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RVIA Makes Push to Step Up RV Tech Training

RVIA's Bruce Hopkins

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.




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#1 Comment By Mark Rispens On March 15, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

There are two parts we need to consider
1.) Training existing techs better to improve. Dealers do need to embrace this, however it is very difficult to make a large investment in training techs when you don’t have a commitment from the tech to stay at your store and pay for your investment.
2.) The other part and in my mind a very important part is we need a grassroots effort to get more young people interested and exposed to the career path of being an RV technician. We need dealer principals and GM’s working their local schools or vo techs doing presentations to bring new people in. For guys like me, I don’t have enough information to provide about the educational opportunity’s for these folks. Where can they complete schooling and what does it cost for example. We really need some new, younger techs to enter our industry for long term success.

#2 Comment By Van Huddleston On March 15, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

There is a lot to be said on this position. First I look at education as nothing but a postive thing.I had been in the R.V. world for almost 30 years now and have seen a lot come in and out of the shop doors.The average dealership has 5 -7 service technicans if that and out of the 5-7 there normally is 2 descent technicans. Then out of the 2 maybe 1 might have a certification if you are fortunate. The skill level to be a quality R.V. technican is vast and demanding. R.V. are well into the 300,000-500,000. dollar range. If you owned an R.V. would you want just anyone to work on your coach ? Think that everyone knows that answer and the need for a quality training process is greatly needed in this field. Upon saying that you also must realize that you have to pay for the skills and knowledge of a certified or master certified technican. They did not just come upon a certification they earned it and payed for it also. A descent certified tech will normally produce the work of 3 so called technicans with a lot better quaality !!! The certification process is a long and hard process that should pay off for everyone. The technican,dealership and most importunately the R.V. owner. yes there does and has been a great need for qualified technican. If you are in doubt then try to hire one.

My opinion only
Van Huddleston
RVIA/RVDA Master Certified Technician

#3 Comment By Richard Stull On March 16, 2013 @ 9:32 am

I feel that the manufactures need to help push value in a trained technician. Most techs due not see any monetary increase in pay after training, The dealer has spent a lot of money on the training and lost wages. If the manufacture tied their warranty labor rate to a percentage of certified techs that would increase value in having certified techs at your dealership. Example. Deler request a $100 labor rate from XYZ. XYZ says I see you have 5 techs and only one is certified. We will Pay $80 an hour till you have 2/3 certified and then your labor rate will be $100.00 This would increase the value of training. Money talks.