Their reputations continue to grow within the RV service community, as Terry and Evada Cooper add to their complement of programs and organizations dedicated to the advancement of technical training in the industry.
The couple, who reside in Athens, Texas, currently boast founding roles or executive slots in the National RV Inspectors Association and the National RV Training Academy, and are set to launch a mobile tech training program in the last quarter of this year. In line with their objectives, Terry Cooper told RVBUSINESS.com they continue to look for more opportunities.
“A lot of dealers were struggling to keep up with the amount of people coming into the lifestyle, and even living in RVs,” noted Terry Cooper, who started out in the industry as a production line worker at Skyline Corp. “There was, and still is, a pressing need for responsive, qualified service from dealers.”
Cooper related that his full-time involvement in the service field began when he joined forces with partner Steve Anderson and “basically put a dog-and-pony show on the road.”
“We would offer training at a local campground near dealerships and get techs prepared to qualify for the RVDA/RVIA professional and master certified exams,” he said. “I’d say we traveled 20,000-30,000 miles during that first year. It was a grind but we developed a reputation as qualified service trainers.”
The result was exposure. The RV industry, which continues to recognize that providing prompt service is a key to longtime customer satisfaction, now seeks out the Coopers for technician training. Cooper told RVBUSINESS.com that the National RV Training Academy, established in November of 2017 in Athens, has trained over 1,200 RV owners, inspectors and technicians at various mobile locations around the country.
“We’re still expanding and adding to our offerings,” said Cooper. “The new technical facility in Texas now provides a year-round location for the RV industry to receive basic and advanced service training along with courses to qualify attendees for RVIA/RVDA certification.”
The curriculum includes:
• Week One: RV maintenance course that serves as the introduction or the basic core for the RV apprenticeship technician program for the RV professional.
• Week Two: Covers air conditioners and heat pumps operational theory and hands-on troubleshooting. Attendees learn testing at the component level of the compressor, capacitors, PTCR (starter relay), overload protector, freeze control thermistor, reversing valve, thermostat and control box, selector switches and fan motor.
• Week Three: RV absorption refrigerators operational theory and hands-on troubleshooting, including testing of temperature controls, heat source operations along with diagnosing and replacing the rear cooling coil.
• Week Four: Water heaters and furnaces operational theory and hands-on troubleshooting, including Gas and electric operation, testing of circuit board, thermostat/ECO and electrode. Troubleshooting and maintenance procedures.
• Week Five: Exterior systems, operational theory and hands-on troubleshooting, including slideouts, leveling systems, roofs and sidewalls.
“We set it up so that when attendees finish the first week, they are ready for the RVDA-RVIA registered exam,” Cooper said. “When they finish their final class, they are set for the certified exam.”
Cooper noted that another advancement for the Training Center was made last year as the organization broke ground on the “Big Red Schoolhouse” that serves as a permanent, multifunction teaching facility.
“We also bought an RV park with 89 sites, and six cabins along with several travel trailers,” he said. “That gives us the opportunity for techs to come live in RVs and take the slate of courses we provide.
“The schoolhouse is available for vendors, suppliers and OEMs free of charge with the stipulation that we can use the equipment they bring and leave behind. Currently, Lippert has a five-year agreement. They shipped us a fifth-wheel and trailer frames and are doing advanced training at the facility.”
In addition, the RV Technical Institute, which recently launched in Elkhart, Ind., behind the backing of the RV Industry Association (RVIA), is interested in utilizing the schoolhouse as a regional training center.
“It looks like that is going to happen,” Cooper stated. “That would be a real bonus for the academy, adding even more legitimacy to what we are trying to accomplish.”