June '16

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66 • RV PRO • JUNE 2016 rv-pro.com who have their RVDA-RVIA certification, and that other techs are trying to get their feet on the ground. Unfortunately, the seasoned technicians often must juggle their workloads while also nurturing the newer techs. "Many of these guys don't even have electrical knowledge, and if they don't understand the electrical system, they are already behind and struggling," says Cooper, who calls himself the Texas RV Professor. "Many will get frustrated and will leave the industry." Laying a Foundation He says he can usually assess pretty quickly a tech's strengths and weak- nesses with a skills evaluation. Not all the missing skills can be taught in the short apprenticeship, but Cooper works hard to lay a foundation. "What happens is every day that we finish classes with the students, I end up spending time with the dealers to bring them up to speed about what we covered and the issues we identified," he says. Five days is as much as Cooper works with a tech during the initial appren- ticeship. Any longer, and the tech can't absorb the information and apply it. He says many techs he's encountered don't have skills that surpass the appren- tice level. "I love to hear that guys have come out of the military," he says. "They tend to have had a good solid training pro- gram, and they have picked up some good skills. If someone tells me they he was in electronics or that he was an aviation technician, I know the guy has a handle on some things; he has a good founda- tion we can build on." Ideally, the dealership allows Cooper to come back, and the next time he works with the same tech to add more skills. That could include troubleshooting an air conditioner, analyzing a refriger- ator, or learning to diagnose electrical or hydraulic circuits or systems. More advanced classes include appliance work, leveling and slide-out service. Cooper recently finished three weeks of training at multiple ExploreUSA RV Supercenter dealerships in Texas, and he is scheduled for more sessions. "The dealers call me and share that they have finally made a profit in the service departments once they were able to get training for their technicians," he says. "Their service departments (had) been struggling to succeed due to all the misdiagnosing and parts swapping." He adds, "For many technicians, this the first time they have had someone invest in them." To be truly effective, the training must include a hands-on element, according to Cooper. " T h e y n e e d e d s o m e o n e t o c o m e in to do the hands-on teaching," he says. "The hands-on learning is more important than theories they will learn in the classroom. The perfect scenario is to put them in class in the morning, and then turn them loose to go back out and do their jobs and to shadow them. It's amazing how you have the 'aha' moments then." Terry Cooper averages 26,000 miles a year, crisscrossing the country with his Mobile RV Academy, which brings tech training directly to dealerships. He's seen here teaching techs about propane systems and parts.

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