After 30 years of being involved in the automotive industry I have seen it grow from a simplistic technology to a very advanced technology. With this evolution of advancements it has also changed the requirements of people entering the automotive field. The transition has been accelerated in recent years by the needs for cleaner vehicles, higher fuel economy and let’s not forget safer vehicles for all who operate them or come in contact with them. This has also created a challenge for automotive education.
There are many organizations who have taken up the challenge of keeping the education of future technicians in check. ASE and NATEF are just two of the many organizations who constantly work with manufactures and education to assure the proper training of future automotive technician. ASE offers new and currant technicians the ability to test their knowledge in many automotive areas. Some examples of these areas they can test their knowledge in are A1 Engine Repair, A2 Automatic Trans/Transaxle, A3 Manual Drive train and axle, A4 Suspension and Steering, A5 Brakes, A6 Electrical/Electronic Systems, A7 Heating and Air Conditioning, A8 Engine Performance, and L1 Advanced level Specialist ( www.ase.org ). These tests are voluntary and after passing issue a certificate of acknowledgement that the tester has demonstrated competency in the area of exam. Some people misunderstand this credential as deeming them an expert! The ASE certificate clearly states;” that the person listed has successfully passed the examinations and met the experience requirements prescribed by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and is awarded this certificate in evidence of COMPETENCE in the service areas listed.” This competency is assurance for us that the technician who achieved this has the skills and experience to understand, interpret, technical information about vehicles and is able to follow repair procedures, perform services, and repair vehicles.
I found the ASE testing serves as a good testing strategy to uncover the low literacy of most automotive technicians. I have work with many entry level and accomplished technician who struggle to pass ASE. What I found was their reading level and comprehension of technical information was very low. This alarmed me because of the amount of technical data an automotive technician must be able to read and understand to accomplish the job of working in the automotive industry. I found that most automotive programs have no real literacy (reading & writing) or mathematical classes for automotive technician programs. The community college automotive programs address this best. Some do offer certificate programs that eliminate the academics required for an associate’s degree. Suppliers of post secondary automotive books address this with Key word exercises and automotive mathematical books and aligning the automotive mathematics within the automotive chapters they apply to. Why are schools not applying this to the learning experience? Math teaches how to process, vehicle repairs and diagnosis is following a process! Computers do MATH! Cars operate on a mathematical process and converts numbers into inputs and outputs. Voltage is numbers and math equations process these numbers.
We need industry to be more involved with these automotive schools and insist that they teach these skills so we can achieve the goal of filling the automotive jobs with a well trained automotive technician. This would also prepare these young automotive enthusiasts to learn to love to learn and become lifelong learners. Which, we all know is one of the commitments you make when you desire a career in automotive technology?
A committed automotive technician must continue to attend updated training on vehicle information, new service techniques and new diagnosis techniques and equipment required. This takes a minimum of 100 hours a year of training to perform as an automotive technician. When you consider the average person works about 2000 hours a year that is a big commitment in time. With low level reading and mathematical skills no wonder our technicians are frustrated and do not embrace change. The learning curve is steep because of skill levels. We need to do a better job at preparing them for the industry! Today’s technician must love to learn and be equipped to learn. It makes being a part of this industry great! I love to learn and now love to teach!