Benefits of Using ATech Trainers
by Mark Spisak, Central Piedmont Community College
One of the big problems in training the next generation of automotive technicians is the fact that the volume of information that needs to be absorbed and the basic skills needed to succeed have doubled or even tripled over the last decade. But the blueprint for traditional automotive education has been held to a 2 year associate degree or certificate timeframe. We're at the point that there could or should be a 4 year bachelor length time frame to cover it all. But we don't have it.
So schools must decide to either leave some material out of the curriculum, squeeze the material into a much shorter time frame, or some other solution. Assuming most schools are also pressured to increase the number of students to instructors as a ratio, well, things get tough.
We started incorporating ATech equipment and software into our program about 8 years ago. The benefits showed up shortly thereafter. A simple example is the troubleshooting of an electrical problem on a bugged vehicle in the shop. Depending on the number of students to cycle through the vehicle, the number of vehicles, and the time allotted for the lab, things can get tight.
But by combining real problems on a live vehicle with simulated problems on mock-ups and trainers the instruction can become more complete, and the more a student can practice the more he or she retains. In a way, having the mock-ups and trainers available doubles the time each student can practice the skills. The same applies to our using the 1800 series of electrical trainers.
It is no secret that the technician today needs a more than an elementary level of electrical troubleshooting knowledge. We take students through a program of instructor lead electrical theory and basic circuit understanding. Then in the next phase have them work on the 1800 series trainers from ATech. The sheer volume of problems a student must solve in the program is skill building at a whole different level. It makes the jump from basic electrical to our more advanced electrical courses so much more successful.
Simply imagine having a class of 20 to 24 students. Using the NATEF tasks as a guide, how many different problems on how many different cars can be done in one semester? Using the trainers has benefited the students as well as made the instruction more efficient and made it "stick".
My use of ATech Trainers and programs
Let me start by giving you a little background on what my program is like. I have set up a small classroom in our maintenance shop to teach our technicians basic troubleshooting and diagnostic skills. My classes are kept to only 4 students at a time. This gives me the ability to focus on getting the most out of each training class without diminishing the shop's manpower too much.
The Trainers were purchased in the fall of 2006, delivered the last week of 06, and completely set up by the second week of that January. It did take some time for my company's IT guys to approve the setup of the standalone classroom network. I'm convinced they are all paranoid. Full network functions were active by the following January. That first year was spent reviewing the lesson plans, setting up the books and other resources for each class. The lesson plans provided by ATech required very little modification to fit our organization and the kind of vehicles we work on. I was able to teach my first real class in February of 2008. At that time my entire training program became centered on the ATech trainers and lesson plans.
I use the trainers in two different ways, instructor lead and self-paced. The instructor lead classes introduce my students to basic concepts of automotive electricity, electronics troubleshooting and how to use the 1800 series trainers. I try to have one to two classes every month. After they have completed the instructor lead classes they move on to the 3600 and Smart Car trainers in the Self-Paced classes. Here they continue learning about more detailed systems and are tested upon completion of each course using the fault insertion process to its fullest capability.
I sometimes have outside instructors from our organization come in and teach a specialized course on A/C using the ATech A/C trainer. My shop is the only one I'm aware of in our organization that has this trainer. I also have a very talented technician that will use it to train one on one whenever the need arises.
We have a constant flow of technicians flowing through our 75 technician workforce so I have students enrolled in classes all the time. The technicians that have gone through my classes and our organization have benefited greatly from this training. I'm constantly being asked by my guys "When's the next class and can I get in it"?
ATech Customer Service in a word "Outstanding"!!! I had the pleasure of attending an ATech training workshop at ATech in October of 2006 and I have never meet a more dedicated and knowledgeable group of people. Everyone was committed to providing the very best to their customers and the automotive training industry. The system works great and requires very little work to get it set up as it was designed to but our IT guys and their paranoia created many problems that required help from the experts. During the initial set up of my classroom network the customer service team was the best. We were never put on hold or told to call back later. They stopped whatever they were doing whenever we called and focused on our issues until we got it fixed. We then went through a complete computer replacement a year ago and again the ATech team stepped up and patiently walked us through setting up our network again. No matter how many questions or issues our IT guys had the ATech team was there with the right answers.
Over the years, I have recommended other vehicle maintenance shops throughout our worldwide organization to purchase ATech trainers and set up their in house training programs as I have done. Many of them have and thanked me for telling them about ATech. Our technicians move from shop to shop in our organization and it is my hope that we can set up a standardized program that will allow our people to progress in their skills training no matter where they might be working. With ATech as the backbone of this kind of program it can only be one of the best. We just need to get help for our paranoid IT guys.