November '18

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114 • RV PRO • November 2018 rv-pro.com B U S I N E S S "The (RVTI) is a huge step," says Lee, noting how the indus- try's investment in the RVTI is a declaration of value of what education will mean. Today, there is widespread recognition that the industry needs to reduce repair event cycle times in order to retain RVers. Shipment numbers may reach 505,900 this year, and, currently, there are only about 1,250 base level and trained techs in the U.S. "This has risen from a level of importance to a level of crisis," Matt Wald, RVIA's vice president of strategic initiatives, told RV PRO earlier this year. "With record sales three years down the road, there is going to be record repair needed. And that's just a matter of math. That's nothing to do with the quality of the units or consumer demographics – it's just straight math." The current goal is to double the number of trained techs – and the RVTI is setting out to do that. As funds from various entities come in, RVTI is undergoing 30-, 60-, 90-day projects. Those projects include shaping the curriculum, hiring an executive director, and then building or acquiring a facility to house the RVTI. RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer and a recruiting firm will be in charge of finding a director, hopefully by January, according to Lee. The curriculum will consist of three levels. Level 1, Lee says, will teach the essentials for pre-delivery inspection (PDI) – a sort of "boot camp." She says that, based upon how the way things are shaping up, the RVTI might require being built from the ground up, seeing as techs in boot camp at Elkhart's Institute are likely to stay in RVs for one or two weeks. "That way," says Lee, "they have some experience and affinity for the customer for what they go through." PDI training fulfills 70 percent of what dealerships need, according to Lee. "One of the problems being done with training today that's being done by the vendors is that they get a wider range of technicians coming into their class – some that have been 20 years in the industry, and some that were hired yesterday who don't even know how to use a meter to test for voltage," she says. During those specific classes, too much time can be devoted to bringing techs up to speed with technician basics. But with an RVIA boot camp in place, vendors may solely focus on the product they're teaching. Level 2 will get into problem-solving and touch upon theory of operation and troubleshooting. After reaching Level 2, techs may then get training from ven- dors or other specialty fields, completion of which will result in a patch and certificate, as well as data being entered into a centralized system. For example, marking a checklist on five or so appliance training sessions from vendors (refrigerator, water heater, air con- ditioner, etc.) would result in an "appliance credential," Lee says. "If you learn from one vendor, most of the time, it's appli- cable to the rest," she adds. "Because at Level 2, they'll have learned the theory of how it works. Now you're getting practical applications on a specific product." Vendors such as Dometic, Lippert and Thetford, which also worked in RVIA's Technicians in Training (TNT) program – which focused on specific products – will also work with RVTI. Helpful as those training sessions were, Lee says it was never part of a technician's track – a clearly defined career path. Dealers began sharing success stories with Lee soon after the TNT program was launched a few years ago. One partic- ular dealer told her that his salary for technicians increased 30 percent in a year due to properly trained techs "outperforming the flat rate," she says. However, there is a shared concern among many dealers that trained techs will then relocate to another dealership for even slightly better pay. "We hope that with more funding and marketing and the professionalization of the technical career, we can actually limit that," she says. "It might seem counterintuitive … but if you invest in and properly train your employee, they're willing to stay." For its part, RVIA is placing a greater value and notoriety in education and in technicians. Certain initiatives by the Association, such as the annual Top Tech Challenge, turn the spotlight to underappreciated techs. In fact, last year's winner, Brandon Galbreath, is lending his expertise to help shape RVTI's curriculum and future Top Tech Challenge structure. When the Institute does open, it's expected to have 10 to 12 full-time employees, according to Lee. The Institute's first hire was Mike Curl. He has more than 30 years of background as a field technician trainer and design engineer. He also was a judge during the Top Tech Challenge at last year's National RV Trade Show. After aiding the development of RVTI's curriculum with Mike Anderson, another full-time tech trainer, Curl will be one of the trainers traveling the U.S. teaching Level 1. Anderson will then most likely remain on-site at the Institute. The curriculum also will have to be formulated, Lee says, to work for both brand-new recruits and veteran techs already working at dealerships. "It will be fluid so that it works for everybody's lifestyle," she says. "If you're a brand-new person who's coming into the industry and you're coming out of vocational or high school, maybe you go to the Elkhart campus or partner schools." RVIA is planning on having accredited partners, other schools, and entities as training locations. Lee adds there's a possibility of including large dealerships in the mix to have trainers onsite to deliver the same curriculum taught at RVTI. Zamp Solar and the Cirrus Learning Center have already signed on for the RVTI curriculum. For remote locations, all material, including lesson plans, labs and power point presentations will come from the top, repre- senting a break from RVIA's educational approach in the past. It may sound like a heavy load, but like Lee says, "We're up for the challenge."

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