2007 marks the 35th Anniversary of the founding of ASE, one of the most recognized symbols of technical competence, and a mark of accomplishment proudly worn by more than 400,000 service professionals nationwide. ASE certification is just as relevant to fleet maintenance managers today as it was in 1972, and both the organization and the credential have changed with the times.
ASE was created by the automotive service industry as an alternative to mandatory technician licensing—a solution that was being debated to address the issue of consumer fraud. In fact, fraud was not so much the cause of dissatisfaction with motor vehicle repair as was inadequate technical training for the "high tech" vehicles of the time.
Rather than put regulation of the service and repair industry in the government's hands, a coalition of interests in the automotive service industry suggested voluntary certification as a means of increasing quality.
One of the core values of the certification test development is the use of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the design, development and maintenance of the program. These SMEs also set the passing scores. They are working technicians (practitioners), technical trainers from the aftermarket, the OEs, tool and equipment suppliers, and educators with recognized expertise in the subject/test area being developed.
ASE certification test questions are written to reflect the situations that are likely to be encountered in the course of performing the job on a daily basis. This focus ensures the certification tests are credible to the certification candidate, the service and repair industry, and the general public.
The job requires not only that the technician possess certain knowledge, but that he be able to apply that knowledge to making repairs on the vehicle. Therefore, some argue, a hands-on or performance evaluation should be included. While this type of evaluation can be effectively structured and administered in a small, closely-controlled setting, such as the TMC SuperTech competition, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to replicate on a large scale nationally. Consider that over 230,000 individuals take close to 750,000 certification tests every year! A written test is clearly the only practical way to provide objective, repeatable results, with reasonable cost on that scale.
These principles have remained constant over the past 35 years. How has ASE certification changed over the same period?
On one level, the answer to that question is in the number and types of certification test offerings. Starting with certification offerings in Automobile and Medium/Heavy Truck, ASE has responded to industry requests for certification offerings in areas such as Collision Repair/Refinish, Engine Machinists, Parts Specialists, School Buses, Truck Equipment, Transit Buses and others. In all there are currently 51 different certification specialty test offerings in 11 different series, including advanced level certifications for electronically-controlled gasoline and diesel diagnostic technicians.
Of greater significance, however, is they way the certification tests have adapted to reflect the changing technologies employed on trucks today. Each and every ASE certification test undergoes a systematic review by those SMEs mentioned earlier every two to three years. During this review, new test questions are written to incorporate changing technologies and systems. Take, for example, a Diesel Engine certification test from 10 years ago and you would likely find a question or two concerning mechanical unit injection (MUI). Try finding anything to do with MUI on that same test today!
Why do service professionals pursue ASE certification? By testing their knowledge against industry-developed standards, ASE-certified professionals are the proven pros, with the self-confidence to demonstrate their knowledge to themselves, their peers and the customers they serve.
So, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Many of the technology and training issues facing the service and repair industry in 1972 are the same today. The technologies have changed dramatically, but the need to continuously update knowledge and skill is perhaps more important now than ever. The need to verify that knowledge and skill is also more important than ever. That's where ASE comes in.
Chuck Roberts is an automotive service professional with over 30 years experience in various technical, educational and management capacities. Mr. Roberts, a graduate of Virginia Tech, has taught Automotive Technology at the secondary and post secondary levels.
ASE's mission is to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service through the testing and certification of repair and service professionals.