Training Myths

A comment recently made on the glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine Forum has raised a question we should all consider. In full disclosure, the comment was made regarding Auto Glass University (AGU), a training program I own, although this post is not meant as a commercial. I am giving you my opinion on the art of automotive glass training. I hope it can be used by everyone in the industry to be more effective in their training of new technicians, no matter where or by whom the training is conducted.

Here is the statement that made me consider the “best practices” of automotive glass training:

“Having gone from glazier to installer to technician in the past 50 years, taking the AGU course and then trying to go out and replace glass is like mastering the ‘See Spot Run’ book and then trying to read an encyclopedia. I trained many people over the years and it takes a minimum of six months of constant guidance and training to get them to the beginner level of doing replacements.”

Of course, no one will “master” automotive glass installation in a week. However, if it takes you six months to get your tech to the “beginner” level, you either have the wrong guy or you’re doing it wrong.

It takes knowledge of basic principles, exposure and practice on specialized tools, experience in different vehicles and skills developed over time. However, the quickest and safest way for a tech to get productive is by working with an experienced instructor who allows the student to study with a specific curriculum in a controlled environment at a comfortable pace and to learn from their mistakes.

I have spent most of my career training automotive glass technicians and one of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen to effective education was managers sending new techs on a “ride along” with experienced people but then prioritizing production over training. You might say, “Hey, the work has to get done.” Yes it does, but if the job completion takes precedence over instruction, don’t expect the trainee to be productive in a timely manner.

If the trainee doesn’t have the opportunity to do the work himself and to develop good habits and techniques because the jobs need to get done before dark, the training that day was worthless. This prolongs the training and the costs involved. It also shows the trainee how to short cut and make improper concessions for the sake of time. Training this way can and will take six months or more to complete.

While new tools and vehicle designs make the art of installation physically easier, the technology built into those vehicles means that doing our jobs right is critical for the safety of our customers. There is a place for riding in a truck with a productive technician, but it is only after the new tech as received a firm grounding in the basics. The ride-along-trainer may be excellent in teaching “how to” install given the proper time, but does he know “why” the glass needs to be installed in a specific way?

When decisions need to be made, the “how to” learner does not have the flexibility to consider options that the “why” learner does. Decisions are harder to make, and a poorly trained tech runs the risk of being wrong. A good training course gives new techs the facts and then backs those facts up with data. If your new tech steps into the field already knowing the “whys” of proper installation and then has the opportunity to practice the “how to” he will become productive in the shortest time possible.