By DeWayne Demland
The other day, I was at a meeting with the local automotive association that was meeting with the chairman of the commerce committee for the state legislature. Everyone who was there represented different aspects of the aftermarket: regional and national associations, WDs, manufacturing representatives, program distributors and even education.
Prior to the start of this meeting, I was discussing education with several people there. This is a passion that I have always had, especially in this industry. The discussion centered around the education of parts specialists, and this was something several of the people there voiced as a concern. The cost of one program to train parts specialists was mentioned in this discussion. Someone thought the cost of this program was too much. This stirred up something deep inside me, as I was thinking that this is definitely an issue that needs to be tackled.
Most automotive technician programs cost about $5,000. Keep in mind that these technicians pay for their education on their own, most prior to ever being employed as a technician. This is just their initial training; they will be required to continue their training in order to stay current with the changes in the industry. Depending on the path the technician takes, that education will come from an OEM or from us in the
Many of us have been involved with putting on clinics for our customers so that they stay current in being able to repair these vehicles. Along with that is the hope that they will “remember” who helped give them that knowledge those of us who supply parts for them, and will come to us for the parts to repair these vehicles. The unmentioned advantage for us as parts professionals, is that we also gain the same knowledge and insight; adding to our ability to serve our customers even better. This is referred to as “continuing education,” and in many professions and jobs, it’s a requirement. This continuing education is an added expense to either the technician or the employer, on top of their initial training.
So let’s look at how we train a parts specialist. Is there an initial training that they go through? Typically, no. When we hire them we would probably hope that they have some sort of mechanical background. So, in many cases, the only training they receive is in the form of continuing education that is provided in-house or through the clinics they attend for technicians. In many ways, this in itself could be problematic. After all, who is the customer coming to because they may not be able to fix the problem?
So, what is the difference between “initial training” and “continuing education?” Basically, the format. Continuing education is short highlights of a given system, problem or even a product. They are most often limited in depth, and many make assumptions about the level of knowledge that the students have coming into the training. They are not typically done in a systematic approach, and may jump from one subject to another. There may even be extended time between each session. The approach in initial training will be a complete systematic way of looking at the subject. It will be in-depth and will make no assumptions as to the level of knowledge that the students bring with them.
There are an extremely limited number of options for initial training for a parts specialist. In this context then, any cost for this training could be perceived as expensive. This could also be a reflection as to why such a high percentage of our parts specialists are not producing at the same level as the top performers are in our stores. If the initial training for a parts specialist would cost $3,000 and increase their performance, it would still equate to a $2,000 savings from that of a technician. Maybe our perspective should shift from what we are doing, to what we are not doing.
DeWayne Demland is president of Automotive Parts Training LLC of Phoenix, Ariz.