Electrical and diagnostics specialty addressed with I-CAR enhancements
Hoffman Estates, Ill.—With its maze of wiring, modules, and sensors, today’s vehicle resembles a computer network on wheels. I-CAR’s newest courses in electrical and diagnostics provide training to meet evolving repair needs, said Josh McFarlin, director of curriculum and product development.
“There’s always been the likelihood that as part of the overall repair, you have a module, a harness, or something like that that was damaged and needs to be repaired. And the shop could decide whether they were going to deal with that internally or sublet that out, because it wasn’t necessarily on every repair. Now, we’re fast approaching a scenario where every repair has something electrical or diagnostic-related that’s going to have to be dealt with.”
As part of the new curriculum launching this year, I-CAR’s newest courses are more hands-on, require less time out of the shop and off the floor, and are more interactive, with far less course-to-course redundancy, he said, with Spanish-language versions to come of all core courses. There are 13 knowledge areas for the Electrical/ Mechanical Technician Professional Development Program (PDP) role, on topics such as electrical circuits and troubleshooting, scan tool operation, and computer-controlled electronic systems.
I-CAR’s previous curriculum allowed each Platinum-recognized shop employee to have up to four roles. That arrangement accommodated personnel such as shop managers or training managers who oversaw the training taken by shop employees in those roles required as part of the PDP for the shop to be Gold Class-recognized: estimator, non-structural technician, steel structural technician, and refinish technician. The new curriculum limits the number of roles any one person can hold to two.
“Our vision is to make sure everyone has the information, knowledge, and skills to perform a complete, safe, and quality repair,” McFarlin said. “And in order to bring the vision to life, we needed to limit the number of roles somebody could have.”
Electrical/Mechanical Technician specialty role provides flexibility
The electrical and diagnostic courses are part of the existing Electrical/Mechanical Technician role, which McFarlin said will now be required for Gold Class recognition when the new curriculum begins rolling out in the second quarter.
“However, unlike the other roles, this role will now be required at the shop level, meaning that more than one person can take part in completing the different courses in the role, as long as they are completed by someone in the shop,” he said.
“Maybe you have an estimator who is doing some scans, or maybe you have a non-structural tech who’s also doing teardowns and identifying some of the electrical damage. Recognizing that each shop does that a little differently, we wanted to enable the ability to apply that, based on your staff and the way you run your business.”
Revised courses provide greater engagement, retention
The previous curriculum often duplicated efforts, offering courses in two of the multiple delivery formats: instructor-led classroom and/or in-shop training; online (self-study, available 24/7); welding training and certification; virtual (online instructor-led learning and interactive discussion); and hands-on skills development (hands-on practice and learning with instructor coaching.)
Courses in the new curriculum use the delivery method that optimizes the best use of students’ and instructors’ time and provides for the most student engagement and learning retention.
Because many instructors and students needed to travel to classroom courses, previous courses were generally three hours, a duration that was deemed necessary to justify the travel time. It’s also difficult to keep students engaged for three hours of one-time instruction, McFarlin said.
“We wanted to teach the content in the appropriate medium, and so if it’s theory or basic operation, those are best served in an online setting. When you’re talking about electrical theory, or things like Ohm’s law or voltage drops, there’s not a lot to debate, and it’s going to be the same every time you present it. And it’s better served if you can use good animations, good video content, good 2D art, and other media to help bring it to life, because we know different students learn in different ways.”
Online courses are now between 20 and 60 minutes. So for many classroom courses, one three-hour course may have been broken into four or five online courses of varying lengths. Virtual courses, which use Adobe Connect to allow back-and-forth discussion among an instructor and students, are no more than 90 minutes.
Instructor-led classroom sessions are best for where props may be useful, or for role-playing activities, McFarlin said. “We may need to have three people talking at once, because maybe one person is acting as the customer, another as the estimator, and the third as a non-structural tech, for example, and the virtual setting isn’t really going to support that very well.”
At the same time, while the number of courses has gone up, the number of hours required has gone down.
“In addition to breaking up the content into smaller pieces, we are using prerequisites, where appropriate. That enables us to know what order you’re taking things in, and we don’t have to repeat some things we did before.”
Basic electrical skills are still important
Even a simple electrical problem, such as painting an electrical ground point that needs to be bare metal for conductivity or failing to connect it, can create delays and extra costs for a shop, McFarlin said.
“I’ve heard from so many different people that when you’re trying to deliver the car to the customer and something isn’t acting correctly, one of the number-one issues is almost always going to be a missed ground. Maybe you’ve sublet that work out to a dealership or other repair shop to repair a damaged harness. You’re likely going to send that vehicle back to whomever the sublet work was done by, they’re going to look at it, and they’re going to find the problem. They’re going to charge you for that follow-up repair, because they likely didn’t leave the ground loose; you did upon reassembly.”