Chesney: The future of automotive education

Industry needs to step & support ASE, education

Chris Chesney

Over the last few years I’ve shared my point of view on all things that affect your readiness to serve your customers. And I think that most of you have grasped the significance that this topic provides in the way of providing a valuable service to your community as well as creating great opportunity for you and your team. But lately I’ve been focused on the topic of automotive education to the extent that this column is beginning to trend toward that topic every issue. 

As part of my routine of reviewing what I’ve shared in the past, in preparation for this next edition, I found myself trying to stitch together the ‘how did we get in this predicament in the first place’ explanation so we could find common ground in coming together in a meaningful way to solve the issues we face today. Over the last couple of months, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of clarity about this topic. So, let’s dig in.

I’ve mentioned several times that I sense a high level of fear and uncertainty in our industry not unlike what I saw in the early 70s when government was threatening to regulate our industry. In June of 1972 the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence was formed as a non-profit organization with the mission of improving the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and ‘certifying’ automotive professional on behalf of industry. Put another way, ASE was formed to support industry and expected industry to guide them in that effort. It was industry that helped form ASE and it was industry that ASE expected to help support the mission. 

Yet in less than 20 years industry stopped holding up it’s end of the deal. ASE started an education foundation (NATEF now ASE Education Foundation) which accredited schools and instructors in an effort to support industry. Industry was supposed to participate in advisory boards and task list reviews in a way that supported the mission of ASE. Yet many of the ASE accredited programs struggle to assemble advisory boards and if you’ve ever attended a task list review session you’ll maybe see one or two participants from industry. 

If you haven’t caught on yet, industry has not held up its end of the deal! We complain about schools not producing entry level technicians with skills we can use. I constantly hear industry say, ‘He may be ASE certified, but he can’t fix a car.’ Yet when ASE asks us to support them we fail to deliver. It’s industry’s fault!

During the last 30 years of ASE’s existence and with the lack of meaningful industry support, they turned to education for help. Of course, education had significant skin in the game and came to the table willingly. But the problem with education being the sole source of support for ASE is that they were too far removed from industry to fully understand industry’s needs. Many educators had been out of industry for so long they were no longer current. And again, when you look at why they were not relevant, the cause is staring you right in the face every morning. Industry stopped supporting education even before it abandoned ASE. Again, the fault lies with us!

So, what is the solution? It is simple. Industry must take is rightful place in supporting ASE and Education. ASE will open its arms gladly. Conversations are already being made about how Industry can come back to the table in support of ASE and Education. To join those conversations, you need to simply reach out to and join the Education Team and the Road to Great Technicians effort. It’s our industry. It’s our fault. It’s our responsibility. It’s our best chance.