Training Newbies

Tech school training is a frequent topic of discussion at trade shows that offer technician training. It’s agreed that new techs fresh out of school really aren’t all that useful, and that training for new techs should be changed. However, there is little discussion about what changes should be made.

I’ve visited tech schools all over the country, and I’ve known and worked with dozens of teachers. They’ve taught me that it all starts with the quality of the individual. Students must be smart enough to understand mechanics, hydraulics, electrics, electronics and computers in today’s extremely complex vehicles, and they need academic skills too. They also need communication and people skills, and some schools include those in the program. The best students become skilled at critical thinking, the ability to apply what you know to what you don’t know, which is critical for any kind of diagnostic work.

But even the very best graduates don’t know what they don’t know, and the instructors all know that the student’s first job in this industry is a make-or-break situation. If it’s a good match, the new tech will stay in the business and learn more. If things don’t work out, often the newbie will leave that job and maybe even the industry after just one year.

So what does a shop owner expect of a fresh tech school graduate?

Naturally they’re expected to know basics like suck-squeeze-bang-blow, red to positive, and don’t open the radiator cap on a hot engine. But what shop would hire a newbie to open up a transmission or R&R cylinder heads or diagnose a check-engine light?

Students should get a complete education for their money, but you tell me, what should they be taught in order to be a useful employee in their first days, weeks and months on the job?