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The National RV Training Academy (NRVTA) celebrated its first anniversary by completing its inaugural class at the newly-constructed Big Red Schoolhouse, a 15,000-square-foot facility in Athens, Texas that houses five classrooms, three service bays and overhead observation areas. According to a press release, the first class, a basic RV maintenance course, ran Oct. 29 with 19 students and wrapped up Nov. 2.

Since then, 419 students have completed training at the academy, of which 71 chose to take the test and passed the exam to become registered RV technicians with the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and RV Dealers Association (RVDA). Another 13 students completed all five weeks of training and passed the certified exam.

The breakdown of students attending various one-week classes included:

  • RV Basic Maintenance and Service – 236 students
  • Air Conditioning & Heat Pumps – 53 students
  • RV Refrigerators – 38 students
  • Water Heaters & Furnaces – 47 students
  • RV Exteriors & Hydraulics – 45 students

“We are pleased with our first-year results,” said NRVTA Director Terry Cooper. “With the RV industry clamoring for trained technicians, we feel our courses are helping alleviate the critical need for technicians.”

In addition to the registered and certified RV technicians, the Big Red Schoolhouse trained 157 Level 2 Advanced RV inspectors, equivalent of “home inspections for RVs,” according to the release.

“That’s a sizable number, but it doesn’t come close to meeting the demand for trained inspectors among RV buyers, extended warranty companies, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” said Cooper.

Cooper noted that some RV dealers are utilizing inspectors to evaluate new RVs coming onto their lots from manufacturers. The inspectors are able to pass along a punch list of items that need to be addressed to ensure the RV is in proper working order, which allows dealers to keep a technician in the shop rather than doing inspections.

“I believe the tide is turning and America is waking up to the need for trained technicians and the myriad of opportunities available to people who complete that training,” said Cooper.

He noted that with the absence of industrial education classes in many school districts, a number of men and women are graduating from high school without knowing about careers available in the trades. “A number of our students who completed five weeks of training were hired right out of school to become RV technicians at dealerships, while the rest opted to go into business for themselves as mobile RV technicians,” he added.

Many of the mobile technicians are earning at least $75,000 per year, and some are earning twice that depending upon the area of the country where they set up business, Cooper explained.

Campgrounds are hiring trained technicians to serve customers who need minor repairs completed without having to check out of the campground and seek service at an RV dealership. RV manufacturers and component suppliers are also looking to hire trained technicians, said Cooper.

The academy offers a week of training for RV owners to help them better understand the systems aboard their motorhomes and travel trailers. They also learn how to fix about 80% of the problems they have with their RVs.

Cooper is encouraged about the first-year results, but he believes it is possible to double the number of trained technicians in 2020.

“We’re waiting for RVIA to certify our training center so that our students can use military education benefits to become RV technicians,” he explained. “Being located in Texas, there are a number of large military installations within eight hours of The Big Red Schoolhouse. We’re in an ideal location to capture military personnel who are separating from service and looking to begin new careers.”