by Terri Nighswonger
Finding an RV technician while you are on the road can be a lifesaver … or at least a vacation saver. In an article from a couple of weeks ago, we indicated the need for techs, including those who operate as mobile technicians, all over the U.S. is growing by leaps and bounds, but supply has yet to meet demand.
Curt Hemmeler, executive director of RV Technical Institute (RVTI) in Elkhart, Indiana, had been working with manufacturers, suppliers, RV dealers and the RV Industry Association to create a school there that will help fill the need.
“It is technically a startup that was created a couple of years ago to create a school within the industry to professionalize the RV technician and also look at recruiting more people into the industry,” Hemmeler said.
In the past year and a half, the school has acquired an 18,000 sq. ft. building that was then renovated. An open house last September introduced the school and the first students came to learn in January 2020.
“In addition to building a building and creating a space for training, we standardized the curriculum, created the RV technician career road map or career path that now takes a technician from a level 1 to level 2, level 3 and level 4, which is a master tech,” he said.
The school was able to train approximately 130 students prior to COVID-19 shutdowns. Level one curriculum was quickly moved to a webinar setting. It is now being put into a self-paced, professionalized, interactive format that will be ready by September 1.
“This will be an opportunity for folks to get their level 1 certification via the web at their own convenience anywhere and any place in the country,” Hemmeler said, “What we like best about it is it is extremely interactive. We were able to take the labs, the hands-on pieces, and put it into a digital format that at least allows a person to learn the concept and understand what’s being taught.”
Level 2 is an additional 4–5 weeks of school.
“Once we see the popularity of level 1, which I believe there is going to be a high demand for, we are actually looking at putting level 2 online,” he said. “It’s a little more challenging because level 2 gets into diagnostics and troubleshooting.”
Options for training include online, testing out, onsite at Elkhart or onsite at one of the school’s learning partners around the country.
“We are probably going to put dates on the calendar and allow people to register and see what the interest is. Then as a fall back if it gets bad or whatever the case might be, we do have the online that will be ready at that point.”
While Hemmeler agreed that brand-new techs are not ready to be mobile, he also added that of those RVTI has trained, about 30 percent are already in a mobile tech situation or would like to be.
“There is so much opportunity for those who have an entrepreneurial spirit, they are going to naturally gravitate and go be a mobile tech,” Hemmeler said. “Because there is no regulation of any type or controls, anybody can go out today, get a van and begins to sell themselves at campgrounds.”
Hemmeler added the public will need to be educated so the consumer will begin to ask for certified technicians.
“As the consumer becomes more educated, and asks for that, it will have a residual effect where the dealers say they need to get more techs certified because the customers ask for that.”
“The real goal is to keep people camping. We’ve got to make sure that’s uninterrupted because an air conditioner goes down. If it does, we’ve got to be able to fix it fast. I think that will also create more demand for mobile tech type training and we are well-positioned to provide that training.”
RVTI is also looking to partner with different community colleges to provide business courses and possibly an associate degree in RV technology.
The cost for the program at RVTI is $1,500 for level 1 and $5,500 for Level 1 and Level 2 together.