Education is in Perfect Alignment with Industry, Right?
So today I met with the faculty of a local automotive trade school. I had a shop owner and a business consultant with me. The shop owner explained in as nice of way that he could that the students they were graduating were not ready for industry. The response was that they had a 100% placement and they are NATEF and COE certified. The shop owner then explained that he had hired 4 of their graduates and was only able to keep one of them. I guess that they were 100% hired once. Does that count? The faculty and administrator stated that they had a solid program that prepared the students to fix cars. Our contention was that the students should be working in automotive along side the school work. Most work in fast food or other gateway job. Wouldn't be better to have host shops with Master Technicians to help them on their path? Our vision is a system that keeps the students doing jobs and adding to their skills one step at a time. Line upon line, skill upon skill. Two years is a long time to remember how to read a dial indicator or how to check a voltage drop. Repetition seems to be what keeps us sharp. I know some are educators. Some are trainers, some shop owners and some technicians. It would be great if you could share how you see this picture. Thoughts?
This is something I think about a fair bit. There are no easy answers.
I am from Canada where we have an apprenticeship program. Students finish the approximate 4 year program with approximately 2 months in class per year and the remainder hands on at work. At the completion of the 4 year program most are fairly competent. After completion some go on to further train and others don't.
I think consistent education that flows with technology is required and that there should be trained specialists (and instructors) in certain area's and brands. I don't think we will be able to add enough talent if they come in overwhelmed. I also feel this industry needs to be extremely competent and efficient to meet the demands of customers of the future.
I like so much of what Canada has done to improve technician competence. I would like to see this adopted by industry vs. being dictated to by the government. We need schools to see the benefit of working while learning at the same time. The strange thing is that other trades do this both union and non-union.
Learn from our mistakes though. I used to be on the apprenticeship committee for Alberta. They have a mandate that the pass rate is kept in the mid eighties. If a question was flagged with too many students getting it wrong, we would have to change it so that it was easier. We still have way too many people pushed through our system that are terrible mechanics.
What do you call a med school student that graduates at the bottom of their class?
Only in Lake Wobegon are all the children above average. (-;
Oh I agree with that. I just feel that the standard needs to be raised. The pass rate doesn't need to be that high.
The other part I failed to mention falls on the industry side. Service managers signing off on apprentice hours as "satisfactory" when they should be checking "unsatisfactory" which I have yet to even hear of happening. If both sides did a better job, we would have a better job pool to choose from.
We have a local CTE High School that is in a similar predicament. The major difference is, they're willing to listen. I used a connection I had to get my foot in the door for a meeting with some faculty there. I was fortunate to have a fellow Diag.net member by my side (I'll let him chime in if he likes). We exchanged some ideas that we had to get young students interested in the field. They turned the tables on us a bit and asked if we would meet with the shop teacher, look over the curriculum and help make changes if needed. We were surprised by their willingness and ability to stay current and assure the student were best prepared when they graduated. They even invited us to attend a conference with Board of Education, the instructors and local businesses. Now the bad news....they need a lot of help. The books, the training models, the equipment are old. The instructor (just one), means well and has good intentions but is a little out of touch. The problem is synonymous all around. The people that need help and the people that can and will help, can't seem to find each other, even though sometimes they're standing right next to each other. It was suggested by my unnamed associate, that possibly forming a panel of educators that could meet with a panel of techs on some sort of regular basis to exchange needed information and ideas, and to make sure the students are being prepared for the "real" world. That's my 3 cents
All school programs should have an advisory board made up of local shop owners or service managers that can contribute to the real world needs of the employer. Unfortunately, as Michael has seen, many programs are run by instructors that don’t care or realize what needs to be done or don’t take the advidory boards advice because they “have always done it this way” or “have 100% job placement“ or my favorite “Natef says this is what we need to teach.” That last one is a huge reason why I no longer teach at a tech school. I was told I had this many hours to teach this and only this subject. It was unrealistic and not in line with real world needs of an entry level tech. This industry is in for a tough time if we don’t attract the right students AND instructors very quickly.
Must be something in the air in Utah right now! Interesting to see this post after what I wrote today! I'll be interpreting the NATEF standards a little loosely and applying them how I see fit
I am happy for your situation. It would be better for all if the schools essentially turned over the syllabus to industry. I spoke to an instructor last night that has been a friend for years. He told me he has two lab books. One to satisfy NATEF and one to learn what they need to succeed in industry. I know that the ASE works hard to establish standards for good learning. Maybe more industry collaboration is in order.
I've been sitting in more classes at SLCC for my BS degree and realize they need to be changed significantly. Personally I'd like to see more electronics and advanced electrical training, and less parts hanging done at the school. Plus the time they are spending on information that is dated, could be better used other places. My opinion is students should have a comprehensive MLR class that's at least one semester long (instead of the current half semester), two semesters of electronics (basic and advanced which includes more in depth DSO and scanner use), and a semester doing line mechanical work.
I would be interested to know your shop owners expectations of a tech school graduate to not be able to hold on to any except one tech. I definitely agree with an apprenticeship program and having students work along side a master, it would definitely benefit the tech quite a bit. It just needs to be made sure that the shops have the equipment needed to carry out what the students have learned.
I was pretty much that kid once, graduated from tech school and went out and started working in an aftermarket VW shop that had nearly zero tooling like I had at school, and I lost those skills and knowledge that I had gained in school. Repetition is a huge part of habit building in this industry. Sometimes I'm surprised I've made it or stayed in it considering my first industry experiences, but I was an enthusiast about the cars, and that kept me in it. If only I had better role models in my past, it would be amazing to see where I could be now. It's only been the last couple of years where I have searched out and paid for my own training and become friends with other technicians with the help of FaceBook and here. That has helped me grow as a tech a tremendous amount.
I was talking to one of the students whom I've known a couple years now and I told him the only thing I wish I could teach him is how to have the fire in his belly for this industry and for learning. I've been in his shoes before and now know what it takes to light that fire, and it's not changing spark plugs in the driveability class, or turning brake rotors in the brakes class. It's shoeing them how to read data and know how to coax waveforms out of cars that aren't willing to give them up easy. This job is a lot of fun when I'm not changing oil!
Whoa ! Gentleman. Pull back on the reins a bit before we serve up automotive instructors and their programs to the lions. These kids did not grow up fixing their bicycle, lawn mower, mini bike or go cart. Many who enter these automotive programs have never opened a tool box drawer let alone know how to use the tools in them. The school system has changed in many many ways. High schools are trying to prepare their students for college not careers in the trades. That's what parents expect, college grads ready to make lots of $$. For those outside our industry the perception is learn computers on cars and make lots of money. What we need is every shop looking for technicians (me; mechanics) be part of the automotive apprentice program. All the training and education is not going to build the mechanics of tomorrow. We need mentors to mold and shape those balls of mush on their shoulders. The school system is not designed to work with repair shops and the apprentice program needed. We need to go beyond the scan tool and develop the nuts and bolts foundation of our young so they can blossom in their career. Please get involved with school programs and not tell them what they should do. Offer to work with them to develop a system or program that will benefit us all and the industry . (mechanic noun [ C ] us /məˈkæn·ɪk/ someone who repairs or works with machines, esp. as a job:) I could go on and on. Like it always has been for many decades it takes time, patience and mentorship to develop quality technician/mechanics. I'm just saying. Thank You
You have a great point that many of these students like the idea of fixing cars but have not had any experience growing up. This is foreign to me as I grew up in a rural area and had plenty of opportunities to learn on my own. In fact, in College, the classes were quite easy for me due to the experience on the farm. I think many of those who represent the schools underestimate the power of ambition. My experience was that it seemed the instructors feared loosing the students to industry once they started working. If the learning is what is important, then why not work together. Once the student has succeeded in the field, pass off that skill then move on.
Hans, Back when I was a full time technician, the shop I worked for had many parents that wanted us to apprentice their sons who were turning sixteen. I found that training them to hang brakes or swap a water pump was easy. Other more complicated tasks like changing an engine or doing a timing belt came with a bit of patience on my part. The ones with a little fire in their belly did well. Those who were there for a paycheck did not.
In the matter of tooling, I have to say this is a problem. Not so much from your viewpoint but from the real world viewpoint. Tech schools many times have far better systems and scan tools than independent shops can afford to supply. It is important that the students work in the real world so they can understand that sometimes you have to bend a wrench, do some cutting, use the welder or otherwise manufacture tools to do specific jobs. I hear jokes all the time about going to Harbor Freight and buying wrenches that can be mutilated. Somehow in the field we learn these tricks. Sometimes we have to go to the owner and plead our case.
Thank you for your input on this important topic.
Hi Michael, I often wish that the Canadian apprenticeship model was better understood south of the border. While no model is perfect, the apprenticeship system naturally addresses many of the issues that we see here.
In general terms, there are 2 main paths to becoming an automotive service technician in Canada.
- A one year (certificate) or two year (diploma) program offered by community colleges with front loaded training where at the end of their training the students enter the job market and look for a job. This is similar to the US model.
- The apprenticeship system, where step one is to get a job in industry - often pushing a broom, doing tires, oil changes, and working as an very basic entry level technician. Upon getting their first job, the student registers as an apprentice under a licensed technician - this is essentially a contract between the shop, the student and the education system. A typical apprentice would work at the shop for about a year and then be called upon to go to school for their 1st level of training which is typically an 8 week session, they return to work immediately after the 8 week session and continue this cycle through 4 levels of apprenticeship over the course of 4 years. At the end you have a technician with 4 years work experience along with all of the in school training to go and challenge the exam for their license.
By combining on the job training and work experience along with the in school training it becomes a collaborative effort between the employer and the school to ensure that the technician is successful and has the skills to be a productive employee. This does however require a lot more involvement of the employer in the students education, instead of expecting the school to supply at the end of a one or two year program a turn-key fully fledged technician, the employer has to actively be involved in the students education, ensuring that they get a variety of job experience to meet all requirements for their education program. It also involves more investment from the experienced technicians in the shop taking the students under their wing and mentoring them throughout the process.
I could talk about this for hours and hours (and have many times) but I will share a couple resources for you to peruse at your leisure. I hope it will inspire you!
I love this. From the surface it seems like this pretty much forces an independant to either hire a licensed technician or sponsor one. There really are no other options correct?
And does the licensing expire or have to be updated?
Forgive me if this info is in the files attached as I only skimmed them.
It varies from province to province.
In a province where automotive is a compulsory trade, your statement is correct "forces an independant to either hire a licensed technician or sponsor one. There really are no other option"
The Red Seal license is permanent, however some provinces require you to pay a fee to maintain a valid license. There are no update tests, so a Red Seal license from 1978 is still equivalent to a Red Seal license in 2018, despite the fact that the technician has learned a completely different set of technologies and competencies.
That is interesting. Thanks for the insight. It is still far ahead of what we are doing.
The only thing I would like to add is no matter what we do on the promotion of our industry to bring new techs in as well as on the education side. I think we need to do something on the shop owner side. I have seen too many new techs come in and leave the industry within the first few years. We need to keep the new techs that we train in the industry. We would have less of a tech shortage if we had kept the techs we have already trained. I think we need to train owners on what it takes to keep new tech's in our shops. Part of that is understanding how to manage this new generation of technicians. Part of that is salary , and almost don't want to start this discussion, but remember we our competing with other trade industries that have shortages as well. I am in Canada and yes I think our education system is pretty good, not perfect nothing is, but I think we need to look at what happens once they leave the schools.
I spoke to a four year automotive college instructor a few weeks ago. I talked to him about my apprenticeship ideas. One thing mentioned was that the college instructors encouraged the students to get part time jobs in the industry. The student experience was very poor. Shop owners and managers were impatient with the students. They denigrated them in front of their peers. Instead of turning mistakes into learning experiences, they spent their time scolding them. The professors response was something like. "This is why you want to work for the manufacturer and not be a mechanic". If employers treat the employees this way, no wonder they can't find help.
I have also seen that at shops I worked at as well, This one particular owner just ran apprentices out of the industry. Fixing cars is harder than ever, rewarding/challenging, but hard. There are almost no straightforward jobs. What used to be easy always has some sort curve ball added. eg. change a battery need to do a battery sensor relearn etc.etc The learning curve is steep and owners need to be patient. We need to challenge new techs, and help them meet those challenges. I have seen owners take an apprentice off a job because because an experienced tech goes over to help them, and he thinks he is losing money because the experienced tech is not working on his own vehicle and he is not making extra having two techs on one vehicle. He did not see it as an investment in his apprentice. The schools are not perfect but we can do better job pre and post. Pre by promoting our trade and most importantly in selecting appropriate candidates, and post by training owners to better manage new techs. If we do not improve the before and after we do not take advantage of improvements we make in the middle.
I'm happy that you started this thread, and mostly agree with almost all of the comments. Let me add some observations within some quotes from your post.
"The shop owner then explained that he had hired 4 of their graduates and was only able to keep one of them."
Upon this comment I would follow up and ask the shop owner this, "What is your retention rate for hiring regular technicians? Is it better than for the entry level technicians that you have hired?" The misconception on the shop owners part being that the entry level tech may be perceived to have more experience than they actually do.
I have considerable experience operating a "work based learning" program at a college. Publically, the administrations of colleges sing the praises of "internships" and work based learning. This is, until the "keepers of the coin" realize that internship hours pay at less than 1/3 the rate of a "lecture" class. So, in the background, there may be little support for these programs because of the "Carnegie Unit". This will need to be addressed, but administrators are reluctant to upset the apple cart on this issue...because we've always done it this way. This is a root cause of many of our challenges in professional technical education today. It does not pay to support professional technical programs because they are expensive. (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie…)
"Most work in fast food or other gateway job."
This one is fairly easy to comment on. The learner is paid more in fast food, and other gateway jobs. Since some (many?) shops engage in loss leaders and the "race to the bottom" in pricing they have no time to see this playing out. This, and, they always want a journeyman or at least a "B" tech because their business practices always have them on the edge of insolvency. And they use the flatrate system to minimize their financial exposure. Plus boat payments, right? (-;
"Our vision is a system that keeps the students doing jobs and adding to their skills one step at a time."
And I would applaud this vision; with a few caveats. Shops are driven by profit and loss. As it should be, right? After all, we opened the doors to be busy; productively busy and making a profit. Time and again I have heard the comment that, "They're oil changing the entry level technicians to death."
I have had many gifted students, people way smarter than me, that this has happened to. When I talk to their supervisors about this I hear, "Two years on the lube rack here at AAACME Repair is the way I came up in the trade forty years ago."
To which I ask, "What are your retention rates for these technicians?" Invariably the answer is this, "We can't keep anybody in this position anymore. These "kids" have no work ethic." After the entry level tech leaves this position for a new opportunity in a forward thinking business they flourish. Others are scooped up by the Heavy Duty, plumbing, HVAC or electrical trades. So how's that idea of two years on the lube rack working out for you, eh?
"Repetition seems to be what keeps us sharp."
Just one example. If you do not use your DMM for two years (while on the lube rack), how do you think your skills with that tooling are. A bit rusty? Unless you have had many, repetitive, opportunities to practice this during your two years on the lube rack you're doomed to some steep learning curves. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history will be doomed to repeat them.
Learning processes, the meta-cognitive of learning, need to be modeled to the learning technician; which should be all of us. We all better be learning or we're falling behind. We're all in this together.
At ConsuLab I am continuously learning while developing new strategies, to combine with proven methods, to accommodate the learner; while developing new "magic" in products to facilitate student learning. It's way empowering; and fun.
In parting, here is something I picked up recently from my personal learning network:
"No student learning without teacher learning."
Thank you for your comments. In defense of the shop owner, he is very seasoned. His team did give the graduated students several months to figure it out. He mentioned that the graduated students could not identify a master cylinder, left drain plugs loose, could not change a water pump or install brake shoes correctly. This is why they were released from his employ. He did not expect perfect autonomy. He expected that they had a good base and that his team could nurture the student into being competent.
I think that you have proven my point about the lube rack. This should be a stepping stone in the process early on. A tech school or college graduate needs to be working on cars, not doing lube services on a regular basis. The lube rack is entry level. This needs to be where a potential technician starts, not where they end up.
I have seen many student from high school and college programs be "DOOMED" to the lube rack or quick maintenance teams. The idea of getting a college degree to hope you do two brake jobs a week to break up the monotony of change oil an rotating tires is awful. However, this is a reality in many shops. Very few entry level (even when equipped with factory certs and a college degree) ever get the chance to learn and prove themselves on work other than the lube rack. I have seen many quit during the apprenticeship programs due to being stuck on the lube rack instead of learning to diagnose and repair vehicles. This also reduced the amount of maintenance performed by the line techs and reduced their production duew to lack of upsell potential. The business flourished like this at the expense of the entry level techs due to low wages for lube techs. I would say approx. 2 in 10 made it through the process without leaving due to this reason. The Ford ASSET program provides accelerated credential training and an associates degree when completed. I have seen these students stuck on the lube team for over two years. This is not an apprenticeship program.
You said it well. I am ready to help change this. What do we need to do as a community to assist industry in making the change?
I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that a student will learn better and be better prepared working in the industry while attending school.
When I made the transition from technician to instructor it really hit me how long it took me to develop the skills necessary to be an all around good technician. Imagine teaching a someone who has never laid their eyes on a voltmeter how to diagnose a simple headlight circuit.
First you must teach electrical theory. Voltage, amperage, ohms.
Then you teach them relays, switches, fuses.
Then you teach them how to use a voltmeter, test light, etc. and what the measurements should be.
Then you teach them how to read and interpret wiring diagrams.
Then you teach them how to problem solve and hypothesize in their own minds what results to expect as well as where and how to test the circuit.
And repeat this process for just about every automotive repair procedure on every make and model out there.
But it's not just teaching it is working with them to understand it.
And because we as technicians do these processes every day or the shop owners watch their technicians do these processes every day we devalue the time it took for us to learn. It may seem reasonable to repeat the above process with a group of 20-30 students for 5-6 hours a day 4 days a week during a 1 or two year program while including time for quizzes and testing and expect to churn out a full batch of all star master techs but unfortunately too many fall through the cracks.
In our program the night students are the worst. While they are usually the most dedicated, they are typically the students currently employed in our industry. These guys and girls get up at 6am, work 10 hour shifts (very few shops are willing to take a tech part time or as an apprentice) then come to a 3 hour class to get home at 10 and do it all over again. They show up to class exhausted, covered in oil change. Less than 15% of them make it through our program and there is no chance I'm going to recommend one of those remaining few to a shop that has not had success with our students in the past.
I would be curious where those four techs ended up. What I see all to often is our students getting hired on halfway through our program and losing interest, eventually quitting the job and not completing our program. The only logical reason I can see behind this is that they decide the industry just isn't for them. The students that don't care are less likely to put in any effort. I see this over and over again with each new class of students entering our program excited to learn to work on cars. Over the course of the year many of them enter the industry and lose interest eventually getting hired on by manufacturing companies and dropping out of the program.
Our program has some ridicolously dedicated and passionate instructors who go above and beyond to prepare these students for a career that at one point they were willing to take out loans and study full time to prepare for only to enter the industry and are worked like dogs 10+ hours a day in heat and in cold for less salary and less benefits than many of those foodservice or "gateway jobs".
Whether they completed the program or not most of our students do not stay in the industry for long and the deciding factor on whether or not they stay seems to always go back to who they are working for when they enter the workforce. Being a mobile tech/instructor I know all of the shops in our area. The few that are willing to put effort into a new technician (yes a new technician needs effort) are rarely in need of help and when they are we send them the one or two students of each class that we feel are the best. The other few good students get placed with dealerships and other companies that play an active role in our program.
And here is why the active role in our program is key. Often, technicians who find employment on their own end up leaving the program. I surmise that there are two factors behind this. First the average shop puts very little emphasis on growth of technicians and more emphasis on production. The technician, already having a job will not see the value in completing the program unless there is value. If the shop doesn't present some sort of value to the technician completing the program then the techs drop out of the program.
The second reason we see these techs leaving the program is because the workload is too much. Very few aftermarket shops are willing to accommodate students in our program.
I blame this on shortsightedness of the repair shops. Working that tech long hours produces more immediate revenue and not offering any significant pay increates for a technician after completing a program creates more profit. What these shops seem to realize or acknowledge is that schools are a for profit business just the same.
The dealers understand this and are already doing apprentice programs. They are donating vehicles, tools, engines, etc. They are investing in the programs because they see the value in the technicians they pluck from the program. Meanwhile many of the aftermarket shop owners who have no interest in helping the programs aside from telling them how the school is not meeting their needs. NATEF certification isn't going to change the fact that the school cannot pump out a perfect batch of technicians. It behooves the school to place the best ones not only with supporters of the program but also with companies that are most likely to keep them employed within the industry.
I apologize if this come of as a rant but frankly it is. I applaud you and the shop getting involved with the school. Don't get me wrong every school has room for improvement but I implore you to imagine yourself putting the kind of dedication necessary into being a full time technician/student only to enter a filthy shop where you are expected to work long hours and make no mistakes. Chances are most of us wouldn't do it over again. I know I wouldn't.
This paragraph is great:
"I would be curious where those four techs ended up. What I see all to often is our students getting hired on halfway through our program and losing interest, eventually quitting the job and not completing our program. The only logical reason I can see behind this is that they decide the industry just isn't for them. The students that don't care are less likely to put in any effort. I see this over and over again with each new class of students entering our program excited to learn to work on cars. Over the course of the year many of them enter the industry and lose interest eventually getting hired on by manufacturing companies and dropping out of the program."
When I went through my degree, I saw the same thing. We would start out with a full class and by the end of each semester, there would be around half left to finish it. I looked into the statistics for my local school where I'm substitute teaching and they have ~150 students are enrolled in related classes, and 11 graduate with their degree. Pretty paltry numbers. I would love to know how many are still in the industry. My high school had almost 800 graduates in my class, and I'm the only automotive technician I know of out of that class. As bad as this industry gets, I'm staying. I love it and love working on cars. I always wonder what it would be like in another industry, but I'm not interested in much else!
All the comments are very appreciated. It is fantastic that all have responded recognize the need for improvement. It has been expressed that this improvement needs to be made both in industry and on the side of education. Although not perfect, the Canadian system of apprenticeship and certification is something the States should consider. I would really like the industry to adopt it's own solution vs. something state run. For instance we have the ASE. Could ASE certifications be used as the "license" to perform repairs? Nathan has explained what happens when the government takes over. It becomes just another tax on employment. Once the original test is passed, no further training required. Just pay the fee and you are good to go.
It is really sad that from what has been written here we find that students that are truly interested in becoming technicians are quickly turned off. If it is due to their lack of aptitude or ambition, it is better to find out early. If it is due to the abuse they face in the industry that is a shame. Becoming aware of the shops that are poisoning our future technicians will help us to guide the students to a more suitable employer.
I am a big believer in personal sacrifice. It is hard to work a full day then attend class. For those who muscle through it, I believe they come out a better person for it.
As far as getting a job and dropping out. We need to create incentive for the students to finish even if they are working. Part of that would be giving the students credit for skills they learn outside of class. Why should they have to sit through class or endure lab time if they have mastered the skill? If they are already working, what is the carrot that keeps them moving forward? Identify that carrot and the dropout rate will fall.
There are some national repair chains that give the incentive of a roll cart full of tools for staying over one year. Maybe something like that would work in completing an automotive program. Each semester as the tool list increases, the student will be awarded the tools required for the next semester after completing the current one. By the end of the program, the student has a basic set that he can take to work after completing the program. The cost would be added into the tuition and fees.
I feel the same. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the problem solving but I'm also not super intelligent or incredibly technical. It is beyond frustrating to watch students with much more potential than I have to enter the industry working for a filthy, poorly equipped shop only to lose interest. Most of the intelligent ones that would make allstar technicians are intelligent enough to know that they can have a better career in another industry. I cant blame them for leaving.
We can blame the instructors, program administrators, the parents, lazy millenials, the government but the truth is it is OUR own fault. Not the fault of the shop owners or the industry leaders before us but our own fault.
Everyone likes to say how it is so unfortunate that our industry has such a bad reputation and how it is so unfair. As a mobile tech I quickly learned that just about everyone within our industry including shops that I had previously respected are some of the most dishonest people I had ever met.
Things like: I guarantee programming on new modules only. Shops will tell me that they installed a brand new TCM from the dealer knowing that if the programming fails I will waive the charge... if the TCM was new from the dealer why did it have a VIN number from another vehicle in it?
Technicians will swear that they checked fuel pressure this morning. When I ask to see the gauge they used it is mysteriously missing. As shops or technicians we often bash eachother within our own industry. How many times have you heard techs bashing other techs on the tool truck? That is acceptable in our industry and it sets the tone for us. Maybe flat rate encourages this. Either way we are not making motions toward changing what WE are doing wrong and what needs to change withing our reach we are pointing fingers at those around us (millenials, instructors, NATEF, etc.) in hope that their efforts will improve our concerns.
The upside of this is that anyone willing to stick in this business and focus will reap the rewards simply because of supply and demand. I see myself as below average in comparison to some of the great minds in our industry. At the same time I am confident that no matter what I choose to do in this industry I will always be able to make an above average living because there are so few willing to make the commitment. I tell my students very bluntly that if your willing to engage in the learning process and stick with it that all you have to do is be average and you can create a great career.
Another article about tech shortage:
Michael, here is my viewpoint; FWIW
I teach for a very well funded program that has great faculty. I spend my afternoons and days off as a mobile tech and summers working in a shop. To be honest, our advisory board has great members that contribute, but the reality is our faculty are more in touch with industry needs. As a result, our equipment and curriculum are on par with what the industry needs. I understand this is not the case everywhere.
That being said... here are the issues we have:
I would say we have 100% placement, that would not be the case on paper. Any student that chooses to stay in the industry can, we have many more employers than jobs. One issue that I see is our industry is glorified by for-profit schools. They run advertisements and recruit at high schools making everyone thing they will work on hot rods and make six figures doing so. That is all I will say about the for-profits right now without going into a rant :-)
You mention their existing jobs... here is he issue. We have students that go to school for 2+ years. Then they go to find a job in the industry... all of the sudden they realize it will be an hourly pay cut to work for a shop. Oh, by the way, they work at McDonald's. And then they realize that their job in retail or fast food has health insurance, 401K match, etc.
On top of all that, our students that want to be good techs want to continue learning. Say what you want about Millennials and now gen z, they care more about satisfaction than money. Our students have a thirst for knowledge and fully understand their degree is just the beginning. What does the average independent shop have to offer for training? Also, our grads do not wan to change oil for 3 years and "pay theirs dues".
So the dealerships in our area came and asked why they cannot hire techs. We told them the above, they answered. The dealerships here are paying top dollar and laying out a training plan. Oh yeah, they have really good benefits too!
What I may have missed in your post was where I think the shop owner may have benefitted. That is, there was no mention of his attending "mock interview days", where people actively employed in the industry meet face-to-face with students in (as the name implies) a mock job interview. This is an educational experience for the students to hone their soft skills, learn to better answer job interview questions, interact professionally, learn the importance of a great resume', etc. The value to the industry representative is to meet potential employees.
I also did not see where the shop owner had participated in bettering the program - helping the school produce a more "hireable" graduate. You didn't mention that the shop owner was an active participant on that school's advisory committee (or I missed that). It is the responsibility of the community to inform the school when their curriculum (or any part of the training) is not fulfilling the industry's needs. If the school doesn't know they aren't, what would indicate a need for them to change?
As an advisory council member, I get to see first-hand which students I'd like to bring into the industry and if I were a shop owner, which ones might be a good fit in my shop (before actually hiring them). I have had "open discussions" where the students from a few classrooms at a time are able to openly ask me about the industry and I get to inform them about what to expect once they graduate. These sessions enlighten the students into possible weak points they may want to strengthen and may give them a direction in which to head if considering a particular area of automotive repair.
Many schools have "Mentor" programs where students participate a few hours per day in a shop's activities. This allows time for the employer to see whether the student will "be a good fit" in the operations, and gives the student a "reality check" about how it REALLY is in a working environment (outside of a school). I call it a probation for both parties.
In addition, when participating on advisory councils and in the school programs of instruction, the educators may help identify the outstanding students, giving "a leg up" on getting "first dibs" at the finest graduates entering the industry (as a way of appreciation for helping make the program better). Gee, what a concept!
So, in conclusion, employers who complain about the quality of a school's graduates, really has no one to blame but themselves if they choose not to provide input to the school(s).
I dedicate many hours each year to volunteering on school advisory council meetings and in the school programs when I can. Both publicly-funded and for-profit programs appreciate industry involvement. It's a win-win all the way around ;-) .
Thank you for your comments. We are on the same page. As far as soft skills, the impression is that the graduates had been coached quite well. They knew what to say to get hired.
The purpose of the meeting was to start a dialog that would help the school be lead to a more solid curriculum. Right now they have zero classroom activities. This learning is offered 100% online. The shop time is used to pass off skills, once passed off they move to the next. On paper it looks real good. Without using these skills on a regular basis, the knowledge fades.
Having meetings and get together activities is a great idea. I like that there could be a time where the pressure is off and the students can meet with potential employers. That is something that can be implemented right away.
Instead of a program where the student dips his or her toes into the water, we would like to build an immersion program. The work with a Mentor or Master would be the primary training. The student gets constant feedback and instruction.
I think the only way the advisory council would do well is if the school is willing to change the way they teach. In this initial meeting we felt that the statistics drove the school, not quality. In other words if the school were willing to listen and respond it would be a winning proposition for all. This particular school is not ready for that.
I applaud your attempt to get the school and the shop owner together.
This 'educational program' sounds peculiar to me... The 100% online instruction - then do the task while supervised (coached) doesn't sound to me like the student's comprehension is the primary focus. That's sad. This "school" I hope, is a private institution not funded or subsidized by taxpayer dollars (because it would not meet the NATEF (I forgot the new name, sorry) standards. This "school" sounds more like an experiment!
"if the school were willing to listen and respond it would be a winning proposition for all. This particular school is not ready for that." --- Then like a shop that's unwilling to change with the times, it will fade into the sunset. I've dealt with many programs that had instructors and/or administrators who weren't interested in the important aspects of technician training. I don't know of any still in existence today. ... Lead a horse to water...
Sadly on the other side of the coin, I've seen EXCELLENT programs eliminated because some administrator found other programs more profitable.
My local community college is also planning on going to a competency based theory class. They will read about everything online and then come into the lab class and prove they learned something. I am skeptical of this type of setup as well. I was talking to the engines teacher yesterday and he was telling me he could talk about how to do a compression test (with a gauge) all morning in class and set the class loose to do it in the lab and very few of them could do it correctly.
I've been working it out in my head what I would do with a 2 year program, and it goes like this:
Students would have a MLR hands on class for one semester and it would include all the theory of the 8 ASE areas and hands on maintenance work. They would spend one hour in the classroom at most, then go out to the lab. But the lab would also have chairs and tables they could be seated at while in front of a car. This class would be great for the person who wanted to get into the industry and see what it's like. Also for the person who wants to be a service advisor or sell parts since it will give them some hands on and a lot of theory. A student could test out of this by passing the student ASE tests.
Next would be a full two semesters of electrical work that includes teaching critical thinking, scope use, and scan tool use. To be trained to be able to think through electrical problems should help them even with mechanical problems. There will also be a lot of hands on work here with bugged cars and on trainers.
The final semester would be mostly hands on work with some review theory involved. If the student was already in the industry, the instructor would visit that student and their employer and make sure everything is going well there.
There is a ton to work out, but I think it's a starting point. Currently at the school, they are still teaching about valve margins, spring installed height, and lots of other things that just isn't relevant in the industry today outside of specialty shops that deal with rebuilding heads.
I advocate teaching theory imbedded in troubleshooting exercises. I also believe that repetition and reflection are key elements to our learning processes. The best teachers allow time for repetition in troubleshooting and require reflection from the student on their learning. Regular and written reflection.
Electrical seems to come up a lot. (-; When I started teaching I had the students doing the Ohm's Law resistance, voltage and current calculation exercises from the GM S.E.T. program. Slowly I learned that measuring the outcomes of the experiments, while folding theory into their findings, garnered better results.
Then I was led (by many others) to pay attention to the importance of Kirchhoff's Circuit Laws in our everyday electrical troubleshooting. And then I began to use ground referenced voltage drop testing. All with little initial theory instruction, which is the style that I continue to focus on going forward.
What if you put a meter in the hand of a student, properly turned on, and selected to the proper unit, and gave them two simple identical working loads, incandescent bulb circuits? Except that one of the loads, a bulb is noticeably dim? Same bulb number, same watts. Why is the bulb dim is then discussion topic. And, you've started with something visual right out of the gate. Instead of leading with math.
THEN have a mini lecture about the simplest of concepts of troubleshooting using the circuit laws. Start with the outcome. The troubleshooting the function of the load is the outcome. Can you repair the dim bulb. AND, can you describe why? Then they reflect (reflection) and write down what they learned during this process. Then they repeat (repetition) the process over and over, using the same processes. Repetition. Reflection. Repetition. Reflection. Repetition. Reflection.
Once the door to learning is cracked open, timely and appropriate individual learning can take place. Assigning "Chapter 13" and the questions at the end of the chapter is not teaching, and certainly does not promote student learning. Setting up hands on exercises related to "Chapter 13", with several iterations before assigning the reading has a better chance, but still not the best. So what if...
What if the electrical circuit troubleshooting was done in conjunction with a training aid to track not only progress, but the process of student learning during the progress. What if it were structured to lead and challenge the learner? I don't mean the usual read-and-click, read-and-click, read-and-click, of many online systems. What if it were gamified? Or incentivized? And you could see the process visually?
What if we already have that? And what if we have more coming?
What if this worked in other countries?
What if some people tried this out? Many have already.
Great teachers are not made by presenting lengthy PowerPoints that are delivered on "SmartBoards".
Great teachers realize that the learner wants to be connected to other learners.
Great teachers are hard workers who take the time to work with students; these are teachers who remember that they were once 16-26 years old, and that there are many things going on in the learners lives within those ten years. These are teachers that realize that every minute of every day contains key learning opportunities and moments for all of us, and make space for these moments, even set them up to happen.
Great teachers take the time to stop and assess student learning; and I don't necessarily mean by a "test".
Great teachers admit to not knowing all of the answers, and they tell students when they don't know, so that they can model their own learning processes to the students. This is a key piece in the learning of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills are learned; great teachers model these skills.
Great teachers are willing to 'hang it out there', realizing that they may make a mistake; but then they can pull it back so that all can learned from their mistakes. And then they understand the importance of reflecting on what they have learned, so that the next time will a be better experience for the learner.
Tomorrows learning needs to be a mashup of all of the things that have learned in the past about our learning. Technology, Team-Based Learning, flipping the classroom and other student centered learning are ways to effect positive change in our educational systems.
I really like that you are thinking of more ways to involve the students in learning, then applying the learning in a more relevant environment.
What if there were an arrangement with a national lube and maintenance corporation? These entities hire and train employees that soon quit. I believe that it is because there is not much to look forward to. Who wants to rotate tires or change oil for 20 years? Who wants to make just over minimum wage? What if these same employees were told that they could earn a wage, get more advanced schooling and either promote to management or learn to be a true automotive technician? After six months to a year, they could choose to continue with the same company or graduate to the next level. The role of the school would be to assure that the technician in training is meeting industry standards. The school would also assure that the technician is preparing to take the ASE tests. After mastering all the tasks required for the first level, they would work with other shops in order to become proficient at each task. (Covering Each of the ASE Environments) So the technician would spend time in the tire shop learning steering and suspension, tires, alignment. Meanwhile, at school the technician learns the angles and why they are important to making an automobile drive straight without wearing tires. The list could include any specialty shops or independent shops. The same employees that are hired for a entry level position could graduate with two to four years experience, ASE Master and a degree. The beauty of this program is that the school could take on more students as the students would only be at school 2 to 3 hours and be working in the industry 8 hours a day. In addition, the students would have homework that could be done on campus or at home. Ultimately, I would like to build a campus that includes dorms and a cafeteria. A full immersion program where the student eats, sleeps and studies automotive all week 10 to 15 hours a day. Maybe a break over the weekend and then back to it on Monday.
What a fantastic conversation. I am new here, in fact I just joined about an hour ago and while finding my way around I came across this …. I realize that it is a few month's old, but I'm going to chime in anyway. As you can see by my profile description I am an educator at a college up here in Toronto. I'm fairly new to the game having started this second career in 2014 after having had a lengthy career as a technician. I started out teaching apprentices, and find myself now teaching in a two year certificate program. Same basic curriculum, much different level of student. The student's that I teach now are generally right out of high school with little to no automotive background at all. Many of them don't even drive yet. The curriculum we teach is dictated to us by the Ontario College of Trades which means that our program learning outcomes must be inline with theirs. Upon graduation our student's will have completed the first 2 levels of schooling but will have no hands on experience other than what we allow them to do in lab. We encourage them find part time employment in the industry while at the school, but many find it a struggle to do so. Unfortunately this trade is it's own worst enemy, crying for technicians, but not willing to hire apprentices. So most of them graduate with little to no actual experience with a certificate that says they have completed the first two levels of education. They are then expected to find employment, become signed as apprentices, complete all of the practical aspects of the job, come back to the school for their third level of education and then write their certificate of qualification exam and get their licenses. Some of them never make it, they can't find employment or are treated poorly when they do. For some becoming good at this job is just too difficult, too much to know, they just don't have the drive. There are some however that go on to become good technicians and I can generally tell who that will be while I have them here at the school. So I teach in the third and fourth semester courses of this program in the electrical and fuels departments. While I have to try and cover everything as laid out in the course description, I try to focus on what I think will be the most important things for them to know upon graduation. At the top of this list is wiring diagram analysis, system operation and testing. I try to stress to them that knowing how systems work is paramount to their success in diagnosing faults. Being able to properly read and analyse a wiring diagram is a very close second followed by the proper use of test equipment for the various systems that I am responsible for teaching them. I start them early with voltage drop testing and continue to enforce it through to graduation, I try to give them a healthy dose of scan data analysis and DSO use as well. In the fourth semester I get them into diagnosing "bugged" vehicles where they will have a fault based on the subject matter for that particular week. This week they will be doing some ignition system diagnosis using scopes and analyzing secondary wave forms, next week they will be diagnosing no spark/no start faults. In lab we use a mixture of actual vehicles and Consul Lab trainers. I try to make my courses as relevant to the industry as possible while staying within the boundaries of the outlined curriculum. Is our program perfect? Not by a long shot, but we are trying to improve our teaching methods constantly, upgrade our equipment, upgrade our own knowledge and hopefully produce some competent future technicians in the process.
Thank you for sharing. Since writing this article I have had the opportunity to converse with educators such as yourself who take their work seriously. I realize that you have a very difficult job. This is compounded by the lack of participation from industry. Most of the problems I see on a daily basis are a result of technicians either being unaware of diagnostic best practices or they hurry through the jobs to get to the next project. (way to go flat rate) Having a firm understanding of electricity is critical. Your efforts to support this are commendable.
I have these conversations with new instructors all of the time that come from shops where following trouble charts and going straight to identifix is the norm. They get this funny look when I ask them to teach wiring diagram color coding and analysis so that when I see the students in the second year they have kind of a clue. I love it when they say they never use scopes, all misfires are usually coils and they just swap them or replace them all. When I ask them what they do when the "magic bullet" doesn't fix the problem, they change the subject and suddenly become interested. Funny how I never really get an answer to that one.