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International Automotive Technicians Network
Technician Licensing
Posted to Industry Issues Forum on 7/18/2013 62 Replies

Hello, IIF

Andrew Gibson make an extremely good point about the power of licensing and regulation in other trades. I think it's obvious that the reason other trades prosper while the automotive sector languishes is because they have standards and we don't.

But we've been beating up the tech licensing issue nearly every month during the fourteen years that I've been an iATN member.

The long and short of it is that I keep hearing shop owners in general complaining about the lack of qualified technicians. The fact of the matter is that the aftermarket industry contributes very little material support to the training of young, qualified technicians.

The other pertinent fact is that we're not going to get qualified technicians through our current vocational and aftermarket training systems. And I use the word "system" very loosely when referring to aftermarket training.

One reason the quality of our trade school grads is so lacking is because the entry thresholds for beginning students are low to non-existent. The other reason is that we expect too much from a vocational educational model that hasn't changed since Model T Fords rolled on wooden wheels.

Don't blame the instructors. But instead blame the politicians and the administrators who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Not to mention the largely inadequate funding of what now passes for "vocational" education.

The obvious answer is that, if we really want technician licensing, we need organization and clout. The only way to get that organization and clout is to grow a much larger, politically stronger, and more financially able Automotive Service Association.

Although ASA is composed of shop owner members, it must also be dedicated to raising the threshold for entry-level technicians. Not only must ASA be dedicated to raising the existing threshold, it must also initiate its own internship/apprenticeship programs so that it can instill not only the pride of craftsmanship but also the ethical values involved with becoming a master technician and perhaps future shop owner.

I say the "internship and apprenticeship" levels simply because these programs are the only way that industry can certify hands-on competence. Either program should evaluate student performance through an on-going system of training, remediation, and certification of specific hands-on skills.

As for the differences between the two, internships are usually coordinated through an existing vocational program while apprenticeships are usually operated solely through the resources of the industry itself. Either system will work.

Remember that the auto manufacturers team up with community colleges and make internships work for them each and every day of the week. And that's perhaps why they also get the best student candidates.

Yup, that process is going to cost a lot of folks some money including the shop owner and, ultimately, the automotive consumer. And don't forget that our industry will have to start offering compensation and benefit packages that will attract the bright, young people we need in our industry. Even at the very best, this process will take years to put in place.

But, speaking as one who has addressed this issue for many years at many different educational and industry levels, industry-sponsored internships and apprenticeship programs are the only way to resolve the on-going issue of technician certification...

Gary from Colorado

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