In previous posts, we’ve touched on the importance of helping your techs continue their education. This is something a lot of shop owners ignore or outright deny, seeing it as an unnecessary expense and — even worse — something that will just encourage techs to jump shops once they’ve completed this or that certification.
We’d rather you look at education as an investment into your already valuable workforce. The more certifications and education a tech has, the more skilled they become, and the more you can charge for their services. The bottom line is that’s more money for them and for you, along with a greater variety of maintenance and repairs you can offer to your customers.
Do techs need to keep getting new certifications?
Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it before: you don’t have to go to school to become a mechanic. Maybe you learned on the job. Your techs should, too. And they will! But receiving an actual education and diesel mechanic training will go a long way in preparing a tech to do good work.
A tech who wants to get a particular certification — or who already has one — is clearly invested in their career. They want to go further. Sure, they’ll do a lot of good learning while they’re actually at work, but continuing their education will keep them interested and allow them to master relevant skills.
By broadening their skill set, they’re increasing their own value and making your shop’s offerings more valuable. That’s why we always encourage you to help them.
The basic training
There are plenty of trade schools in the country — more than you can reasonably hope to research and judge. The techs you hire will probably come from a variety of backgrounds, so look for those who have a certification from the Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. This is the gold standard of certifications.
Specifically, you should look for techs that have their ASE Entry-Level certification in medium and heavy trucks. You can hire these techs knowing they’ve received a solid education and will be ready to learn on the job.
Before hiring anyone, though, look into what requirements your state and/or municipality may have as far as mechanics go. Some states don’t have any restrictions; others require mechanics to possess a specific set of certifications before you can bring them aboard. Make sure you’re playing nice with the law before adding someone to your payroll!
Think of a tech with their basic ASE certification as a foundation you can build on. You’ve probably hired someone who knows their stuff, but if they’re ready and willing to learn and do more, it’s in your best interest to help them.
With that said, some certifications will be more useful to your techs and your shop than others. If your techs express interest in additional certifications, take a close look at your region and what sort of customers you serve (along with what sort of customers you’d like to serve).
Below are the ASE study guides for some of the additional certifications your techs can potentially obtain. They are in PDF format, so make sure you’re reading them on the proper device.
- Parts specialist: Medium and heavy-duty trucks have their own parts specialist certification. Techs with this training might have their eye on a future parts manager role.
- School bus: If your shop is in an area that still puts school buses to work, then a tech certified to handle their maintenance and repair issues will be handy to have on staff.
- Transit bus: They tend to be built quite differently from school buses, and thus have different maintenance and repair needs. A tech with a certification for transit buses might benefit a shop in a downtown area with lots of public transportation.
- Truck equipment: The big trucks you’re servicing in your shop may come with an array of additional systems and equipment that need maintenance.
- Collision, repair, refinish: As Forrest Gump once said, “Stuff happens.” From hammering out dents to touching up a custom paint job, restoration certifications can bring in a lot of traffic (no pun intended…really).
Does someone want to specialize?
Problem with a truck’s HVAC system? Call over one tech. Electrical bugging out? No problem; you have a tech for that too. Hey, do you guys service boats?
Wait, what? Boats?
As individuals learn about their field — any field — they tend to develop certain areas they’re interested in or most proficient in. A writer might gravitate toward investigative journalism or sci-fi stories, for example, whereas a diesel mechanic might want to work on tractors instead of big rigs.
We’ve listed out a few specializations your mechanics might choose to pursue below.
- Machinery: Think bulldozers and excavators…and that just scratches the surface (no pun intended). Forklifts, harvesters, loaders, tractors. They’re all important to their respective industries, and they all take a beating during their daily work. A tech with some certifications in this area can bring in a lot of new business.
- Master certifications: The average individual probably thinks about engines when they hear the term diesel mechanic certification, but there is a lot more to a truck than just its engine. Techs can take additional coursework and obtain certifications in suspension and drivetrain, among other areas.
- Boats and ships: If your shop is located on one of the coasts or near a large lake, your techs might benefit from maritime certifications. This is not going to instantly qualify them to work on the big cruise ships, so don’t worry about losing them to the tropics; instead, they’ll broaden their skill set to work on personal vessels — think small speedboats and fishing boats that can be brought to your shop, provided you have the space for them. If you can set up a mobile operation, that helps even more — the tech in question can go down to the marina and work on larger boats.
Diesel mechanic training has changed over time. Maybe you’ve got an applicant that has a solid background but has been out of the industry for a while. Maybe you want to get back into the field after taking some time to run the shop.
There are all sorts of scenarios where you might come across a promising tech with a good foundation who is maybe a bit behind on the times.
Investing in tech retraining can be a useful way to upgrade valuable employees and get their skills where they need to be.
But do I really need to pay for it?
We touched on this in our post about recruiting good technicians, but let’s go into it a bit more here.
You don’t need to pay for anything. Your techs can finance their own education if they’re so inclined. But obtaining additional certifications and broadening their skill sets benefits them and whatever shop they work at. That could be your shop…so why not help them out?
If you’re worried about a tech up and leaving for higher pay as soon as they gain their certifications, then you can design a certification reimbursement plan around them. For example, you’ll pay for certifications and additional training, but the tech needs to work at your shop for a minimum of six months before that program kicks in. You might only pay half in advance and half at the end of another year.
You can also look into reimbursing the cost of a technician’s education instead of paying for the entire adventure on your own. Once they complete a certain number of classes, for example, you might add an additional payment to every other paycheck, or deposit a portion of the money every quarter.
In short, there are all sorts of ways to ensure your tech’s continuing education leads to an additional commitment.
Keep calm and certify on
We know there’s a lot to sort through here, and the prospect of extra certifications can take time and money. The good news is that getting your techs trained up can help them and you benefit in the long run.
So how do you get started on this?
To be honest, you sit down and have a conversation.
Talk to your techs and find out where they want to improve and what other certifications they’ve been eyeing, if any. From there you can research where they can obtain those certifications and how much they cost. If it looks like something you want to pursue, the conversation can continue.
Good luck and never stop training!