February '21

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climate-controlled service bays, three classrooms, and state-of-the-art equipment. In November 2019, NRVTA celebrated the anniversary of its first graduated class. "Probably the most fulfilling thing I've seen is when you see that proverbial lightbulb come on over someone's head in class," says Cooper, noting that occasionally, he'll get emails from past students expressing gratitude for his mentorship. "If we don't make a differ- ence, then we've lived a very selfish life." Cooper spoke extensively to RV PRO about his goals for NRVTA moving forward. RV PRO: In November (2019), how big of a deal was it celebrating the anniversary of the first class to graduate? What sort of stories have you heard from the graduates? Cooper: Some of the guys will go to work for dealerships. Some of the guys will go out and start their own mobile service business. And what's really interesting is a trend we didn't see coming: Mobile techs are developing relationships with the dealerships. A lot of times, the dealership will call the mobile tech and say, 'Hey, I got this unit in here. Can you come take a look at it?' And the mobile tech comes in and goes to work for the dealer for that particular project. But dealers are also using that mobile tech as a trainer. Dealers will put one of their techs in the shop with that mobile tech, so they could cross-pollinate to help one another. Some relationships are being developed that could very well help us alleviate some of the technician shortages at dealerships. RV PRO: How did COVID-19 impact NRVTA initially? Cooper: We were scheduled for about 25 to 26 students in this class. But our county commissioners said we (had) to shelter in place. But when we bought this place, it turns out we had fiber optic cables. So, we have high-speed internet on the campus. We're able to shoot signals so people here can stream movies and everything else. Now, the students that are taking the class, are taking what we call our 'homestead option.' A total of 48 students completed the Basic RV Training Course at the National RV Training Academy in late July, representing the largest single class since NRVTA opened for business. Since 2018, more than 400 people have completed some type of training through the academy. COVID-19 has not stopped NRVTA from hosting in-person training. Students are pictured here working on an air conditioner in the classroom in December. NRVTA's 15,000-square-foot learning center includes climate-controlled service bays where students receive a mix of classroom instruction and hands- on training. rv-pro.com February 2021 • RV PRO • 63

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