Tim Zlike wants the industry to focus on the big picture when it comes to education. For too long, he says, the automotive repair community has failed to provide a clear, direct framework to provide industry professionals with the training, education and resources needed to thrive.
As the president and CEO of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), Zilke is looking to change that with the ASE Industry Education Alliance, a network of organizations that aims to provide lifelong career services, from high school to retirement.
The alliance, Zilke hopes, will change the industry’s education system for the better. He sat down with Ratchet+Wrench to discuss the alliance and its potential impact on the industry.
Can you describe the current state of industry education and training?
There are many opportunities for those interested in a career in the automotive service industry. Well-known career and technical education programs, such as SkillsUSA, do a great job of preparing students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to be successful. Entry-level training at the high school and post-secondary levels benefit from accreditation developed by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
Through NATEF, the automotive industry provides the educational community with a comprehensive set of knowledge standards to ensure that the curriculum dovetails with industry needs. In fact, the NATEF standards have recently been revised to better reflect the real-world skills needed by those just entering the automotive service field. Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) provides the school-to-work programs and factory training for those students who qualify.
Once in the field, ongoing training is available through various training providers, many of which are members of the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC). The need for continuous, career-long training is part and parcel of any career in the automotive service industry to keep abreast of changing vehicle technology, be it at the passenger vehicle, medium and heavy truck, collision or transit bus segments. ATMC serves as the forum for sharing ideas and the latest developments in training delivery methods to ensure the instruction fits the audience, regardless of the skill level.
To keep the instructors current, the North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) provides the forum to ensure that those entrusted with preparing technicians at all levels have access to the latest information on changing technology and evolving industry educational standards.
The capstone of this system is the ASE Certification program, which provides professional credentials and ongoing assessments to verify technical knowledge.
What are the problems with the current system?
Perhaps the largest challenge is resources. Career and technical education programs at all levels struggle with funding and compete for resources within the educational system.
What is lacking is a coordinated framework that encompasses the big picture and allows the industry to play a larger role in helping to ensure we continue to provide the instruction necessary to meet the needs of those who choose to pursue a tradesman career. Training personnel need an opportunity to network and learn and share best practices and innovation with trainers from other organizations. In addition, trainers and service individuals need to interface with secondary and post-secondary instructors to ensure a current knowledge base.
How does the ASE Industry Education Alliance help fill those gaps?
The Industry Education Alliance applies the unique value and expertise of several organizations to provide that framework I mentioned within which industry and education can work cooperatively to meet the challenge of finding and training the qualified workforce of today and tomorrow by providing the standards and employer connections to ensure that pools of qualified technicians are available locally all across the nation.
It also allows us to maximize scarce resources to best effect, while clearly showing the commitment of industry to developing the right skills for the future and existing workforce necessary for the success of the individuals and the companies that employ them. It ensures that automotive students are trained in alignment with industry needs, while helping employers identify entry-level talent and recruit at the local level.
Describe the process the alliance will use to help guide automotive technicians through their careers. Also, is there any cost to it?
The Industry Education Alliance leverages the specific focuses of ASE, NATEF, AYES, ATMC and NACAT to provide a career path of school-to-work programs and ongoing education to serve the needs of individual technicians at all stages of their career. Working together, these organizations create a pipeline that ensures an individual has access to the right training at the right time to provide the skill set necessary at each level for an individual to advance.
But it’s much more than that. Working with a field network, the Alliance will also create and provide access to regional pools of available talent from which service facilities at both OEM and aftermarket levels can draw for entry-level personnel, along with access to the ongoing training necessary to allow our workforce to develop and pursue advancement opportunities as they arise.
In all, it creates the connections necessary for lifelong career support of individual technicians. There is no direct cost to the technicians, save for the normal expenses associated with education and training, but the Industry Education Alliance does require support and investment by the industry to fulfill its mission.
When will it be fully operational?
The groundwork is already laid, and we envision having the structure complete by the end of the year. While the Industry Education Alliance itself does not require investment, we are soliciting funding and support from the industry to aid the specific nonprofit organizations within the Alliance.
What are the benefits for current shop owners and workers to enter the program?
The most immediate benefit for shop owners is the ability to participate in the school-to-work program, providing opportunities for entry-level technicians while meeting their recruitment needs. The Alliance also helps identify the best training providers to keep the existing workforce current with changing technology.
For individuals, the benefits of professional certification through ASE are the most obvious with ongoing support and career advice available through myASE.
But perhaps the most valuable asset to everyone is the network created between all the organizations and their respective resources.
What are the benefits of shop owners/managers becoming mentors in the program?
Having access to motivated and properly prepared entry-level employees is the key to any business success. Being able to provide the kind of one-on-one interaction—which is necessary to identify talent and develop it within their specific business model.
What are the benefits of hiring a recent graduate from one of the program’s affiliated schools?
Employers need help in identifying entry-level talent. You know you’ll be getting a properly trained and prepared individual with the skill set necessary to be a productive employee right out of the box. As I said earlier, the NATEF-accredited schools provide curriculum tailored to the specific needs of the industry, and AYES provides factory-specific training, mentoring and school-to-work opportunities.
How can current technicians, managers and owners become involved?
The best way is to get involved in your local Career and Technology Education (CTE) program’s advisory councils. These councils are made up of local business owners and technicians and are critical to helping those training programs succeed. I also encourage everyone to participate in things like career fairs to help attract young men and women into the CTE training programs.
This is very much a local issue and getting involved in technical education in your community is an important part of the overall effort to attract the best and the brightest.
What’s the most important aspect for shop owners to know about this program?
That they can benefit from this program as individual businesses, right now. The Alliance itself is not fully operational yet, but each of the specific programs is. This level of industry cooperation is unsurpassed and we must all help to create a strong industry in the future.
Together, we can ensure our ongoing success while providing rewarding careers for those who choose to be part of the automotive service industry.