Some 500 students – a nearly fourfold increase over last year – are expected to take the RV technician certification test on July 27, which, for the first time, will include a practical hands-on section to allow techs to become certified more quickly.
Technicians taking the new practical section are required to perform 14 hands-on procedures on an RV under supervision in their dealerships before completing a 53-question written practical test that supplements the standard 200-question certification test.
“That is a huge step forward,” said Bruce Hopkins, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) vice president of standards and education. “We are eliminating the bottlenecks that it takes to become certified. It’s a culture change.”
Previously, applicants had to wait until passing the written certification exam with a minimum score of 74.5% before taking a hands-on test administered by a neutral third party, a process that often took months. Those scoring 85% or higher were exempt from the practical test and received their certification immediately.
The nearly fourfold increase in those taking the certification test is directly related to a nationwide satellite training system sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Service Training Council (RVSTC), which completed its second round of classes in the spring.
The problem was evidenced by the testing in 2002 after the first year of satellite classes. Though 133 techs took the written test and 110 passed, 52 still have not passed the hands-on practical test and have not been certified.
“Something had to be corrected on the practical system based on the volume of people that we are pushing through training,” said Jim Carr, director of Lake City (Fla.) Community College’s RV Training Institute, who coordinates the satellite training program.
Industry officials view technician certification as part of the answer to a national demand within the industry to improve consumer care at dealerships. Since the certification program began in 1993, the RVDA/RVIA Certification Test Governing Board has granted credentials to more than 2,100 technicians, a number expected to grow quickly as the kinks are worked of the satellite program, Hopkins said.
Mel Adams, president and CEO of supplier Airxcel Inc., Wichita, Kan., and who completed his term in June as vice chairman of the RVDA/RVIA Certification Test Governing Board, said completing the hands-on practical test at the same time as the certification exam will ease technicians’ frustration.
“The tech will know pretty quickly whether he passed and whether he will be credentialled,” Adams said. “In some instances in the past, it took up to a year to take the practical test. It’s frustrating to a tech to get half of it done and then have to sit around and wait to take the practical test.”
Although he is stepping down from the test governing board, Adams remains chairman of the RVSTC, which in September will offer its third 40-week series of satellite classes for RV technicians.
At a meeting during RVIA Committee Week earlier this month, the certification board voted to eliminate the exemption after Oct. 1 that allowed those scoring 85% or higher on the certification test to forego the hands-on practical test.