By Ronnie Wendt
ELKHART, Ind. — Industry insiders have described 2018 as the year of technician training. Thus, it certainly made sense for the RV Industry Association to have representatives on hand to field questions about its new service tech training initiative, the RV Technical Institute.
Dealers visiting the Thor, Forest River and Winnebago exhibits were able to stop and learn more about the program and what it means to the industry. RV Daily Report stopped by to get the finer details about this exciting new program as well.
The overall mission of the RV Technical Institute is to “Improve the RV consumer experience by reducing repair event cycle times and aggressively growing the pool of trained service technicians.”
Matt Wald, vice president of strategic initiatives for the RVIA reported that as the association dug into the service tech shortage and RECT, they were able to identify three key areas for improvement upon which all working moving forward will be based. These are:
- Standardize and centrally manage training and curriculum.
- Identify and recruit new technicians.
- Create a clear career path for new and existing RV technicians.
Wald reports RVIA is ready to launch its first completely new curriculum in 13 years. This curriculum will include a mix of classroom instruction, study guides, videos, etc., which will be delivered by regional partners across the United States.
There are three levels to the curriculum. The first, which will soon be ready to begin beta testing, is Level I PDI; the second is Level II Advanced Diagnostic Repair, which is still in development; and then there is Specialty tracks covering things like chassis or refrigerator repair, which technicians can complete to earn Master Technician status.
The most unique change in the program, however, isn’t the curriculum itself but how those going through it will be trained and tested on their skills, reports Wald. He explains they will follow the Teach. Practice. Apply. philosophy. “Students will be taught how to do it, then they will watch someone do it, and then they will fix it themselves,” he says. “Your assessment will be how well you applied what you know. Did you diagnose the problem and repair it right the first time?”
This is the first time the industry has involved technicians in developing the training. Brandon Galbraith, the 2018 winner of the Tech Challenge, was very hands on in the curriculum development. But, states Wald, he was but one of many technicians who had a hand in curriculum changes. “We always had gotten the voice of the dealers and the manufacturers [in curriculum and standards development] but this time we added the voice of the technicians too,” he says. “We asked them how they like to be trained and every single one of them told us they like training to be hands on.”
They also indicated that though they have a wealth of practical knowledge, they are not always good test takers. Wald says, “No longer will a test be the be all to end all. A technician can take tests or he can do a practical assessment to get certification. Passing a test at the end is not as important as their ability to fix it.
He laughs and adds, “You might be able to teach me and I might be able to pass a test, but I can assure you, I would be the last person you’d want working on your RV. That’s just not something I’m able to do.”
There’s been concern in the industry that Elkhart, Indiana, will be the center for technician training, which dealers have stated is not affordable or practical. But Wald states this is not the case. “The facility in Elkhart will focus on recruiting new technicians to the industry, but our partners throughout the country will take the curriculum and use it to train these new recruits,” he says. “But, for the first time, we will have a standard core curriculum that is taught the same way across the country.”