Officials hope to register between 250 and 300 locations outside of Florida for the fourth year of RV service technician certification classes. Those classes, conducted by satellite and on the Internet, begin Sept. 15.
“We want to increase our enrollment because we want to put the mind set about training right inside the dealership,” said Bruce Hopkins, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association vice president for standards and education.
In 2003, 255 dealers and manufacturers – 58 of them in Florida – signed up for the 40-week certification program, which is telecast 4:30-6 p.m. (Eastern time) each Wednesday from Lake City (Fla.) Community College. Advanced classes presented by suppliers and manufacturers – some product specific – are telecast at the same time each Tuesday and Thursday.
Tuition is $1,400, up from $1,300 in 2003, plus the cost of satellite equipment to receive the signal. A broadband option also is available for 2004 in areas of the country that have high-speed Internet access.
“All the new people signing up are choosing to go broadband if they have it,” said Jim Carr, Lake City, manager of the RV Distance Learning Network. “But we aren’t going to give up satellite because a lot of areas of the country can’t get broadband yet.”
Members of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), by agreement, receive free tuition because the association developed the initial curriculum and piloted the program for two years in the late 1990s.
Although individuals taking the courses aren’t required to register, Hopkins estimated that as many as 2,000 dealership and manufacturer employees took all or parts of the curriculum last year.
Some 470 participants, an increase from 454 last year, took the RV certification test on July 17, but those results have not yet been tabulated. In 2003, 77 new techs were certified via testing, with more than 220 waiting to pass a hands-on practical section.
“Certification itself is not our ambition, consumer satisfaction is,” said Mel Adams, president and CEO of supplier Airxcel Inc., Wichita, Kan., and chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Service Training Council (RVSTC), which coordinates the training.
Adams reported an increased interest among suppliers and manufacturers to provide advanced training on the distance learning network.
New suppliers offering advanced training courses this year include KVH Industries Inc., Middleton, R.I., a manufacturer of RV satellite systems that will conduct a six-week certification curriculum; Alcoa Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa. and Michelin North America, Greenville, S.C., who will team up for a program on tires and wheels; and inverter manufacturer Xantrex Technology Inc., Arlington, Wash., which will instruct on its products for the first time.
Adams said certification training also has been bolstered for this year. “Both the curriculum and delivery have been substantially improved,” he said. “We wanted to polish how certain things are presented so there is better absorption at the other end.”
As a convenience to manufacturers and suppliers with facilities in Indiana, the RVSTC arranged for some advanced classes to be telecast live from Ball State University in Muncie. “They have the option of coming to us in Florida or just driving down the road to Muncie,” Carr said.
Also for the first time, each dealer or manufacturer enrolling in the distance learning program will receive a CD containing the 15-volume RV Service Technician textbook with blanket permission to reproduce the series.