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.
The deadline to register for the RV Technician Distance Learning Air Conditioner Course is Aug. 24. The course will begin Aug. 27 and run through Oct. 7.
Details of the course include:
• RV Air Conditioners (Beta 6015) examines the roof-top air conditioner in detail. Revisiting the fundamentals of alternating current electricity, the students jump into the science of the refrigeration cycle. Delving into the properties of vaporization and condensation and applying the principles of compression, students gain the skill necessary to troubleshoot component failures along with the ability to repair and/or replace vital components. Installation requirements and preventive maintenance practices are also learned in this course. Tuition cost: $325.00. Employees of PRVCA members will receive a 50% reimbursement on tuition upon successful completion of the course. RV Technician Recertification Credit Hours: 48
To register for the courses, call Northampton Community College at 1-877-543-0998. The courses materials are supported by RVIA and feature competency-based instruction, assignments and testing. For more information, contact Heather Leach, Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association Education Director at 888-303-2887.
The RV industry has launched a major redesign of the www.rvtechnician.com website. The new site consolidates and updates information that had previously been available on the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and RV Learning Center sites.
“RVTechnician.com is now the major source of information for technicians who are interested in certification, are looking for continuing education opportunities, or need to get recertified,” said RVDA-RVIA RV Service Technician Certification Governing Board Chairman Marty Shea of Madison RV Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Features of the new site include:
• Easier navigation for technicians and their managers to find the basic information to get started on certification or get recertified.
• Complete information on the RV Technician Career Ladder and a Frequently Asked Question section.
• Information on training opportunities and links to the RV Training Calendar.
• Links to download free copies of the new Certification Study Guides.
• Links to a new Certified RV Technician promotional video, dealer testimonials about the value of certification, and a gateway link to the Certified RV Technicians Facebook page.
“RVIA and RV Learning Center staff worked together to build the site,” said Governing Board Vice Chairman Jeff Rutherford of Carefree of Colorado. “It was a team effort to compile all the information based on RVIA and RVDA’s staff experience with common questions about the program from technicians and service management personnel.”
RVIA provided website design, video production and technical support funds as well as extensive staff support. The RV Learning Center provided the web site licensing fees that allow the site to be built on a state-of-the-art content manager platform and staff support.
The RVDA-RVIA Service Technician Certification Program is designed to assist the RV industry and the public in identifying those professionals who have demonstrated the knowledge and ability to satisfy established standards in RV diagnostic and repair procedures, as adopted by the Governing Board. The program tests and certifies only individuals; not dealerships, companies, or other types of business entities. For more information, visit www.rvtechnician.com.
The next RV technician distance learning course, RV Towing Systems (Beta 6013), is set to begin June 25 and run through July 29.
The course, held online by Northampton Community College in partnership with the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA), will cover all elements of RV towing, including: a truck towing a travel trailer or fifth-wheel trailer; a motorhome towing a small car; and all elements of electric trailer brakes, including troubleshooting, repair and maintenance. Hitch design and installation techniques are presented along with all associated electrical wiring between tow vehicle and trailer. Safety elements are stressed including weight data and all associated terminology.
Tuition cost is $190 for the course, which provides 20 RV technician recertification credit hours. Employees of PRVCA members will receive a 50% reimbursement on tuition upon successful completion of the course.
The courses materials are supported by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and feature competency-based instruction, assignments and testing. To register for the courses, call Northampton Community College at (877) 543-0998. For more information on PRVCA member reimbursement, contact Heather at the PRVCA office, (888) 303-2887.
As a member benefit, the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA) is running a special offer for all employees of PRVCA members for Distance Learning Training for the 2011-2012 semesters.
According to a press release, upon successful completion of a Northampton Community College (NCC) distance learning course, students will be eligible for a 50% reimbursement on tuition. Students will receive a certificate of completion from NCC and can fax a copy of the certificate to the PRVCA office (717-303-0297). A check for 50% of the tuition will be sent to the employee.
The next RV Technician Distance Learning courses at Northampton Community College, in partnership with PRVCA, are set to begin Nov. 7. Those who missed the RV Generators course in September will have another opportunity to register for the class.
RV Generators will run from Nov. 7 through Jan. 15. This course provides the students a detailed look into generator sizing, installation, troubleshooting, repair and maintenance. Completion of the course can earn credit hours toward RVIA/RVDA recertification. The course costs $325 (Only $162.50 after reimbursement).
RV Towing Systems is also set to begin Nov. 7 and run through Dec. 8. All elements of RV towing are included in this course, including different towing configurations, electric trailer brakes, along with repair and maintenance. Hitch design and installation techniques are presented as well as all associated electrical wiring between tow vehicle and trailer. Safety elements are also stressed including weight data and all associated terminology. The tuition for this course is $190 (Only $95 after reimbursement).
To learn more about the upcoming courses, please go to the PRVCA website at: www.PRVCA.org and click on “Training.” To register for the course, call Northampton Community College at 1-877-543-0998.
The next RV Technician Distance Learning Class at Northampton Community College in partnership with the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA) is set to begin May 23.
RV Air Conditioners (BETA 6015) will run from May 23 through June 26. Tuition for the class is $325. RV Absorption Refrigerators (BETA 6016) will begin July 11 and run through August 14. The tuition is $270.
Not only will technicians who are new to the industry get a thorough understanding of air conditioner and absorption refrigerators, experienced technicians can take the course as a refresher and earn credit hours toward RVIA/RVDA recertification.
PRVCA is running a special offer for all employees of PRVCA members for the 2010-2011 semesters. Upon successful completion of a NCC distance learning course, students will receive a 50% reimbursement on tuition. For more information on the special offer, contact the PRVCA office at 888.303.2887.
To learn more about the upcoming courses, visit www.PRVCA.org and click on “Training.” To register for the course, call Northampton Community College at 877.543.0998.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of British Columbia (RVDA of BC) is partnering with Okanagan College in Kelowna, British Columbia, and its instructors to present an intense, three-day RV Technician Training Seminar Nov. 17-19.
In answer to technician evaluations that have requested longer sessions encompassing fewer topics and more hands on, RVDA of BC believes this seminar will satisfy these requests, according to a news release.
The seminar will feature refrigerator and generator training with a combination of theory and hands on instruction; the students will spend 1-1/2 days on each topic.
See the full course outline and registration form on the pdf at http://www.rvda.bc.ca/RV-Technician-Registration-Form.pdf.
Registration will be capped at 30 students (15 per class).
The cost is $225 for RVDA of BC members and $325 for non-members.
Editor’s Note: Jim Carr, training director for the Florida RV Trade Association, notes a decline in RV technician recertifications and shared his findings in a column written for the August issue of FRVTA News. Here are excerpts from that column.
My topic this month is Technician Recertification, an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I sit on the RVIA/RVDA Technician Certification Governing Board and one of the issues we’ve dealt with over the past years has been getting and keeping our technicians certified.
When the Florida Distance Learning Network and online training went to the national level in 2003, we increased the number of newly certified technicians by dramatic numbers. Now those numbers are coming up for recertification. The latest statistic I have seen, and that was in July, is there are 555 certifications up for renewal in 2009. As of July, only 121 have submitted the necessary renewal paperwork or only 22%. We cannot afford to lose almost 80% of our class of ’04 certified technicians. And 2010 promises to have an even larger number of technicians coming up for recertification.
Where are our technicians going? Why are they not renewing their certifications? Is it the economy? Is it they just are not seeing any value in being certified? These are tough questions with not very clear answers unfortunately.
Surveys have shown that our technician population is very mobile and our process of notification for renewal often times goes to five-year-old, outdated addresses, either employment addresses or personal addresses. Very little forwarding occurs. To that end, with the FRVTA Boards’ blessing, we are embarking on a directed mission to make sure our Florida technicians become recertified.
RVDA has provided me lists of all Florida certifications coming up for renewal in 2009 and 2010. This totals 130 technicians. They are listed by dealer where that information was provided or by individual address. I will make a concerted effort to meet with each dealer and technician listed to make sure they understand the recertification process and monitor that process to its positive conclusion.
Hindsight tells us that current economic conditions will change; there will be an upturn in our industry and hiring will commence. Where will we find our technicians? Will there be sufficient certified techs available? Or will we have to start back to where we were in 2000, scrambling to train and certify all our “green peas” while waiting for them to be productive. Can we afford that?
As I visit your dealerships in the coming months and through the next year and a half, I will bring my lists of technicians needing recertification. Hopefully, together we can get as many of these folks over that recertification hurdle as possible.
Please do not hesitate to call me (386-754-4285) if you have any questions. Thanks and I look forward to working with you on this very worthwhile project.