That long, familiar list of technical training programs that appears as the CARS IDL Training TV Guide in each issue of this publication will soon share space with a wide range of business management topics to be delivered by the same method.
Dan Bell, president of CARS Network, says a national study conducted by CARS and supported by Human Resources Development Canada found that the need to address key skill gaps in non-technical areas is one of the more pressing issues facing the auto repair industry.
The report showed that the gap in management and other soft skills (non-technical) was insidious in that it could adversely impact all aspects of a shop’s operations.
The research, says Bell, further revealed that the key impediments in accessing training for the independent shop included: cost, availability of quality training, lost work, distance to training, as well as time/cost associated with travel and accommodation.
In response, CARS has launched the development of non-technical Interactive Distance Learning (IDL) training modules for broadcast via its satellite broadcast/interactive participant response system.
“We will provide industry an opportunity to access a wide range of business management topics through IDL at their location,” says Bell. “Participants will interact with live instructors via an intranet response system.”
CARS has more than 400 IDL training sites throughout Canada, says Bell, and has been offering technical skills training via satellite in both French and English for the past two years.
Beginning this fall, the organization plans to migrate 1356 hours of non-technical training over the next three years to its IDL system – about 226 hours in English and the same in French each year.
The shows run between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Toronto time each day. Shops wishing to receive the broadcast can contact CARS at 905-709-1010 for more information.
Petro Canada’s Certigard franchise operation has also taken a step into IDL, though it’s a tentative step and aimed exclusively at technical training for its franchisees’ technicians.
Harvey Hupponen, manager of network utilization, says Certigard has paid for IDL satellite training installations at four locations across the country.
“We’re monitoring the attendance and the response of the attendees to this method of training,” he says. “Evaluation, once completed, will result in us either expanding the number of training stations we have, or doing something different.
“Ultimately, if we were to deem this to be the way to go, we would have to determine some cost-sharing mechanism. In other words, that would end up being the franchisee’s cost, somehow, because it’s his responsibility for training the technicians. But we’ve done the work in terms of finding the best-in-class methods and so on.
“Given that we want to standardize training, we do coordinate and go and search out best-in-class training methods and processes and try and arrange a standard, consistent training, on their behalf.”
Hupponen says Certigard started testing IDL in the spring and has reached the point where he needs to assess the feedback.
On the positive side, he says, technicians don’t have to go anywhere to attend, or won’t if they have an IDL hookup at their location. And you’ve got all of the other advantages of an instructor, the interactive piece and so on.
“The drawback is that it’s scheduled,” he notes. “You have to schedule your time around the training.
“And the reason why I make a point of that, there are other methods that can get around that as well. And ultimately that will be something in the future that isn’t there now. I think it will all be on the Internet.”
Is Certigard investigating Internet delivery?
“Sure. I think that’s the future,” says Hupponen. You’d be able to access it any time. Do your training at 2:00 a.m., if you were so inclined.
Also under evaluation at Certigard is the work being done with instruction by interactive CD ROM. Hupponen sees a comfortable fit with technicians and computers. Trainees can work at their own pace and on their own time schedules as well.
“But I think once you see the benefits of an Internet method, everything else will be just temporary until you can get it on the Internet,” he contends. “It’s a situation where there probably won’t be one solution in the long term, anyway. It will be several solutions that fit the needs.”
Cliff Young agrees the Internet looms large in the future of training. He’s director of business development for Snap-on’s stand-alone training arm called Training Solutions. And he already has a catchy slogan – Any Place, Any Pace, Any Time – to pin on the company’s future Internet offerings.
“To capture that, we want to be able to bring learning and training to our people, rather than bringing our people to the training,” says Young. “That’s the future.”
How far in the future?
“In the technical programs we’re very close,” says Young. “We plan to have our Web site operational by the end of the first quarter of 2001.”
But the real push at Training Solutions is to get management training onto the Internet. Young says the technology isn’t quite there yet. “Management training depends on when the band width of the Internet is capable of delivering television-like images,” he explains.
Meanwhile, Snap-on’s new two-level program called Business Management for 2000 and Beyond is delivered by the more-conventional classroom method, though Young insists the content is anything but conventional.
Snap-on launched the project by combing the continent to identify in its view the best operators running the best shops, the most profitable, the most professional and providing the best value for the money their customers spend.
“We’ve incorporated what we learned into a full 40-hour plus business management course. It’s everything from how to greet the customer, how to market your business, how to set up all the processes, writing mission statements – it’s an entire independent automotive shop management program,” he says.
Snap-on partnered with Automotive Management Institute in the US, hired professionals to put the material into a quantifiable format to ensure that learning is taking place. The methodology of delivering this material is called Guided Discovery.
It runs in a classroom environment with eight to ten shop owners, over five consecutive days, from 1:00 in the afternoon until 9:00 at night. “That gives the shop owner a chance to open his shop in the morning, get his business going, and then come to the training program,” Young explains.
“Our plan is to deliver it all across Canada. We’ve already finished all our pilot projects. We’re right now delivering our eighth week of training and there’s some large corporations that are pursuing us to do training on their behalf.”
Obviously excited about the program, Young says, “This is no longer a pilot project. This is proven. We have unbelievable success stories, testimonials from shop owners about how much they’ve improved their businesses. We’ve got shops that have experienced tremendous improvement in profitability and professional practices. Customer satisfaction ratings have increased dramatically.”
Shop owners who complete Level 1 will be offered advanced training in Level 2.
By the first of next year, training will be supported by videos and interactive CD ROMs, in advance of the Internet rollout. SSGM