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Teaching Pico to Future Techs

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Warren Parr, owner of Complete Car Care in Fresno, Calif., is using something that’s very attractive to the younger generation to get them interested in a career in automotive—technology. 

Parr is using PicoScope oscilloscopes to get kids excited about a career in automotive, which requires more tech knowledge than ever before. Parr visits local school career fairs and teaches kids—and teachers—how far the automotive industry has come when it comes to diagnostics. Showing advanced technology has been a great way to get the next generation excited about a possible career as a technician. 

 

AS TOLD TO ABBY PATTERSON   

With the tech shortage, we’re in big trouble, and we want kids to come into our industry. We are a part of the third largest school district in California. Every year, Fresno County hosts a career fair in the Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball stadium. We see lots of kids and lots and lots of teachers. At our booth, we put a bowl of candy in front of the vehicle, and when they reach into that candy bowl, the car starts honking at them, flashing its lights, stuff like that to get their attention. If you’re gonna catch fish, you have to have bait. We then have a big screen displaying the PicoScope waveform—kids think it’s like a video game and it catches their eye. We then have one of our guys showing students how the PicoScope oscilloscope works. It’s been very successful. 

I’ve always wanted to start a club where shop owners can get together to share case studies and waveforms. I told a teacher from one of the career fairs about this and he helped set up a meeting in our shop. We held our first meeting on Jan. 3, 2009, with 13 members, and now we have somewhere in the 30s. We hold a meeting the first Saturday of every month. We have a private Facebook page where members can post things: post waveforms, when we learn something, we can share it with everybody, and when someone has an issue, we can all work together to help them work out that problem. The only thing we aren’t talking about is how much we charge so it doesn’t interfere with the law and turns into price-fixing. Now if a shop owner sends me a PicoScope waveform with a question about a problem, I can take a look at it and try to help them figure out the problem. We are working together on the diagnostic side, making sure everyone is doing a better diagnostic at a quicker pace. Banding together, we realized this would be a great way to attract new talent. 

Wanting to get more involved with students directly, I called the high school superintendent, who is a customer of mine, and asked him if he’d like me to be an advisor for the automotive programs—there are only two of them in this big city of a quarter of a million people. He said yes, so I went in and talked to the teacher of the program. The program is old-school. They’re still teaching the way it was done 30 to 40 years ago. While I was talking to the teacher, I asked him if he had a scope, and he said he did. Tucked back in a closet in a lock box, we found his scope. I asked him if he knew how to use it, and he said “nope,” so I asked him if he’d like to learn. So, after that, he started coming to our meetings, this teacher who is working side-by-side with these techs every day. He was excited about it and, long story short, he said there was a big group of teachers in the area and so I got introduced to a bigger group of teachers wanting to learn. 

That has evolved to me being an advisor for the entire county’s nine high schools that have automotive programs. So now, we are teaching pico technology to the teachers so they can go back and teach their students—along with the other basics they’d already been teaching—so when those students come out of those programs, they have the skill sets that the industry needs. A few months ago, the “Pico Club,” as we call it, began its long-term relationship with our local county public high schools with our first workshop, which takes place every other month. Now, small local auto repair businesses are partnering with local school districts not just as an advisory role, but as an instructor and high school curriculum role.

Not only are we teaching the instructors, we are also teaching the students so they can go from the shop back to school and apply what they learned hands-on. There are about seven to nine of us in our club that have high school juniors and seniors from the local vocational high school working in our shops between an hour and two hours per day each, two days per week. We want students to learn this technology so they will get a higher wage when they get out into the working world; we have to do it faster, we have to do it better, and with this scope, it makes it possible. If everything goes well, we will get more techs in our shop in about three years.

There are 64 NAPA business development groups around the country. What we are now trying to do is build an education model that works and just give it to NAPA to share around the nation. How I see it is, the more minds working on it, the better it will become.

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