Practical Training in the COVID Era

Feb. 4, 2021

The Network Academy is poised to permanently disrupt (and revolutionize) technician training

No one really knew what screen fatigue meant until this past year and many of us continue to work and socialize solely through the filters of our phones, tablets and computers. So how do you disrupt an industry by inviting people back to their screens?

If you’re AVI, you do it by completely re-imagining contemporary training for technicians and auto service professionals in the new Technicians Coaching program featured on The Network Academy. No longer will students have to sit through a slideshow, far from their tools and the shop floor, to simply imagine how to fix something; with AVI’s new program, they can see it in real time, working with instructors in studios servicing real vehicles. Multiple camera angles and live repairs allow students to see and understand the complete (and true) repair, ask live questions and get real-time answers.

“The majority of what we do is live, web-based streaming,” says Michael Smyth, director of training at AVI. “With the pandemic, just about every training organization had to stand back and ask, ‘what can we do to meet the needs of the client?’ ”

To answer that question, AVI kept things simple. If they couldn’t bring technicians to the cars, bring the cars to the technicians. 

Lofty Goals, Humble Beginnings

The ambitious new program begins modestly with classes on diesel brakes and general electrical know-how.

“We’ve received amazing feedback from techs and owners,” Smyth says. 

“We’re all tired of Zoom and the Brady Bunch screens, but the feedback we’re getting is great—it’s a great pace, the repair is live and it’s not a bunch of talking heads.” 

Each class, hosted on The Network Academy, consists of weekly meetings either during the day or in the evening to accommodate technicians’ training schedules. Each course consists of six total classes at two hours each to work with a knowledgeable instructor. Every enrollee has a direct link with the instructor for course work. Every mentor will teach on a real vehicle or components and have their training tools, cars, electrical boards and more set up right there. 

“It’s not just a lecture,” Smyth says, “it’s live, practical experience.” 

Smyth says the brake program (for example) will feature live braking and training components and students will receive components in the mail so they’ll be able to participate along with the instructors using the training kit. They’ll also have the ability offline to schedule practice with shop sheets that arrive with the kit. 

“Is it the same as training in the shop with a live instructor? No, but it’s close; I expect this type of training to continue long after the pandemic,” Smith says. 

The program was developed to be economical and maximize time for all parties; the shop owner, the trainees and the instructors. “The cost of bringing in an instructor or sending your techs to training is expensive,” Smyth continues, “and with our program, the only cost besides the course is the shipping of any materials.” 

Smyth expects the program to expand dramatically and become a core part of what The Network Academy does and can offer.  As more classes roll out, they’ll offer bundle discounts and can quickly develop courses specific to individual shops’ needs. 

Inside Look at Electrical—John Forro

When your house and your shop are 85 feet apart, it can be hard to separate work and pleasure. For John Forro, though, the situation is ideal for teaching with AVI.

Forro has been an instructor with AVI for over 20 years and is the first full-time instructor hired under the new program. His class will focus on electrical applications and repair.

“I told them I’d set up a studio in Ohio,” Forro says, “and I have five different professional cameras. First we’ll still study theory and then switch to the camera views. We’ll have a vehicle in the shop and we’ll perform the hands-on training live; I think of it as a webinar combined with YouTube, so though they don’t get the hands-on experience, they’re seeing the repair in real time.” 

Forro has been a full-time technician since he was eleven and spent over 30 years in professional training. As a shop owner, he knows what the industry needs and believes AVI’s new program is the best solution given the pandemic. More than that, though, he’s excited about its long-term possibilities. 

“Right now, I have three groups going simultaneously. There are probably 50 or 60 technicians total, and we’re covering all areas of auto repair. The first three classes were all related to electrical—that’s always a hot topic and some of the harder tests to pass. We have students from all over the world!”  

Forro says the main goal was to disrupt the industry and offer something accessible. The training format  reflects the real world; “If we talk about hooking up a fuel gauge sensor to a vehicle, they’re actually seeing it happen on a real vehicle,” Forro says. “It reinforces everything and they see the real-world application. We can say this is the component, it’s held on with a 10mm bolt, this tool makes it easier. We’re speaking to our people, and students will learn, see and virtually experience it. It’s live, so students can also ask questions about any procedure, tool or problem. We have really good interaction, and with all the camera views they can actually see everything better than in real life; there’s not a crowd standing around.”

Forro is excited about that 85-foot commute to work.  

“I set the building up and it’s got every piece of automotive equipment you could possibly ever need,” Forro says. 

“The studio is set up for any type of training. When everything shut down, whether it’s a webinar or comprehensive coaching program, we were sitting pretty ready to go. It’s nice having a shop—we call it an R&D center for training applications—we see exactly what people are seeing, and we can set up training for what comes through the shop in the real world.” 

And until the real world returns to normal, there’s not a better option on the market than The Network Academy’s Technician Coaching.

Inside Look at Diesel—Tom Rayk

“I’m the new guy!” says Tom Rayk. Rayk is the yin to Forro’s yang at AVI, handling the diesel program upon its launch. His course will cover light-, medium- and heavy-duty diesel applications. In his time as an instructor, he’s worked for Ford Motor Co., Snap-On, Goodyear and was recently director of training at NAPA.

Like Forro, he’s excited for what the new program has to offer. “We’re recording live programs; we have a new fuels program coming out shortly about how to test fuel so it doesn’t ruin pumps, components, etc. We’ll also cover how to test fuel pressure and volume. We’ll also have a program about diesel coaching, beginning with Ford power-stroke. Our classes will go from servicing to reinstallation.”  

We’ll have some airbrake training programs coming out and other state-of-the-art programs for heavy-duty. 

Rayk is adamant about how much he enjoys teaching. He began when he was 16 years old, putting together a training program for scopes. His career grew from there.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to put together a cutting-edge class that really services what the tech needs to do the work to make their customers satisfied and happy. That’s the beauty of it—we can show how to use the equipment, verify diagnostics and do it right. We can teach them not only how to handle broken fuel injectors, for example, but we can show them how they broke in the first place. They’ll learn to fix them again and again and again. They’ll also learn about what causes injector failure in the first place. Today’s applications are critical; we’ll teach them to do it right so the parts and installation they do are correct.”

Rayk knows if an owner is hesitant about recouping the investment in the class to simply look at their invoices down the line; these are expensive repairs, and Rayk has the skills and motivation to ensure zero comebacks on a $5,000 diesel repair. 

“We’re really excited about bringing the complete diesel program to The Network Academy,” he says. 

“These coaching programs work very well. Anyone in the class can ask any questions they want or discuss a situation while it’s happening. It’s really groundbreaking.”

lick here to learn more about The Network Academy’s new mentorship program—and how it can benefit your shop and staff.
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