Vehicles are changing, the cars that you see in your shop today are very different from the ones that your customers brought in 20 years ago.
Service Technicians need ongoing training, that is not open to question. The question is, are you, as an owner, willing to pay for it, either in full or in part? Only you know if your operation is barely above red ink, or if you’re in the position to foot the bill for technician and automotive service writer training.
Instead of asking if you can afford to pay for ongoing training for your staff, ask yourself if you can afford not to. Technicians know that the better skillset they have the more money they can earn and the wider their job opportunities will be. If you don’t believe in continuing education, then the best workers in a dwindling workforce will either avoid working for you or leave your employ as soon as a better opportunity comes along. Even more importantly, shops that value skills, education, and participation in improving the performance of the business have a much better chance of being profitable and far less stressful to run and work for, too.
- In this article we cover
- Affordable Auto Technician Traning
- What to Train
- New Tools, New Knowledge
- Investment not Waste
- Why Train?
- Question Time
Affordable Auto Technician Training
Looking at it from the ‘slim budget’ end first, here are a few steps you can explore with your staff in your location:
1. Check Parts Suppliers and Test-Equipment Manufacturers for Continuing Education. This can be a free or affordable source of seminars, on-the-job advice, and troubleshooting suggestions when you face a difficult repair. The parts suppliers have a vested interest in showing you how to use their parts correctly. N.B. CarQuest offers ongoing training for $1,249 a year for up to six technicians from a shop. If a shop takes advantage of all six slots, the price is just $209 per person.
2. Visit a Local Technical College. The bookstore can supply textbooks for advanced courses that can be an education in and of themselves.
3. Check Out the Library. Interlibrary loans mean you can get a copy of an advanced text for free. It may take a month or more for the book to arrive, but you can’t beat the price.
4. Read the Right Publications. The expense of a subscription or two to the right trade publications can give you valuable advice and should be tax-deductible.
5. Go Online. There are free info and self-taught training available to anyone who goes and gets it. Try Autoshop101 for auto electrical training.
Now, here’s a perspective from those who don’t skimp on providing continuing education for staff. Their number one consideration is establishing a learning culture within the shop. All these steps come from businesses that have made increases in profits from year to year, on a consistent basis:
1. Set Expectations. Current employees and new hires are made to understand that continuing training is a requirement, not just a good idea. ASE certifications, and taking the steps necessary to achieve them, are mandatory and are tied to pay increases. A formal training budget allows owners to choose what (and where) their employees go for training. Being able to say that “all our technicians are ASE Certified” is a good marketing play. Customers respect the opinions of technicians with certificates.
2. Create Incentives. In addition to salary and bonuses, all-expense-paid trips to training seminars, etc., such as the annual ATRA Powertrain Expo, can inspire and motivate staff to want to produce more.
3. Track Progress. By creating a skills profile for each employee, managing their progress can be a group effort, with more skilled employees doing assessments on apprentices.
4. Assign Mentors. By having master technicians guide apprentices by both encouragement and example, your learners will appreciate doing their own research and developing an attentive mind.
5. Create a Training Library. This is your in-house collection of textbooks, training manuals and DVDs that staff can use at work or take home. If hitting the books is not popular with your staff, a subscription to AVI OnDemand may be just the thing for them so they can view content on their laptops anywhere.
What to Train?
The repair industry is changing, there are fewer shops, but each shop has more bays than ever before. Cars are more complex, and the problems are less obvious so can require more diagnostic time than ever before. The days of the carburetor are long gone.
Having more than one staff member that is able to diagnose problems makes sense, having them learn how to use the scan tools efficiently and effectively is vital. The days of listening to noises and throwing parts at the problem are gone. There is so much information available from the latest obd2 scanners that is only available if you know how to read the codes correctly and interpret them.
Buying the scanner isn’t enough, you have to be able to understand what it tells you.
New Tools = New Knowledge
Far too many auto repair shops buy the latest tool from the snap-on-truck but never invest the time it takes to use that tool properly. When your lead diagnostician sits and reads the manual for an hour, he is not wasting an hour of company time, he is gaining knowledge that will earn the company money again and again.
Invest Don’t Spend
You are investing money on training your team, you are not just spending money. You will see a return on the investments you are making. Make sure you are training them in the right areas and in the right technology. They gain a skill set, you gain a more educated employee. The customer’s cars get fixed quicker and easier and you have happy customers
It’s your choice. You can keep doing the same things that shops have always done and hope it works or you can make changes and invest in your shop’s future. How will you respond to a dwindling pool of qualified technicians for your business?
- What education do you need to become a mechanic?
In the past most mechanics were self-taught, learning by doing. With today’s cars being so complicated you do need an education. Your local trade school or technical college will have associates degree courses that take 2 years to complete. If you can work in an apprenticeship in a repair shop while studying it will really help you understand not just the coursework but the actual day to day life of a mechanic
- How long does it take to become a master mechanic?
To become a master mechanic you first need to become a mechanic. Once you are working in the business then you should take as much ongoing training as you can and then do some ASE certifications. Following the career path through to being a master mechanic can take a few years, how many will depend on your abilities and your ongoing training opportunities.
- Is an auto technician a good career?
Cars are not going away, as long as there are motorized vehicles they will break down and need someone to fix them. Repair shops pay good wages to qualified hard working mechanics. Dealerships are seeing a shortage of technicians, this is sure to push wages up. If you are willing to carry on learning your trade then you will make a very good living.