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The RV Service Training Industry Education Council expects as many as 350 students involved in taking its classes via weekly satellite telecasts to take their technician certification test in August.
“We estimate that between 550 and 600 technicians are viewing the program each week,” said Jim Carr, director of the RV Training Institute (RVTI), Lake City (Fla.) Community College. “From our experience in Florida, approximately half will take the exam. It may be greater or it may be less.”
The RVTI operates the satellite program for the council, as it does for the Florida Recreation Vehicle Trade Association (FRVTA), which created the curriculum for Florida dealers three years ago. This is the first year the council has operated the program nationwide, having signed up 38 dealers outside of Florida.
A new 40-week semester will begin in September with advanced training by manufacturers and suppliers expected to be added to the offerings separate from the technicians training.
Discussions are underway with Fleetwood Industries Inc., Riverside, Calif., Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC, Highland Park, Ill., Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City, Iowa, and Onan Corp., Minneapolis, Minn., to provide training specific to their products via the satellite system, according to Carr.
“Onan wants to deliver all three levels of their certification,” Carr said. “When a company knows it can reach 500 technicians at the same time, satellite training can become very attractive, primarily because of the cost savings.”
Carr said the RVTI’s goal is to have 200 dealers equipped to receive satellite classes by the end of 2003.
Carr said Lake City also is exploring with Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) a series of shorter courses that would offer sales, service and warranty training.
“I am going to recommend that we go ahead with a test program,” said RVDA President Mike Molino. “If we have things other than technician training that can be offered via satellite, the whole program will have more value. You can assume that something is going to be approved.”
The council, which supervises the national program, is comprised of manufacturer, dealer and supplier representatives. It was formed two years ago by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to counter flagging interest in the community college classroom-based National Recreation Vehicle Technical Institute.
Outside of Florida, registration for the service technicians classes is $1,200 a year in addition to purchasing the necessary satellite equipment for between $1,500 and $2,000.
The 1 1/2-hour classes, based on RVIA’s textbook series, are telecast Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time).
As many students as a dealer wants may participate, and some dealers have had employees other than service technicians take classes.
This year’s test program was capped at 67 participating dealers nationwide — 29 in Florida where FRVTA is concluding its third year of satellite training.
“We would like to leave enrollment as open as it can be, but that decision has not been made,” said RVIA Vice President Bruce Hopkins.
Hopkins said the RV industry’s experience with satellite training will be a benefit, as specialized communications systems continue to develop, particularly via the Internet.
“The satellite right now is the best thing going for an inexpensive price,” he said. “When the Internet kicks in two or three years so that people can communicate better on a mass basis, training will get even better.”