If you are ever in Boulder, Colo., then you should take some time to stop and visit Brad Pellman over at Pellman’s Automotive. It could be to see his beautiful $2.5 million shop, to see the systems they use, to learn about their marketing program and much more. However, one of my favorite things to talk to Brad and his staff about is their dedication to training and creating an atmosphere of camaraderie that makes his staff want to stay.
Brad has the philosophy that if you train people and create an atmosphere that team members want to work in, then it will draw in others. Therefore, part of his recruiting program includes a dedication of training and work/life balance.
Brad’s training program starts in the local technical school, where he looks for students that have both the right attitude and aptitude and then works to grow them from there. In this training program, which is led by his shop foreman, new team members start with oil changes and he then motivates them to want to learn and move up by using a combination of flat rate and hourly rate programs that slowly increase as their status elevates. This allows them to better understand the potential of flat rate and efficiency, but also understand what things like rechecks can cost you if the quality is lacking.
All team members are required to attend a combination of management, technical and financial management training. They get a minimum of 80 hours of training per year through Carquest Technical Institute (CTI). The master technicians also get WORLDPAC training courses and continue their ASE certifications.
Finally, for Brad’s personal training, he attends a Master Mind group in the area to work with other shop owners who help each other grow, learn and look at how their current processes can be improved.
Brad also works to grow our industry as a whole by giving back. He’s on the CTI council for his area and ASA of Colorado, where he helped start and design the apprentice program that is now in practice.
Brad’s programs led him into a relationship with one of my favorite people in the industry, Chris Chesney, the senior director of training at CTI. Chris works hard not only for CTI, but he also works with NATEF, AYES, SP2 and the Automotive Task Force to really make a change in our industry! If you haven’t heard of Chris, then you probably are not looking outside your four walls to our industry’s technician problem. Chris is one of the primary people heading up the Road to Great Technicians project that is developing industry programs, comprehensive apprenticeship programs and creating a credentialing program with a clear career path for technicians that leads to the layout of continuing education.
Chris has worked with these groups to change the framework of our vocational schools by looking at what technicians really need to know. This flows into a whole new certification program that goes beyond just systems-based training. Ten years ago, we could just learn about the braking system and then move on. However, today this extends to critical thinking skills, data analysis, electrical and more, so those old buckets just don’t work anymore. The plan is to dump all the buckets and reorganize for today’s industry.
These groups are also focused on how to bring emerging technicians into direct relationships with the shops and owners in their areas. In the future, they plan to use this bridge to create online mentoring for faster and quicker onboarding in the shop. If you ask Chris what shop owners can do today, he will say get involved in these groups, provide continual training, and educate themselves. One of the places for some great emerging training is on a Facebook site called the Technicians Training Group.
Once we reorganize what today’s course and certifications really need to be. then it will be tackling the issue of how to bridge the gap between the OEM and aftermarket. Chris expects that over the next five years, OEMs will look to see how our groups can really work together instead of against each other. The reason is that the number of dealerships is decreasing every year but the need for repairs has not. In their eyes, the problem is that the aftermarket didn’t have standardized information and programs, as the collision industry did. That’s where these standardization and credentialing programs will be a big help in those first steps of a new relationship.
All in all, you will see many more articles laying out the pathways for technician certifications, growth and integration into the aftermarket. Much of this foundation is because of these two men who keep inspiring us to keep learning each and every day!