Editor’s Note: The following is a column by RVBusiness Senior Editor Bob Ashley examining the current state of tech training in the industry that will appear in the next issue of RVBusiness magazine.
Training for RV technicians may be at a crossroads after the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) board of directors in early March allocated an additional $150,000 to develop education outreach programs.
The board’s action during the RVIA Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla., could help move RV technicians training off the status quo.
”They came to the conclusion that technicians’ education is important to the industry and they want to take a more aggressive approach to get more people involved,” said Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of education and standards. ”Dealers need to better understand what’s being taught.”
Currently, 2,304 technicians carry certification from the RVDA/RVIA Certification Board, which is about half of the 5,345 certified since the program went into effect in 1998.
Hopkins has set the ambitious goal of getting 200 more techs into training by the end of the September.
”One of the programs that we are going to work on is that techs tell us they want more of an opportunity to get training on new components that manufacturers are installing — slideout and lever technology changes and they put energy management systems in without anyone knowing how to adjust them,” he said. ”The techs want more upfront info.”
General education programs that prepare techs for certification are available through RVIA, the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) and the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA) via Northampton College.
Manufacturers and suppliers also offer proprietary training on their specific products, which at times compete with RVIA’s programs for the allocation of tech’s time and dealer resources.
Causing some consternation is the fact that RVIA has had difficulty in recent years with it intensive hands-on Trouble Shooter Clinics – two- to four-day sessions that historically have been held four times a year in scattered locations throughout the country. They are intended to immerse techs in training for specific applications such as plumbing and electrical systems.
However, since the beginning of the Great Recession, Trouble Shooter clinics have been cut to one or two a year because not enough dealers signed up to send technicians, many because of financial pressure.
With the RV industry in recovery, Hopkins had hoped that hurdle had been cleared and he optimistically scheduled clinics this year in California, Colorado, Indiana and Florida.
The clinic in California had to be canceled when only five techs signed up. Attendance in Colorado was so-so with 32 techs there. With less than two weeks to go, the South Bend clinic was still on the calendar for late March, although only 57 of an available 180 slots had been reserved. Understandably, the Tampa Trouble Shooter Clinic in August is still up in the air with no reservations yet.
It is a positive note that the RVIA board was enlightened enough to allocate extra money to training — likely to come in the form of marketing to educate the various manufacturers, dealers, suppliers and techs themselves about the training that available.
For the most part, I’ve been writing about tech training programs for more than 10 years and I’m still sometimes confused by the various offshoots and their purpose.
But there’s only so much that RVIA can do. The RV industry’s dealership base needs to better understand the importance of technician training.
While their main goal is to sell the RV in the first place, maintaining it so that RVers get the full potential of the RV lifestyle is just as important.