried it or to go with a known reputable source.
My personal favorite training method is what I’d call a modified apprenticeship. I still believe that there is no replacement for learning from an experienced individual. When I say “modified apprenticeship”, that term would include assigned learning stages, along with hands-on training, that are required before moving on to the next level. There’s an old adage that “People do what you INSPECT not what you EXPECT.” Left to their own, most people will take the path of least resistance. Only the truly self-motivated will choose to spend their off-work time advancing their knowledge of their chosen career. The positive spin is that with technology there are so many options now that almost anyone can find a system they like. I suggest giving the technician-in-training an agreed upon assignment with an agreed upon completion date. With this program, if the trainee needs help understanding a concept then there is the hands-on time to ask senior techs for help if needed. Another bonus of this style of training is that the new trainee will often bring up topics that need to be revisited even for senior techs.
Let me close with this statement for owners, you need to change the way you think and train yourself as much or more than any of your employees. “The way we’ve always done it” is not going to continue to work. Just as tune-up shops and carburetor shops died and closed in the past, if you are not willing to change with the times, you will join those who went before you. If you stick that new employee with a degree in automotive technology on the lube rack indefinitely, you will lose them and then complain about the poor quality of this new generation, just like at your grandfather’s garage.
Article By: Bruce McDowell
Bruce is currently a Service Advisor for Garber Diesel Service Truck & Trailer Service Center
Bruce’s credentials include: AMAM through AMI, ASE Certified Service Advisor, Ford Motor Company – Master Service Manager, Master Service Advisor, Master Parts Manager, Master Warranty Administrator plus 2 Management Degrees, Stationary Engineer License, and Retired Navy. And above all… modest.