What do the next generation of students need to know?

Tanner Mobile Technician Wellford, South Carolina Posted   Latest  

What do the next generation of technicians need to know when coming out of a tech school?

This has been a topic of discussion among many individuals for years. Being involved in education not only as a student but as an educator has made me ponder this question many times over. We as an industry seem to expect students or even just young technicians entering the field to know everything the day that they start. I know how long it took me to get proficient as a mechanical technician and I know others can still remember the time it took them as well. What I also remember is the struggle I had finding a way to learn the diagnostic side of the industry after entering the industry.

Fast forward 13 years and I now specialize in drivability and electrical diagnostics. I have had the fortune to learn from many great trainers through the years both in person and online. But one thing I can say is I never really learned the correct way to diagnose working under anyone in the roughly 20 shops I have worked for. I will leave that up to you all to figure out why that was. That brings me to the point of this post.

Should our schools be teaching the mechanical side of the trade or the diagnostic side or should we be tailoring the class to each students desire or need? I feel that when a college focus' on the mechanical side only and expects that the student learn how to diagnose in the shop we are setting him/her up for failure. I also feel that assuming every student wants to be a mechanical technician is is something that needs to be changed. Some young technicians are going to come into this industry because they want to turn wrenches and do mechanical jobs but we need to recognize that with today's youth that may not be the case. 

I feel that a student does need to have an idea of how the systems work and a good mechanical understanding of the system or part. But I also feel expecting a shop to teach the diagnostic side is large undertaking for a lot of shops. A tech school or college is a great place for students to learn to make mistakes during a diagnosis and experiment with their diagnostic approach. Being taught by a shop that may not be comfortable with diagnostics leaves those students without a chance to take that career path. 

What are your feelings towards this? If you were to request a student from a tech school what tasks would you ask that he/she be able to perform? Change brake pads, tires, do a relative compression test with a scope, perform voltage drop, etc? Remember as an educator we have two years in most circumstances to teach these kids from the point of not knowing the difference between a flat head and a phillips head to being able to take a job in a repair shop.

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Dr. Engineer
Port Angeles, Washington
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Tanner: In my opinion, its electrical, electronics, networks, and software. Actually, the current generation really needs a much better foundation in these areas. For decades, I've watched the gap between what instructors and techs need to know vs. what they actually should know steadily increase. Today, the gap is exponential. Technicians need "flexible" skills (skills that can adapt to

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Tanner Mobile Technician
Wellford, South Carolina
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Hi Mark, Thank you for the reply. I could not agree more! I believe automotive programs need to change to fill this gap. These are skills they will not learn in the bays if the shop they are working for are not educated in those areas.

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Dr. Engineer
Port Angeles, Washington
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Tanner: I'm working closely with a company that is actually helping instructors and techs close the gap. We've build a "Boot Camp" set of courses to address some of these critical areas. I've included a link if you're are interested in reviewing the content: futuretechauto​.​com/swbootcamp After completing the pilot course, it's amazing how well the technicians can learn and apply

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Tanner Mobile Technician
Wellford, South Carolina
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That is awesome! I looked at the link. I would love to attend one of these. I will start saving my money so I can attend in the future. I will pass the info along to the schools I associate with as well. Thank you!

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Dr. Engineer
Port Angeles, Washington
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Tanner: Would love to see you there! We need individuals like you to lead the way!!! Thanks for posting your comments. Hope others provide their input. Mark

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Brin Diagnostician
Melbourne, Florida
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Great post and discussion Tanner. Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that there's four types of students. Two of those students will bypass traditional secondary and or post secondary automotive technical programs to enter the automotive service industry and the other two will attend and hopefully graduate the programs and enter the Automotive Service Industry. Of those two students that

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Tanner Mobile Technician
Wellford, South Carolina
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Technicians learning soft skills is another great point! I'm so happy you brought this up. The day of the "knuckle dragging" mechanic is gone. We as technicians need to be able to speak to the service writers, managers and customers about what is wrong with their vehicle. I feel a technician needs to know how to be polite and courteous but also how to talk in a professional matter. When we speak

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Brady Owner/Technician
Yakima, Washington
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+1 for soft skills. Basic writing and math skills are also often severely lacking in young people looking to get into the industry, which ties into the soft skill situation. Critical thinking was mentioned somewhere in this thread too and that, in my opinion, is one of the larger problems with many techs. Many have never learned how to learn. Logic and critical thinking is something that needs

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Adrean Diagnostician
Bakersfield, California
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Kind of hard .. see as a diagnostic tech we also need to know how things mechanically work it opens our minds further . Also knowing everything is really hard on the mind , My opinion . Seems like we should specialize In each kind of specific job mechanically , diagnostics . Like when a car is built it’s not just one team it’s varios teams right , mechanical engineering , design , electrical

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David Technician
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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I couldn't agree with you more, diagnostics, electrical and electronics are super important but if we can't picture in our minds what is going on down in the guts of everything, whether an engine or electric motor (both having moving mechanical parts) then how do we know what we're actually looking at. this is a great conversation and I can't wait to see what other material is added to it.

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Brian Diagnostician
Seneca, South Carolina
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I teach at a local technical school. This subject has been discussed to no end at our advisory board meetings. Every shop owner, parts manager, instructor, program coordinator, department head, and dean who attends has a different opinion on what should be taught. I have concluded that between the info that my students need know, and what I would like for them to know, that there is absolutely

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Tanner Instructor
Wellford, South Carolina
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Well put my friend thank you! I really like the idea of having them present an idea in front of their peers, I may have to steal that idea if you don’t mind. They are lucky to have you as an instructor!

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Hans Diagnostician
Salt Lake City, Utah
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Brian I love the idea of the diagnostic journal and making speaking in front of the classroom to get them comfortable with presenting. I'm also going to steal those ideas!

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Tim Technician
Reading, Pennsylvania
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We need to start by making sure the students know how to read and write. Reading comprehension is key. There is no way that a student can learn how every system on every car works. They need to be able to go to the service manual and read the description of operation. Once we know how it is supposed to work we can figure our why it doesn't work. Writing/english composition are just as important

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Hans Diagnostician
Salt Lake City, Utah
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"Should our schools be teaching the mechanical side of the trade or the diagnostic side or should we be tailoring the class to each students desire or need?" It's going to be a late night ramble here so bear with me! At my local community college where I went, we did both. All 8 areas of the ASE were covered in pretty good detail. I rebuilt automatic transmissions, a lot of mechanical work…

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Brian Diagnostician
Seneca, South Carolina
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"But what I found is that since the instructors have been out of the industry for so long, they aren't keeping up with the current diagnostic trends. " This is THE reason I will not teach full time. When I was in college the best teachers weren't people who "taught," they were people who were. Example my economics teacher was a terrible "teacher". He had not attended the how to make a powerful

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Pete Instructor
Zephyrhills, Florida
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Wow, you opened up a really broad topic Tanner! What is the overall goal? If we are working to produce strong entry-level technicians, then we need the schools to focus on the service fundamentals with an emphasis on strengthening reading, reading comprehension, math, communications skills, and work ethics. As for industry-specific curriculum, it needs to be tailored to what a shop needs the

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Jim Mobile Technician
Southampton, Pennsylvania
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Tanner, I believe you and I have talked about this before, I could NOT agree with you more about the GAP that needs to be filled. A brief version of my story...….Jorge Menchu and myself were presenting a diagnostic presentation together in the fall of 1996, after the session, I remember telling Jorge that a Post secondary school had called and asked if I would take over an 8 week electrical

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Rick Educator
Concord, California
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Tanner, I agree with your saying that students need to learn diagnostics. Some of the issues I have witnessed over the years are: students are coming to our schools with less and less mechanical background; in other words they don't tinker with cars like many of us when we were growing up. Because of this more time is being spent bringing them up to speed. The downfall I see in the colleges is

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Tanner Instructor
Wellford, South Carolina
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Thank you everyone for the input. This topic means a lot to me because I constantly here from dealerships and independent shops that they are not impressed with the students these schools are turning out. I push them to think back in their early days and ask them how many years it took for them to really get comfortable doing repair work. Typically they reply 5-10 years. I then ask why they feel

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