Train in vain?

In a rapidly changing business environment it can seem like you are being left behind. How can you keep up? By hopping on the ‘train’, that’s how...

Published:  27 July, 2018

You’re never too old to learn, as they say. Well in this industry they should say you are never too old to stop learning. If you do stop learning, you might never catch up, and then where will you be?
    
In June, like much of the industry we were at Automechanika Birmingham. As always it was highly illuminating. We are not going to give you a full lowdown on the event here though. If you want that, turn to page 30 where we have all the info you are ever likely to need. There is one aspect of it we would like to cover though – change, and what the impact can be.

During our three days at the show, we noted all the new technology, factoring in electric vehicles and hybrids, as well as all the ongoing developments within the internal combustion engine. EVs and hybrids might take up the column inches, but it is conventional powertrain vehicles that make up the majority on the roads still, and will continue to do so for some time. It might sound like stating the obvious, but it was made very clear that nothing will stay the same forever, so businesses that work on vehicles (that means you, dear readers) need to make sure they keep up to date.

We’re not telling you anything you didn’t know. It’s just one of those situations where you walk through the various halls, and remember that all that development you spend all your year writing about is a tangible thing, that you can go and touch and see.

Off-topic; On-message
While we were at the show, we were able to speak to a wide range of industry figures. One tries to stay focused on the key issues in these sorts of interviews, but during our sit-down (on surprisingly comfortable stools considering their vertiginous height) with IMI chief executive Steve Nash, we went a little off-topic. We were supposed to be talking about Automechanika Birmingham, and you can see that in the show feature, but we ended up talking about the history of the sector and where technology is going.

"The IMI will be 100 years old in 2020,” said Steve. “There is a real parallel in what was happening then, and what is happening now. 100 years ago,  just after the First World War we had seen that natural explosion in technology that wars create. Before the war, cars were very noticablely horseless carriages. By the 1920s you had sophisticated cars, and it was no longer appropriate to have the local blacksmith tending to them, which is what happened. This is why we were set up.  It was to try and introduce some professional standards to the industry.

“Fast forward 100 years and we are there again at the quantum point we were then, where the technology is moving rapidly ahead of the people in the industry, and we have got to move rapidly to keep up. I don't think it is appropriate to ask people to engage with potentially lethal high voltage electrics without knowing they are properly equipped and trained."

Steve added: "If you look at Volkswagen, they are quoted as saying that from 2019 they will bring out a new electric vehicle to somewhere within one of their ranges every month. We are moving into a different era, and the skills have got to move with the times."

Technology     
Move with the times indeed. It’s a lot to take in, but no challenge is insurmountable. While the various technological marvels and new products on show might seem too much to deal with, if you make sure you regularly undertake training to develop your skills, you should be able to keep up and get a handle on it all.

Through the show, there were many seminars available for free. Some were in Aftermarket’s very own Seminar Theatre, as well as in the various other dedicated venues. Considering the extent of development going on in the sector, we wonder sometimes why these sorts of sessions are not completely overrun by businesses looking to stay up to date. Obviously not everyone can attend, you need to stay up to date.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is something you need to pursue. Training is not just for the young. It is vital for existing technicians, to stay young in mind and attitude.

We regularly talk about training, as regular readers know. We have a standalone section that covers it every month (pages 62-63 in this issue while we have your attention), where we discuss and cover training, both in terms of outcomes and available courses. You don’t just need ongoing training because of changes to vehicle construction and engine type either. MOT requirements mean testers need to undertake annual training, and the new MOT regulations that came into force in May have only reinforced this.

Top idea
Training can take you a long way. We recently held the finals for Top Technician and Top Garage. One thing that we always notice at the semi-finals and the finals of Top Technician is that when you are talking to the contestants, training comes up constantly. They will tell you about all the courses they have been on, and all the skills development they pursue. If they come up across a difficult problem they will research and follow it through to its successful conclusion. Accessing training and looking to find the route case of particularly interesting problems are both goals for participants. CPD is a mantra and a passion here.

This might not always be the best use of time and resources in the moment, but they see it as an investment in the future. It will pay off later for them. Clearly when you are looking at the bottom line and trying to keep pushing forward and push jobs out the door this cannot always be the priority. However, if you can factor this kind of thinking into your day and follow up with training, you will be heading in the right direction.

In the end, it’s all investment whether it is a spanking new piece of kit, or training to enable you to work on the latest vehicles. Equipment will always need to be replaced in the end, sad as it is to admit when you have bought the latest doohickey that really will help you, but knowledge breeds knowledge, sparks new ideas, and helps you and your business grow. Put your money where your life is, and get to it.



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