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Training Beyond Technicalities

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Aug. 22, 2022The automotive aftermarket industry is unique, in part, because each and every shop can have its own approach. The core foundations of repairs and customer service may be similar, but the execution can be drastically different depending upon the shop and its team. 

Variety is what keeps things interesting amid day-to-day operations. Shops and individuals can learn from one another and motivate each other in some really impactful ways. 

For Ross Colket, CEO of Colket Automotive Technical Services in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, that variety comes from focusing on the power of technician education and training. 

Given that there is a constant need for retaining new information and procedures, training has become more important than ever before, especially when it comes to high-tech repairs and ADAS components. 

“I've actually introduced myself to some shops and I was told quite frankly, that ADAS calibrations were insurance fraud because all of the systems were self-calibrating,” Colket says. “It’s absolutely not true. There's ignorance in the industry towards training.” 

Colket recognizes that there are many people and teams in the industry that prioritize this type of training and awareness, and he says they’re doing a good job. But ultimately, the motivation for the training needs to be present in order to make things happen. 

“They have to actively go after it and ensure that the technicians are getting properly trained,” Colket says. “The amount of technology in cars today is just incredible. The ADAS systems, once you get used to it, [are] very simple [and] very straightforward, but so many people are unaware of it.”

One of the major hurdles is simply seeking out the technology and training materials, as well as discovering how it all can fit into the environment of your shop. But an obstacle that shops may face can be knowing where to start and how to determine what they need to know. 

There are different ways that this access can be approached, but Colket says that the main thing is a willingness to get started.  

“One of the concerns in the industry right now is being able to get ahold of the information,” Colket says. “The information's out there, if you're willing to pursue it.”

Colket lists a couple of resource examples such as the Carquest Technical Institute and a training program that is in development with the Autocare Alliance for its members, and he says that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Colket sees the opportunity in seeking out both new and relevant training opportunities that will not only improve the operations of a shop but will also prove extremely beneficial for the next generation of technicians. 

“We've really got to rethink our management style for the next generation, and we've also really got to think about the pay.” Colket says. 

The topic of labor rates is not a new conversation for the industry by any means, but Colket believes that stagnant pay rates could, unsurprisingly, be seen as uninviting to new technicians. 

In addition, management style plays a big role in recruitment and retention as well. Clear and consistent management support is something that Colket prioritizes, and it works in the favor of Colket Automotive Technical Services. 

“[If] one of my guys makes a mistake, they will come to me,” Colket says. “They don't try to cover it up because I don't freak out. One of the big things I try to do is [say] ‘hey, calm down. Let's put the energy towards a resolution rather than getting upset by it’, and the guys self-police because of it.”

This same sort of attitude and approach can be done in regard to technology integration as well. Incorporating new technology, be that tools or procedures, into a shop is something that Colket believes should be taken in stride. 

He will get the chance to talk more about this topic at the upcoming ADAPT: Technology Summit this fall. The Summit will take place Sept. 24 through Sept. 25 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. 

Colket will speak as a panelist during a discussion on technician education, which will address the  technician shortage, high-tech repair training resources and more. 

Overall, Colket sees technology and adequate technician training as a solid foundation for a thriving shop that will see success well into the future. 

“Embrace it. Technology has been wonderful for me,” Colket says. “Anytime something new comes along, I try to be involved in it.”

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