From The Tech Director - December - 2016

Educating to Industry or Educating the Industry?

The 2016 ATRA Powertrain Expo hosted by GEARS and ATRA is over! It was a terrific event, and we all learned a lot about how we think about one another. My message to you today is simple: Change the way you think and start educating yourself. I held a weeklong class on education to the industry. Simply put, everywhere I went, I was teaching a class.

Let’s step back for a second so you can get the whole story. It started about four years ago with a revamp of our testing and certification programs. We completely changed these programs, from head to toe.

The changes were well received, but only a very small percentage of Member technicians have earned their certifications. Some say, “If it requires participation, it’ll fail.” Others say, “I don’t need to pass a test to work on transmissions.” Fair enough, but how are you planning to educate the new technicians coming into our industry?

The simple truth is, you can’t stop working to train them. So we began to consider a new “mentorship/ internship” thought process. This raised some interesting questions, some of which we simply couldn’t answer. So we did the next best thing: We invited a bunch of young people who are interested in our industry and some working instructors to join us at Expo.

It was called the Education to Industry Summit, although it could just as easily been called Educating the Industry Summit. There were about 25 attendees: shop owners, instructors, and one new tech, Tyler, who was eighteen years old. We asked several questions, such as, how are we going to get today’s young people into our industry? What are we going to teach them? What transmissions are we going to use?

The questions kept coming about the problems that arise, the issues schools face, and so on. It got to the point where, with all the downsides, it became difficult to see the upside.

One of the instructors told us about a really good shop in his area that had a turnover and wanted to hire some techs, so he sent over his best students. They didn’t make it; they failed!

Why? For obvious reasons, such as poor production and lack of experience. I asked, “Did you tell them they were going to fail? Did you let them know there was no way of winning? Did you tell the shop that these students are good, but they aren’t what you’re looking for? If not, you set them up for failure… and that’s another reason we don’t have new guys coming into the industry.”

Our industry has so much to offer from the standpoint of a career; we need to be more vigilant in making sure that we, as an industry, are doing everything possible to make that happen. I asked the young man, Tyler, why he chose this industry. Honestly, why is an eighteen-year-old at a seminar in Las Vegas? His answer?
“I like working on cars.”

Gee, that sounds familiar. I bet right now you’re thinking, “That’s what I said.” I know it’s what I’ve said and, to this day, it holds true. But there was something else and it was profound. He has a mentor who’s helping him and instructing him… in essence, educating him.

More often than not, you’re too busy to help the young guy in the shop. You just need to remember you were once that young guy, and someone helped you. Now it’s your turn to reciprocate.

Education to Industry and Educating the Industry are one in the same. We have to learn to understand today’s young people, and learn how to teach them.

And ATRA’s here to help. We’re working on a new program to provide online training in simple, easy-to-follow modules, targeted directly to young folks entering the industry. Called the ATRA Virtual Training Solutions (VTS), the program will help you train your new hires, and help make them successful as they enter the transmission industry. The program is still a few months away — we’re hoping to launch a preliminary version by the middle of next year — but until then, my advice to you is to give back what you received.

If you have the opportunity to hire someone who’s fresh out of school, off the street, or a kid that delivers pizza to your shop but is really excited about what you do, take the plunge! Take them under your wing and share your knowledge and experience. Introduce them to our industry and mold them into a transmission specialist.

This is your opportunity to make a difference to a young person and to our industry. Share what you know.