RV Service: a Job or Career?

Tony Yerman is a technical consultant for RVDA, the owner of TLY Consulting, and author of RV Damage Repair Estimator.

I have made a career out of RV service. I’m a master certified technician, certified service writer/advisor, certified service manager and certified parts specialist. I’ve written books and articles, and now even a blog on RV service.

I have a couple of questions to pose and a few people to pose them to.

Lately we hear a lot about technician training and participation. RV PRO’s own Dana Nelsen recently wrote about the industry possibly losing the Trouble Shooter Clinics. RVIA has just said it will spend money on marketing the program, which another publication called a crossroad for training.

My first question is posed to each of my intended groups here: manufacturers, associations, dealers and the technicians themselves.

Is RV service a job or a career? I am talking about a career at the customer level. I know there are a lot of supplier guys and factory guys who have made a career at their level.

Next question, again for all: Whose responsibility is it to initiate training, or promote RV service as a career? I’m not trying to anger anyone here, but I think these questions need to be addressed, in some sort of open forum.

Finally, for everyone, and this is the big one: Who should pay for service training? Someone has to. If technicians won’t, then who will? If you have to “grow your own” professionals, should you? Would you have a surgeon operate on a loved one without a certificate, or degree? If not, what are we asking from our customers and their expensive vehicles?

OK, so I ask a lot of questions.

I have to ask technicians this one: Do you feel that you want just a job, or a career, or haven’t you thought about it at all? I ask this because I always wondered what I would do with my life’s work.

I’ve been in this business since 1972 and I’ve seen the great strides that have been made in technical training. I would hate to see it go away due to lack of interest. What a giant step backward for the industry it would be.

Education – I call it “education,” not “training” – is expensive, even though a lot of the tech training really is a bargain. The online course offered by the RV Learning Center for technicians, and the Learning Guides for other service department positions, are cheap if you ask me.

I say this because I went back to online school a few years ago and got a two-year Information Technology degree. I’m still paying on the $14,000 student loan. This was just for the IT courses. I already had my electives from prior college courses I took years ago.

Compare that, and what it costs just for a single quarter at a community college, to the RVIA Technician Certification Preparation Course at just $249 for a whole year; or to a set of the RV Learning Center service writer/advisor Learning Guides at about $420 for a non-member of RVDA. Also consider that for the $420, you can train all of the writer/advisors you can get.

Even the Trouble Shooter Clinics are not too expensive when you consider how much can be gained in better customer service and experience. In recent years, I have taken myself and paid for the clinic, meals and lodging. I needed to do it for my career.

I’ve done a lot of training myself, not only in the RV industry, but the insurance industry as well. I’m quite impressed by how much an insurance company will pay to train adjusters. One company will set up a regional office with a conference room, bring in 35 to 40 people from different states within the region, and hold a three- or four-day training session. There must be value in it.

Ah yes, another term: “Value.”

Where’s the value in training or certification of technicians? I’ve seen, on several occasions, the look on the faces of dealers, or technicians in a courtroom, when the prosecution attorney asks the technician, “What qualifies you to perform the actions you did on my clients vehicle?”

So back to my first question: Is the position of RV technician a job or a career?