by Bob Beranek
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You may have been hearing about Auto Glass University this past year and the school has plans for the future. Although I do not use my blog as a means to market any endeavor, to avoid any misconceptions, I want to make sure everyone in the industry knows who we are and what we do.

First, a little history may be in order. In January of 2010, for my company Automotive Glass Consultants, I developed and wrote an online training program at www.AutoGlassUniversity.com. Auto Glass University (AGU) first went online live in January of that year. The purpose of this training course was to present in one place a current, unbiased and easily to update automotive glass training course that is accessible from anywhere. It can be used as the foundation for internal training programs, as a study guide for certification, or by academics and anyone else with a desire to know about the art of automotive glass installation. Auto Glass University is solely my trademarked product.

Based on the materials we assembled for the online site (and with the invaluable writing expertise of my talented wife and business partner Ann Schuelke) in 2011 we wrote and published the textbook, “The Complete Guide to Auto Glass Installation.” We felt the book would open up another avenue to present the automotive glass curriculum at an adult level of education.

Obviously, though, we all know that automotive glass installation cannot be completely taught by book learning. You must experience the use of tools to master them, feel the release of a molding from its clip and smell the chemical odor of primers, cleaners and adhesives. Without this practice, it is not possible to attain true competence at the technician level. I know this and you know this.

It has become increasingly clear that the industry needs a hands-on training “school” through which aspiring entrepreneurs and entry-level automotive glass technicians can learn the art of installation. So, when I was approached by Eric Asbery of Equalizer Industries with a proposal with that idea in mind, I felt it had real merit. Equalizer offered their beautiful training facility in Austin, Texas, as a location to hold week-long classes with a curriculum based on our book. Thus was born Auto Glass University Powered by Equalizer (AGU hands-on for short) in 2013. Gilbert Gutierrez and Jason Horne, who many of you know from Equalizer, are certified instructors for the school. We are adding additional certified instructors as the program expands.

Eric Asbery and I agreed on one thing from the beginning. Our curriculum, based on the AGU format, must have the absolute reputation of unbiased education without the hint of commercialism. It is to Eric’s great credit that not only was this his desire as well, he made sure that concept was clearly understood by all his employees affiliated with our project.

Eric’s commitment to be an unbiased source of training is so strong that we hold a “Vendor Night” during each training session. At each Auto Glass University class, Equalizer hosts tool makers and suppliers from all over the industry to showcase and demonstrate their products, including his direct competitors. Eric and his organization put money and an immense amount of effort in helping us make sure the school was one that the industry could be proud of. “Auto Glass University, Powered by Equalizer” is named perfectly because it describes the relationship exactly the way it is, education first and industry support second.

AGU will never deviate from its core of unbiased education. During the hours of instruction, there will be nothing but practical instruction. If the names of specific products are mentioned, it will be for illustration purposes only. There are no favorites at AGU, just partners with a common goal of safe, quality automotive glass installation. Promotional events or offers after the day’s instruction or at breaks can be very informational to students new to the industry but they are completely optional to the students.

In the coming months, we plan to expand AGU to other regions of the country to make the program more affordable to those students who may not be close to Texas. You will see other industry sponsors, supporters and benefactors named in relation to AGU. These friends know that our future as an automotive glass replacement industry is dependent on the training and education available to our future leaders.

I hope this clears up any questions concerning AGU and AGU Powered by Equalizer. If not, feel free to contact me. I look forward to your feedback.

Hands-on training is the most widely used and most improperly conducted training style there is in the trades. Many owners/managers mix training with production in a misguided attempt to have their cake and eat it too. The results are always wasteful and usually stressful for the trainee as well. This can result in failure of a potentially good employee when it needn’t have happened.

Here is the scenario: The manager realizes—too late—that he needs another technician and hires the first guy that looks like he could do the job. He puts the new hire with his best technician and then loads them up with jobs hoping that the new guy learns something through osmosis. The training team goes out every day the same way and gets the jobs done. That is good, right? It may be, if production is your goal, but it isn’t training.

In addition, the productivity is costly because you’re using two guys to do the work of one technician and likely paying overtime to do it. Does that make sense? The sooner you get the new technician trained and productive, the sooner you can make real money by having the two guys out doing two separate runs and saving overtime.

I know that the work needs to get done, but if the manager anticipates the need in advance, he eliminates the trouble that comes with combining training with productivity. Many managers train their techs following the scenario above and think they are doing the right thing. Instead, they are slowing down their most productive technician, putting stress on that same valuable individual, stressing out and possibly ruining a good installing prospect, taking much longer to get a new hire to productivity and losing valuable revenue.

I’m not going to comment on anticipating the new hire. That is subject matter for a different blog. However, I do want to address the training techniques that have worked for me over the past twenty-five years. Anyone can use these techniques to improve the training process. Keep in mind though, that the best trainer may not be your best technician. Your best technician is your best producer and may not have the patience to be a trainer.

  • Demonstration – Demonstrate the procedure and then allow the trainee to complete the same procedure. DO NOT do the work for the trainee. The student will not learn if you do all the work.
  • Job Limits – The training team should limit the jobs to no more than four per day when the trainee begins installation instruction. Too many jobs put undue pressure on the trainer and the trainee. Gradually increase the workload as confidence improves.
  • Singular Concentration – Singular concentration means that we must instruct one step at a time until that procedure is mastered. If the trainee is swamped with too many tasks, none of them will be learned in an effective way.
  • Tool Mastery – Our tools require a certain learning curve to master. The tools that are targeted for mastery are:
  • Cable knife (cold knife)
  • Utility knife/scraper
  • Long-handled utility knife
  • Plastic paddles/hook tool (for gaskets)
  • Molding release tool (chrome tool)
  • Insert tool (filler strip tool)
  • Various power tools.
  • Caulk gun

 

Utilize the singular concentration method of training tool usage. It may take as many as 30 to 50 uses of the tool to become comfortable.

  • Part Diversity – Don’t hesitate to take the difficult jobs. Show the trainee all the diversity that is out there. Train on windshields, door glasses, vent glasses, back glasses, quarter glasses, gasket sets, rain sensors, PAAS and all the variables in between. Easy jobs spawn ineffective technicians.
  • Weather DiversityAs a trainer, you would be doing your trainee a disservice if you do not expose that trainee to the conditions he/she will experience. Don’t train only in the shop. If your company does mobile installations and your trainee is expected to do mobile installations, make sure you train for that eventuality. Check with your adhesive manufacturer on the procedures they recommend and train accordingly.

I do not believe in coddling a trainee but I also do not believe in the “sink or swim” method of training either. You may get a person that can keep his head above water, but you will seldom find the guy that can swim across the river.

In the words of Ben Franklin, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

The decision to train begins with what is called a Needs Assessment.  In the last post I pointed out the necessity to track business trends through quantitative measurement. As you track trends, problems are frequently right there for you to see. You may have a customer service issue, a callback crisis, a sales setback or a human resources dilemma. No matter what the assessed need, you need to address it.  How do you do that?  It may be as simple as drafting a new policy and making it known.  It could be the termination of a person who is causing a problem. Sometimes a problem requires the implementation of formal training.

What I mean by “formal” training is the act of announcing, planning and conducting a program to impart new or additional information to employees and staff. I don’t mean taking an employee aside and telling him or her they screwed up and telling them how you expect it to change—that is discipline not training. If you expect the newly imparted information to stick, you must make it known that it matters.  You do this through a concerted effort of presenting a program; otherwise it can go in one ear and out the other.

There are all types of training that can be implemented in solving your problem. Although there are numerous companies that can assist if you want to outsource your training, for our purposes I will be focusing on internal training. This can include open discussion training, hands-on training, seminars or demonstrations. The type of training you choose depends on budget and time constraints, the needs assessment and the results you want to realize. In this series of posts, I plan to address each of these types of training methods and explain the benefits and downfalls of each.

Considering that my blog is called “Technically Speaking,” I think I will assume that the interest of those reading this post is in the technical training arena and not in sales or marketing.  So, I am going to tackle the types of training that would best pertain to the technical or installation training found in the auto glass shop.

Open Discussions
One of the most versatile and easiest methods to conduct is the Open Discussion (OD). The OD can be used to impart almost any information you wish to share, from announcements to new product introductions. The OD is very easy to put together and it is far from threatening to the attendees. But there are some planning hurdles that must be addressed and some pros and cons to consider when using this type of training program.

Preparation

  • Set a date and time that all can attend.
  • Make sure that schedules are set to assure attendance. If you are lax on requiring attendance, they will be lax on hearing what you say.
  • Prepare an outline of discussion. One problem with ODs is that they can get out of control and the purpose of the training is lost or watered down.
  • Make the venue comfortable and less formal. This encourages discussion and reduces nervousness.
  • Have refreshments or snacks available to promote the casual atmosphere.
  • Assign someone to take notes or minutes of the meeting for future reference.

Pros

  • Casual environment encourages open discussion and is non-threatening.
  • The method can be used on a wide array of subjects.
  • Cost of training is minimal.
  • Minimal preparation for presentation.
  • Easily adaptable to include guest speakers or presenters.

Cons

  • It is so casual that some may not take the training seriously.
  • It is difficult to control the conversation.
    • Discussion can wander off in directions not desired.
    • Attendees have a tendency to talk over others and miss important issues
    • The effectiveness of training is less than other methods.

The last point under Cons is an important detriment to OD training, “The effectiveness of training is less than other methods.” This is mainly because in an open discussion context your employees are not very far removed from their normal surroundings and they are hearing directives from the same people that give them orders daily. Open discussions can work well as a training method when joined with other programs or when training budgets are strained. Just remember that it will not be optimally effective if you let the discussion wander away from its goal subject.

My years of training experience show that a new venue and a different voice can make the difference if information imparted is retained or lost. That is why the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) recommends a combination of internal and external training programs to get the best results.