It was a fairly innocuous photo someone shared with me on Facebook recently. It was the kind of image I have seen hundreds of times. But, for some reason, this time it tripped a switch in my mind.
The picture was of a classroom filled with automotive technicians taking part in training. The members of the class were attentive, and were both diverse in age and even gender. Not an unusual scene, but one I realize I don’t see enough of these days. And, one that immediately reminded me of what that type of scene means to the independent auto care industry.
One of the industry cliches of the past stated that nothing happens in this industry until a technician throws away the box. Without an effective technician force, nothing gets serviced, no product gets sold, no labor gets billed, and no vehicle continues to deliver safe and reliable transportation for families, workers, and commerce until that box is thrown away.
There are countless critical issues facing the industry today and into the future. We focus a great deal of necessary attention on vehicle security, telematics and access to repair information. Without the proper protections — regulatory and legislative — this industry could find itself on the outside looking in when it comes to properly servicing today’s vehicle fleet.
Additionally, recruitment of new talent — both at the shop level, as well as throughout the supplier-distribution channel — is vital to the future of this significant economic sector. Returns, effective inventory management and proper enforcement of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act are all impactful issues facing the auto care industry moving forward. And there are many more.
But foundationally, how we approach training in our industry, especially technical training, is what will decide how successful we all are into the future.
Over the years, my education in this industry came through my affiliation with such fundamental and pragmatic associations as the state wholesaler associations, the National Catalog Managers Association (now the Automotive Content Professionals Network) and the Automotive Training Managers Council. They showed me, through direct experience, how this industry really works, how things get done, how we do business at the ground level.
In my time with ATMC back in the day, I saw a group of dedicated men and women analyze and share best practices, evaluate methods of training delivery, and look for ways to better train those doing the work in the service bays. One of the things that group developed then was a study that strategically determined the return on investment for training — a tool that helped suppliers and distributors, as well as shop owners, determine that the cost of effective training was money well invested.
But, with so many impactful issues facing this industry over the years, the aforementioned photo reminds me that we may have lost track of such a significant issue as training. And, in our position, regularly reporting the news of our industry, I have to admit that I see too little about training and its place in today’s aftermarket. I’m sure there is excellent training going on out there, but our attention on the subject may be lost on other issues.
This is an industry built on the premise of service and repairs done right the first time, usually done the same day, and done with quality parts as good as or better than OE parts. Yet, with more complex vehicle systems, highly computerized systems that require properly trained technicians to diagnose and repair, our commitment to training should and must be at the highest level — within all channels.
Our commitment to training is critical and well worth the investment in time, money, and effort.
Gary A. Molinaro