A: College is not the only way to become a better technician. Most technicians get started being an apprentice and doing the jobs no one wants to do, such as mopping the floors and driving customers around. Then an apprentice will begin learning how to do oil changes, brakes and tires. After a few months of doing this, most technicians are taught exhaust and suspension. During this process, a technician needs to become faster, learn not to make mistakes and buy his own tools.
The technicial skills that a college offers, such as the fundamentals of electricity, may be more relevant and easier to learn after working in a shop for a few years. Young techs generally have to wait years before they will be doing any real diagnostics, anyhow. So there are benefits to getting one's feet wet first and then going to school.
Q: What are the benefits of hands-on training?
A: Scientifically speaking, the human mind processes and remembers information best by doing something. It works better at retaining information practicing a skill versus hearing or reading about it.
Why? Probably the same reason people enjoy a concert from a band more than an album. Experiencing something live creates greater engagement.
Just as concerts cost more than albums, so does hands-on training. An instructor that teaches automotive electric or driveability diagnostics on live vehicles over the course of days can be a real asset. This is a valuable opportunity for the technician still learning (or forgetting!) his stuff. It is easily worth hundreds of dollars, because it teaches technicians how to really get started diagnosing vehicles.
Q: What training is available on DVD or online?
A: A good way to save money is to watch seminars online or on DVD. If the topic is good, it is worth it, as long as the technician can stay focused.
There are two providers of modestly priced DVDs and webcast training. Technicians Service Training (TST) provides live seminars and records those seminars on DVD and simulcasts them live on the Internet for a fee. The Automotive Video Institute and Automotive Training Group also offer DVDs.
As for webcasts, similar to TST, the Mechanic's Education Association also has webcasts that cover a lot of hot topics. If you are in New Jersey, they also do live classes that members can attend.
VehicleServicePros.com also regularly holds webcast training.
YouTube has a lot of short (and free) video clips that are good for learning purposes. Wells Vehicle Electronics’ channel (“Wells Tech”) and OTC’s (“OTC Tool Guy”) have a lot of good diagnostic information, for example.
Online training is also available from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and from a company called Delmar Cengage Learning. Delmar Cengage Learning offers complete training programs online for auto repair chains.
Even if a technician does not work for one of these chains, the same technology is available to everyone seeking to hone their skills for the ASE exam. DelmarTechnicianTestPrep.com offers online test prep with remediation and a timed simulation of the exam. This is more like the real thing because the ASE test is computer-only these days. They also have the Medium/Heavy Duty and Autobody ASE exam prep materials as well.
There are plenty of training resources available for technicians looking to improve their skills.