Glimmer of hope over RV technician shortage

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There was some good news this past week regarding the crisis over a severe shortage of RV technicians across the USA. The shortage is forcing thousands of RVers at any one time to wait for a service appointment for weeks or even months for service to be completed on their vehicle.

The good news is the National RV Training Academy (NRVTA) celebrated the first anniversary of completing its inaugural class at the newly constructed Big Red Schoolhouse in Athens, Texas. The first class, a basic RV maintenance course, began Oct. 29, 2018, with 19 students and finished earlier this month.

The RV Industry Association (RVIA), the major RV trade organization, only recently opened its first technical training school after many years of talking about it. It has yet to graduate its first student.

The National RV Training Academy is a privately run, 15,000-square-foot facility with five classrooms and three service bays with overhead observation areas for students to view work performed on RV roofs. It’s adjacent to the Texan RV Park, which allows students to live in their own RVs or rent a cabin while attending classes.

A total of 419 students have completed training. Seventy-one later passed the exam to become registered RV technicians with the RV Industry Association and RV Dealers Association. Another 13 students completed all five weeks of training and passed the exam to become RVIA/RVDA-certified technicians.

“We are pleased with our first-year results,” said NRVTA Director Terry Cooper. “With the RV industry clamoring for trained technicians, we feel our courses are helping alleviate the critical need for technicians. I believe the tide is turning and America is waking up to the need for trained technicians and the myriad of opportunities available to people who complete that training.

“A number of our students who completed five weeks of training were hired right out of school to become RV technicians at dealerships, while the rest opted to go into business for themselves as mobile RV technicians.”

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Bob p
3 months ago

It’s about time some people in this country realize there are good paying jobs that don’t require a college degree in liberal arts or home economics. They will find not only are their jobs economically rewarding, but also will realize it is mentally rewarding. I was an industrial mechanic over 30 years and I usually went home tired and dirty, but I knew I had done something few people can do.

Steve Mac
3 months ago

I am currently enrolled in the RV Tech Home Study course. My motivation was to build my knowledge for evaluating units that I may purchase. However, I am now considering additional training to expand my home maintenance business into RV’s since they are “home” for a growing number of people. Being an electronics tech school graduate, over 40 year ago, I find the training to be an initial step, as expected, and cost effective. Is it perfect, no. Does it provide solid information, yes. However as with any training, it opens the door if you decide to move forward.

Brian
10 months ago

19 people, basic course, kinda like the trucking industry huh…..? I don`t see any flags waving.

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Brian

When you took your first steps they were called baby steps and it took quite a while before you got good at it, give it some time. I went through a 4 year apprenticeship to become a journeyman machine maintenance mechanic, and 30 years later I was still learning about new technologies in machinery. You never learn everything there is to know until they put you in the ground.

JohnG
10 months ago

I can attest to the quality of the training by Terry “Cooper” and the rest of the folks at NRVTA. I took my NRVIA inspector training there, along with some continuing education classes. In a phrase, “Very Comprehensive”. I recommend their user training to all my RV inspection clients.

When they talk about absorption refrigerators, they have a bunch of examples for hands-on training. When they talk about furnaces – same thing. When I went to Lippert training there, we installed an awning on a wall made for such things and had an opportunity to adjust slideout mechanisms. The two people I partnered with, in class, were the lead tech from PPL and one of his co-workers and they both said they learned a lot.

Cooper, Steve, Howard, and the rest of the good folks at NRVTA are serious about turning out skilled professionals, be they RV techs or RV inspectors, as well as very knowledgable RV owners.

But there’s another thing that they offer that is just as valuable – closed Facebook pages. That means that techs can privately ask other techs and inspectors can privately ask other inspectors about issues that they encounter, on the Facebook pages. The old hands hang out there and answer questions for the newbies and once in a while, we even ask a question and have it answered by a newbie. It’s all one big team.

Finally, there are the “Locator” pages. If you’re looking for an RV Inspector, there is the NRVIA Inspector Locator and for techs, there is the Road Life Project Tech Locator page.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
10 months ago
Reply to  JohnG

Thank you very much for the great “insider” info, JohnG! Good to know! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Mark Lawler
10 months ago

Consumers don’t really question the need for a boat inspection by a certified expert before purchase, yet for some reason they don’t demand doing the same when it comes to RVs…

Ray Zimmermann
10 months ago

This is a very confusing, poorly written article. The second paragraph says the NRVTA “celebrated the first anniversary of completing its inaugural class.” The next sentence says the class started in October 2018 with 19 students and completed earlier this month (didn’t say how many of the students finished.) So it sounds like a one-year class, and they were really celebrating the first anniversary of STARTING the first class. Later in the article it talks about 419 students having completed training with 71 passing a certification exam and another 13 completing “all five weeks of training.” Am I the only one that’s confused as to what’s going on with this school?

Stephanie Henson from NRVTA
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Zimmermann

The original article submitted was then reworded and now kinda confusing for sure! We’ve had several classes finish, we are celebrating our first completed year and we’ve had several hundred graduates. We have 6 different classes so the graduation rate depends on which class or track the student pursued.

Cindy Martin
10 months ago

While the grad rate is low, my real concern is Did the students learn what they need to know to the full extent they need to know it, did they get enough practice, and will they do a good job? I’d rather have a very well trained tech than one of the 97% who just got by or didn’t care enough.

Drew
10 months ago

It would be nice to find out how many rv owners have bothered to get themselves trained as well. This would really help their situations rather than a dependence on someone else.

h goff
10 months ago
Reply to  Drew

yep – everyone should know how to do basic maintenance.

Mary
10 months ago

Wow, that is a REALLY low percentage of students who passed. Programs like this are desperately needed so, hopefully, they can works towards better percentages in the future. Best of luck to them.

Karen
10 months ago
Reply to  Mary

419 students passed the class. Not all of those chose to take the RVIA/RVDA Registered Tech test. The classes prepare students to be able to take the registered tech and certified tech test which is encouraged but it is not required by the school. Those 71 students chose to take the registered test and passed. I am one of those students. Several others have gone on to take the Certified test and a few of those passed with a score high enough to qualify as a Master Tech.

Cirrob
10 months ago
Reply to  Karen

What did you think of the course?

Fox
10 months ago

There is a college in Kelowna British Columbia Canada it has been offering an RV technician course for over a decade now

alvin.e
10 months ago
Reply to  Fox

And for the last 20 some years, that college had a weekend workshop for RVers (usually in late June), where they had all kinds of programs. From technical (septic system, electrical, how to find the right kind of toilet paper, propane, load considerations, etc.) to travel information (caravaning to Mexico, trip discussions, what to take, etc.). That workshop is now handled by the RVDA of BC (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association of B.C., Canada) Maybe http://www.rvda.bc.ca has more info on that.
Fore new RV owners, a great way to learn about your RV. I did attend that workshop a few years back.

Bill T
10 months ago

Can you pay for and take the exams without taking the the training courses? I can only speak for myself but based on my practical experiences over the years and the fact that I would like to open my own mobile RV repair business, I believe paying the tuition fees for someone to show and tell me what I already have accomplished and are capable of doing, would be a waste of my time and money. Are these RV training academies tied to the RVIA? and are they just another revenue stream and a “must have” to be part of the RVIA’s recognized business circle?

Stephanie Henson with NRVTA
10 months ago
Reply to  Bill T

You should visit http://www.rvtechnician.com to get these answers. We follow the RVIA curriculum.

h goff
10 months ago
Reply to  Bill T

yep – go to the site – just bring your checkbook along with you. $100xx for the prerequisite “Registered Tech” test and $300xx for the “Certified Tech” test – then you need either employment or education to continue to qualify.

Rosanne Drechsel
10 months ago

If the numbers in this article are accurate, we calculate course completion that resulted in certification at 3%! Maybe something is better than nothing. Maybe a big red barn with five classrooms and overhead observation bays is nice. Maybe it is a step in the right direction. It is nice to imagine learning a trade which includes, or should include, an electrical component, a plumbing component, as well as welding, glass and windows, woodworking and fine carpentery, more than two hours about safely using propane gas, and the list goes on. The article does not mention continuing education requirements to maintain one’s Certification. Maybe there are CEUs, maybe not. Maybe the Big Red Barn’s instructors know what they’re doing. Maybe 3% is good enough. One thing is for certain however, the sun will come up tomorrow. No maybes there!

Stephanie Henson with NRVTA
10 months ago

The article is a snapshot of a much larger article submitted to RV Business. We offer several classes, not all for techs but some for consumers, for inspectors and for technicians. RVIA has their own continuing education requirements for technicians as NRVIA does for Inspectors. NRVTA hosts continuing education training events from industry vendors such as Aqua-Hot, Dometic, Lippert, Demco just to name a few. Our tech graduation rate is 100% for those who enter with the intent to graduate as a tech. Our program is self pace which means some who took Week 1 this past year will come back and take Weeks 2-4 when they are ready.

Ed Kear
10 months ago

Many of the students that take the 1 week course do so for their own edification. It’s marketed as “you can fix 80 percent of the problems with your RV yourself”. Another large group of these students go on to become RV inspectors as members of NRVIA. So it’s fair to say that the majority of students that took the first 1 week course never intended to become certified RV techs.

Jen Fuller. RV Lifestyle Ambassador
10 months ago

Not everyone takes the training to get a full-time job. Some are just interested in being able to do repairs on their own RV.

Linda Brady
10 months ago

Apparently there are 2 RV Technician training centers in Florida, both located in or near Clearwater. One of their graduates recently moved near Gatlinburg, TN to open his own mobile repair business. Both my brother and sister living in that area are avid RVers and used his services; they are VERY impressed with this young man’s ability and skill in RV repair. While I agree well-trained RV Technicians are sorely needed at dealerships, I can also appreciate, and would prefer to call, a certified mobile tech to repair my motor home. If the problem with my RV is too big for him/her to handle, I know a GREAT, independent repair shop in Indiana.

Stephanie Henson @ NRVTA
10 months ago
Reply to  Linda Brady

This is our hope as well, Linda. We hope to help provide the industry with much needed dealer techs AND we are an excellent school for developing a mobile service business. It is our specialty.

John Legend
10 months ago
Reply to  Linda Brady

I’ll be attending the RVSA 10 week course. That is one of the 2 you speak of!

Bob p
10 months ago

The big question is, are the dealerships willing to pay the technician a good wage as a result of their training or will they try to pay them the same as the untrained person washing the RVs.

Tommy Molnar
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I wonder if a dealership would pay (or at least help pay) for their “RV washer” to attend the school and become an honest to goodness “technician”. They could do as many trucking companies do, They train you and you sign an agreement to work for them for “x” number of years – or you pay them back for the training if you leave early.

Jeff
10 months ago

This was a GODSEND article. I live in Louisiana and only a short drive away from Athens, TX.

I will be looking into taking their RV Maintenance Course Early Next Year.

Thanks for posting this story.

Michael Gardner
10 months ago

Too little, too late! Maybe a step in the right direction, but just as clumsy as everything else the industry does. More techs don’t fix the poor quality designed into RVs today. Nor does it fix the low reimbursement for warranty work. Their web site HIDES the price of courses until you click the BUY button. This is completely disingenuous! I give them a C-

Ran
10 months ago

Agreed! I hope I see one of these technicians in our lifetime of RVing!

Stephanie @ NRVTA
10 months ago

NRVTA is a private training facility. We are not able to impact the manufacturing process. What we can do is educate consumers and provide a QUALIFIED AND COMPETENT service tech so Dealer Service Centers can get more work completed in less time so the consumer has a better service experience. We also can provide skilled mobile Certified RV Technicians so the consumer can get quick reliable service from where they are camping, not interrupt their travel plans to leave their RV at a service center for weeks. Because we offer so many classes and have many tracks (think custom degree plan), we don’t have a one cost for all classes/tracks. Spend 10 minutes on the phone with us and you’ll get everything you need to make a decision.

Joe
10 months ago

These are two different schools? If one is sponsored by the RVIA, expect it to be turned into a profit center for the betterment of the RVIA, not the consumer.