We have been wanting to write another article about the AGA (Auto Glass Association), but there has not been too much activity recently apart from the usual self promotion of the group. However, an article did catch our attention that was being promoted by Glass Bytes USA.
Apparently the AGA is very excited to announce that they are to introduce an Auto Glass Training Program. The program is designed to lift the technical skills of the auto glass technicians in their group and the windscreen industry in general. It would appear the AGA assumes that the reason for the poor work ethic we find in the Australian Auto Glass industry today, is down to the technicians lack of training.
Now, we don’t want to sound too cynical as we are all in favour of lifting technical skills to improve job quality for customers, right? However, it always pays to take a closer look to understand the logic behind such statements.
To our knowledge the proposed courses are similar to TAFE courses and cover the fundamentals of Auto Glass Replacement/OHS/Customer Service.
This sounds very familiar and has all been done before. We would expect the programming would be very similar to the Auto Glass Certification Course run internally by O’Brien back in the 1990’s.
I personally sat all these examinations up to level 4, the highest you could achieve at the time. The whole course was extremely fundamental and I don’t think I would be alone in stating they were extremely elementary. Some of us keen to complete it were told to slow down, as completing the whole course to level 4 in only a few months may not be a good look.
To be fair though, you have to understand the the dilemma that the creators of the courses have. Windscreen technicians are not the most academic bunch and neither should they have to be. Now, I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense, so don’t fetch your pitch forks just yet… It’s just auto glass techs are only required to install windscreens and solve simple technical problems out in the field. They don’t have to create and solve complex Google algorithms.
With this in mind the creators don’t want to make the courses too difficult as the success/pass rate may be compromised. This then makes it appear that the technicians are incompetent. Now that’s not a good look for anyone, especially the company/group/industry for which the participating technicians represent. So the creators have to ensure the courses are reasonably simple. This usually means a fundamental, open book, self paced course.
Open book courses are where you read the module and then answer questions soon after before you forget. For example, you read the text such as… “To gain access to a work site John must wear a hard hat”. Then, question one would be. “What does John have to wear to access a works site?. So, not too difficult, however, just incase you have forgotten you will have your trusty module on hand during the exam to look up the answer. So simple that anyone who shows up for the exam equipped with a pencil would surely pass.
Now Service 8® takes OHS very seriously and we agree wearing a hard hat onsite is very important. However, we don’t consider this to be wholesome learning for experienced technicians. These days if you don’t wear a hard hat you will not get near a job site anyway and site inductions are usually required for each individual site regardless of your previous training.
To suggest to technicians with years of experience to study and sit courses of this kind is not only a waste of time and money (your money), but an insult. How would the board members of the AGA feel if they were also told to go back to school to complete a “fundamentals of customer service” course.
These kinds of fundamental courses are more suited to trainees and new starters and it’s fair to say that the vast majority of trainees are being employed by the larger corporations trying to cut their costs even further.
A more useful course would be one that involves auto electrics for windscreen and door window electronics. One that involves the importance of removing all cowl trims and setting the windscreen correctly. Or, one that teaches the importance of using tested OE windscreen adhesives that not only seal from water leaks, but prevent the windscreen from being ejected in a collision.
I personally believe that all true independents have the highest skill level in the industry, these guys have been in the business for many, many years. The only training these guys require are current safety updates and technical bulletins direct from the manufactures.
Spending your time and money being “Programmed” by an AGA Group consisting primarily of your biggest competitors is something that we could all do without.
Most, if not all independents at some point in time have worked for the largest auto glass corporations in Australia. We used to run their branches and manage their staff. I find it very disconcerting that the same national brands who have employed us as technicians/managers in key roles in their organisation and boasted us as the best, are now pointing us out as under skilled, incompetent and in need of training.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I personally believe the poor quality that we find in the auto glass industry today is the result of larger corporations increasing productivity. Also insurance groups cutting costs/job prices and steering to auto glass networks that have no/little quality control. These people don’t really understand the sweat that goes into a windscreen installation and the time it takes to install one correctly. To them, each install is just another digit on a KPI report.
But after all said and done, despite all the pressure from their masters, technicians have to take some ownership too, they actually have to posses some integrity. Installing a windscreen is not particularly difficult and every technician in the field today knows how to install a windscreen correctly. It comes down to the individual, do you care or not? “I’m just doing what i’m told” is not an excuse for a poor work ethic that could cost someones life in a collision.
Anyone considering spending hundreds/thousands of dollars on fundamental training should really take a good look at what’s in it for them. The AGA who is pushing the program would have given this much thought for sure. I personally suspect that the ideal scenario ultimately is to have every auto glass company bow to the AGA Council.
If independents are not careful the AGA could brain wash the many to gather enough support, which could enable them to dictate to your business and in turn have you work to their orders. For example, suggesting to government that only AGA approved shops should be able to trade.
We must not forget the corporations that sit on the board at the AGA are in direct competition with your business. They constantly undercut your prices, illegally steer insurance work away from independent business and at the same time we are supposed to believe the AGA are our allies, here to help us.
Some have very short memories and it was not too long ago that Service 8® was called in to analyse the footage in two hidden camera investigations from Australian auto glass companies. All the companies investigated failed to follow basic safe installation practices. In fact one spokes person for a national organisation stated for the record that not removing the cowl panel on a VT Commodore was standard practise. These same companies are sitting on the board of the AGA calling others out for being under skilled.
Always remember that the needs and requirements of an independent business are totally different to a corporate structure. Big businesses must grow at all costs, they also have to find the capital to pay many layers of management/shareholders. Make no mistake, these businesses meet twice weekly to discuss how to take more market share from your business. Take a good look around, do you really believe corporations are in the business of sharing the wealth/market with your business?
If you disagree, suggest to the AGA committee to start a movement to stop the steering practises from insurance groups. You may find that this will not be on the agenda any time soon. You see, the conflict of interest is just too great.
On the other hand perhaps I am speaking out of turn. The AGA committee may have very good intentions for all it’s members and the industry as a whole. As is the case for most who live inside a certain paradigm, they may just be suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance.
Read more about it.
Read more about the Auto Glass Association.