Hopkins: RVIA Trouble Shooters Gains Ground
Yet another signal of an improving RV marketplace was the strong attendance at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) latest Trouble Shooter Clinic, which drew 104 U.S. and Canadian RV service technicians March 8-12 to Ivy Tech Community College on the east side of Elkhart, Ind. Much to the approval of RVIA Vice President of Standards and Education Bruce Hopkins, a 30-year RVIA veteran who has overseen the program since its inception, that was the largest class since March 2007. Hopkins, who chatted with RVBUSINESS.com during a break in the action, calls Trouble Shooters “the best hands-on training for RV service technicians that’s provided in the industry.”
Watch today’s featured video on this week’s clinic.
RVB: Do you find it significant that here, coming out of the recession, a program like Trouble Shooters is getting its legs back in terms of attendance.
Hopkins: I think that this particular clinic with 104 students indicates that the industry is in fact returning because it says that the dealers are sending their technicians here to get the training. And over the last two years so much of the training has been delayed. Oftentimes, in a recessionary situation, education is the first thing to go. And now, we are coming back, as indicated by the level of participation this week.”
RVB: How many years has RVIA been doing Trouble Shooter Clinics?
Hopkins: RVIA has been doing Trouble Shooter Clinics for more than 15 years. We started in about 1993. It was an opportunity for the suppliers to come and give training to the dealers so that while the RV manufacturers put on their own dealer training sessions, we can really get into more in-depth and cover all the types (of components) better than the hour or two that the manufacturers had to give for training right at their own shops.
RVB: Trouble Shooters is an unusual program, is it not?
Hopkins: This program is quite unusual from the standpoint that it’s probably the best hands-on training that’s available, plus all of the courses are delivered by the vendors themselves.
RVB: So, the clinics are proprietary in that component suppliers are addressing their own equipment.
Hopkins: Yes, the instructors try very hard to get their points across with the products that they’re dealing with. But they also try to do it on a general basis because the tech at the dealership has to deal with everything, no matter what brand it is. So, by having two different vendors in air conditioning, for example, they get to see what the differences are. Many air conditioners work the same. But here, with both vendors (presenting sessions), they get to see what the differences are and how those appliances are actually treated.
RVB: Tell us some specifics of this latest Elkhart clinic?
Hopkins: This week’s class is really great because it’s the first time that we’ve had over 100 students since March of 2007. In this particular clinic, we’ve got representation from 35 different states and four different Canadian provinces. So, it’s really well attended. And this is the first time that we have split the students up based on their level of experience. So, we have a student here who’s only been in the industry for about two weeks and another tech who’s been around for 23 years. So we tried to group them so that their levels of interest are addressed by the instructor so that he doesn’t have to talk down to the 23-year vet or over the head of the new entrant.
RVB: What are the core concentrations in this clinic:
Hopkins: The core concentrations in the clinic are predominantly appliances. We cover all types of appliances, from air conditioning to generators. We also get into hydraulics, electricity and propane plus axles and slideout rooms.
RVB: How many of these do you do in a year?
Hopkins: We had been doing four Trouble Shooter clinics a year, until the last two years. Last year we only did one because there weren’t enough technicians to attend. This time around, between October and March, we did two. We did one in Toronto, Ontario, in November where we had 69 students. And this is the last one for this round, and we’re in the process of looking at the next round of clinics and of modifying the Trouble Shooter format to get more into a tracked approach – following a track such as chassis that would cover axles and brakes and tires and hitches, perhaps getting into slideout rooms and landing gear, leveling jacks.
That would all be in one track so that if a particular technician wasn’t interested in all of the topics that they’re currently going through, he could select the track that he wants so that he could get more specific training in the area that he has the greatest interest in. And we’re looking at developing that for next year, perhaps. That still has to go through some development work, but, in talking with the technicians, they think that would be great.
RVB: Is this not one of the industry’s best kept secrets?
Hopkins: I do think that this is one of the industry’s best kept secrets. We still have technicians that say, “Gee, I really wish I had really known about that clinic, I would have attended.” And it’s like we try to announce it and get the manufacturers and suppliers to help us notify the dealer body to come and attend and still a lot of people miss out on the opportunity