Confront the Tech Revolution
Vital advice for new technicians and shop owners on navigating the maze of training resources.
Whether you’re a new technician entering the automotive world, or you know someone who is – perhaps you’ve just hired one or two – it’s critical to understand one thing: Your education is never finished!
“The future belongs to those who can do more than repair a car; it belongs to those who can understand inbound technology and connect the dots to the service opportunities it offers,” says Donny Seyfer, past chairman of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), organizer of ASA’s 2017 Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) event and co-owner of Seyfer Automotive in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
The technological crush affects all facets of the industry, from those who build vehicles to those who fix them. Rather than being fully prepared and ahead of the technological curve, the industry has lulled itself into accepting “playing catch-up” as the norm. But make no mistake: Rushing to implement technology creates training gaps that impact everyone.
New vehicles equipped with new technology are often sold before the education necessary for their complete safe service and repair has been made available. In addition, spiraling vehicle recalls, especially software, further compound the problem due to post-sale service fixes that need to be disseminated to the service trade.
Those examples of training lag create post-sale service gaps that demonstrate training has not been the manufacturers’ priority. To their credit, many automakers and their suppliers – collectively, OEMs – have made great strides in collaborating sooner with the aftermarket and begin sharing the information needed to train service and repair professionals earlier. If only it were all of the OEMs.
Begin facing up to the challenges of new technology by identifying, then relying on, credible training resources. Fortunately, the training provided by ASA and some other organizations is capable of addressing the needs of new technicians. What follows is a condensed list that describes what training they offer, why they’re relevant to your training path and a weblink for more information:
Automotive Management Institute (AMi): AMi is the largest provider of automotive business management education, offered online and at various ASA events, Offering 700-plus courses, AMi focuses on five areas of business management: Marketing and sales; operations and service; management and administration; financial management; and human-resource development.
Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS): CARS is an industry leader in providing technical mechanical service, management and other training on advanced topics such as advanced driver assisted safety systems (ADAS), electro-mobility, telematics, cybersecurity, connectivity and autonomous driving. Held in Las Vegas during Industry Week, CARS attendees can easily access APPEX, SEMA, AVI and other co-located automotive conferences.
International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE): Now co-located with Automechanika and known as NACE Automechanika, the annual event is dedicated to high-end technical and management-related training, with an industry-leading focus on automotive collision and service repair.
ASA-Sponsored Educational Events and Affiliate-Sponsored Events: ASA also provides numerous educational opportunities on a national level, as well as regionally through ASA affiliate and local chapter events. Examples include the CAN Conference in Illinois (asailcan.com), Super Saturday in Pennsylvania (asashop-pa.org) and Automotive Training Expo in Washington (atetrainingexpo.com). Also check out these related opportunities:
- VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo, an industry-renowned event providing automotive service professionals with management and technical training. It also hosts an educators’ think tank that’s well attended by industry professionals, educators and students.
- WORLDPAC Technical Institute (WTI) works in conjunction with automakers to deliver detailed system-specific, advanced level diagnostic training to independent repair technicians. Courses are typically full-day offerings available at other industry events or WORLDPAC’s annual Supplier & Training Expo.
- Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) seeks to provide every person in the collision repair industry with the knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs. To do that, I-CAR has developed deep relationships with automakers for authentic information and delivers it via industry-recognized career tracks to service professionals at many of the events listed above.
- Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC) focuses on electro-mobility and delivers hybrid, plug-in and electric-vehicle service and repair training, both theory and hands-on experiences. Its programs focus on automotive technicians already in the field, automotive educators teaching students aspiring to become technicians, first responders, municipal fleets U.S. military personnel and consumers.
- Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) is the leading trade association comprised of automotive tool and equipment manufacturers, as well as the providers of technical information, telematics, connected car, automated driving, cybersecurity and other emerging services. ETI works closely with automakers, suppliers, government regulators and the service/repair aftermarket. Of note: Its annual ToolTech conference provides first-hand information regarding the technology trends impacting inbound vehicles and the tooling required to service them. For instance, would knowing that cloud-based apps could replace many of your current diagnostic tools impact future tool and training decisions?
- International Automotive Technicians Network (iATN) is the largest network of automotive service and repair professionals in the world, with nearly 85,000 members from 175 countries. It provides a forum for the peer exchange of knowledge, experience and the promotion of education, professionalism and integrity. If you didn’t join iATN as a student, talk to your employer and associates about doing so now.
Consider the concerns shared by these three industry influencers:
“The automobile industry’s training model is about 75 years old, and it’s been broken for about 70 of them. Going forward, our focus must be on getting technicians ready and capable to work on any vehicle. To that end, it’s essential that training begin moving toward being system-specific in nature, rather than vehicle-specific.”
– Chris Chesney, senior director for CARQUEST Technical Institute’s Customer Training
“Aftermarket training has become a haphazard and expensive exercise. Too often, the training delivered at an event seminar doesn’t align with the brief paragraph description in the event’s program attendees select from. Nor does it match what the training attendees needed and expected to get. If we ever want to close the service gaps we are creating ourselves, we need to collectively address this problem.”
– Bob Augustine, technical training manager for Christian Brothers Automotive
“While exploding technology is creating service gaps that training isn’t keeping pace with, it’s no accident that it’s the same automakers helping trainers to provide service professionals with detailed and complete aftermarket training whose cars are being properly fixed. The reality is that we need more automakers to do that.”
– Rob Morrell, director of management and technical training, WORLDPAC Training Institute
As technology has ratcheted up, history has shown that training has been approaching a critical turning point. For the short term, new technicians and their employers can rely on the training sources described earlier. But over the longer term, the three comments by Chesney, Augustine and Morrell frame a path forward.
We need to fix our model so that it delivers relevant training with minimal, or ideally, no lag. We need to respect attendees’ expensive investment in training by better describing training-course content in event literature and ensuring that it matches what was actually delivered. Finally, we need to work with like-minded OEMs to make training content as complete and as service-gap free as possible.