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In an era of virtual training and limited live options, The Network Academy—now merged with The Group Training Academy (TGTA) and AVI (Auto Video Innovations)—is disrupting the industry once more. They’re bringing the training to youlive sessions. Exposed vehicles. Moving parts. Shop to shop, city to city, coast to coast like butter ‘n’ toast.

“Coming out of COVID, we need to prepare for moving beyond virtual training,” says Michael Smyth, director of training at Automotive Video Innovations (AVI). 

“The core of our training is recorded live training, and over the last twelve months we’ve offered live virtual sessions through our technician coaching program. But we knew we could accomplish something better.”

TNA 1Working with a variety of partners, the AVI team took training on the roadthey’re still out there nowand offered live EV training with a custom cutaway Prius, a trailer full of tools, components and gear, and a mammoth 2021 Ford F350 Super Duty diesel truck.

Smyth’s enthusiasm for the program and the Prius is palpable. “We removed the body on it,” he says, “so it’s fully operational and it still drives. But the student technicians can see the converter, the high-voltage battery, all those components unique to the vehicle.”

They also added a high-voltage battery without a charge to the setup so the instructors can teach the technicians how to work safely with a live high-voltage component. Only when they’ve shown proper knowledge and skills does the class move onto the real high-voltage, live component of the car (all under proper supervision, of course).

“The techs know they’re safe and it makes them more eager to get their hands on the vehicle and start working. The class sizes are small and we’re able to conduct a dead/live test using proper PPE even though the battery isn’t energized. Once the entire class has done so and the instructor feels the class is capable of moving on, they move on.”

 

One More (Training Session) for the Road

This spring, Smyth and his team of instructors have taken the training on a road trip through the northeast, logging thousands of miles in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and (now into April) Fort Myers, Florida, home to many baseball teams’ spring training activities.

Smyth is a big fan of America’s pastime. “I got to see a Red Sox Grapefruit League game two years ago. I don’t know if I’ll have time for baseball this year!”

Not with what AVI has planned, he won’t. Throughout the road trip, AVI is compiling all the data and experience they’ve learned from their classes and are preparing for more robust mobile offerings in the future using a similar setup—truck, trailer and trainers. “We’re reaching out to other partners in Texas and Oklahoma, California and Arizona, and we’ll set up a training loop,” he says, “and when we can combine these sessions together, we’ll achieve a better price point for everyone.”

There’s value in consolidation, both for the classes and for what AVI can offer. This spring, The Network Academy merged with The Group Training Academy and there are exponentially more options available for users of both networks.

“All of the training on The Network Academy is being moved over,” says Katie Malone, vice president of AVI. “The Network Academy had unique content; The Group Training Academy had unique content. Now, their efforts have been combined and there’s more training and education available for everyone.”

The expanded opportunity is nothing short of exponential. Collectively, the merger offers over 1,000 courses and 5,000 lessons available, coupled with over a thousand hours of video training and hundreds of how-to videos from vendor partners. 

“This joint effort creates a new powerhouse in training for American technicians and shop owners," Malone says, "and combining resources between both organizations will offer exponential value and growth to all. There’s really nothing else out there like it!”

 

The Great American Training Road Trip

Whether from the comfort of home, the shop or out on the open road, the AVI team is poised for a summer unlike any other, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“Anytime you travel thousands of miles, things happen,” laughs Smyth, picking up the mobile training conversation. “We write a daily blog trying to educate people about what we’re doing, what’s available, and we’re putting a human face on the training options available.”  

TNA 2Smyth says the program has been extremely successful. Attendees to the training fill out post-class surveys, and the feedback has exceeded every goal Smyth imagined for the class and for his team. 

“The class was fantastic,” one survey reads, “and I really liked working with the Prius and all the components were right out there where we could see them. I can’t wait for them to come back through with a more advanced electric vehicle class.” 

Another one reports, “The instructor did a great job, and asked about what other type of training we’d like to see from The Group Training Academy and AVI. He wrote down our suggestions and said to keep in touch, as they would go with our feedback on new training. We really look forward to them coming to town again.”

Smyth says AVI intends to make good on its promise. “Soon, we’ll be able to build out bespoke services depending where we are,” he explains.

“Say, a day for service advisors and scan tools. We’ll be able to conduct multiple sessions in one location with multiple audiences, driving the price down. Everyone will get the training they need. We have two full-time instructors and a lot of adjunct; I could see AVI needing to expand to cover our endeavors!” 

Smyth says the team loves being busy and loves what they do, and that’s reflected in the feedback from the class and, more importantly, from within the class itself. If the students are enjoying themselves, they’re engaged, they’re hands-on, and they’re learning.

From a training perspective, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Or could you? To see the latest live training available (and exponentially larger content between The Network Academy and The Group Training Academy), please click here.

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