by Dale Malcolm
I recently sat down with Gene Nichols, technical and education manager for Guardian Auto Glass based in Worthington, Ohio. Gene is a member of the NGA auto glass certification technical committee and the certification council.
DM - How and when did you start in the glass business?
GN - I started in 1979, right after the custom van business slowed. My tie-in was installing sunroofs and bay windows. I was trained on-the-job with an unofficial mentor for several weeks.
DM - What are your current job responsibilities?
GN - Controlling a fleet of 275 vehicles and technical/safety awareness, both internal and customer-based, are my two main focuses. Like many of us, though, I also challenge myself with a wide diversity of other staff-related responsibilities. I present Guardian’s Insurance Continuing Education Program about 30 times a year in ten states.
DM - How do you train your employees?
GN - Today we utilize on-the-job-training with mentors for trainees. Mentors are also involved with the experienced new hires. Vendors have also played a big role for us with the process of conveying knowledge needed to keep up with the latest glass removal techniques and glass bonding technology.
DM - In today’s difficult business environment, what is your biggest training challenge?
GN - I would say biggest concern is conveying the information to the techs so that it makes sense for them to do it that way ... It has to be their choice or it won’t happen on the road.
DM - How long have you been a member of the auto glass certification technical committee, and how has it helped you in your job?
GN - I have been on the certification committee for 12 years. Being a part of glass associations helps keep me aware of the latest industry information. Sounds like a blurb from a brochure, but I know at any time I can pick up the phone and talk very candidly to competitors/friends about solutions to technical problems.
DM - Looking back, what was your best training experience?
GN – One of my students was learning so quickly he started to work with and teach other trainees on his own. Marvin Crouch is a district manager for Guardian now. This reminded me as to how quickly the right person with the right attitude can be trained.
DM - Where do you look for training materials and technical information?
GN - I feel a glass company must look everywhere for resources. They can be found with every car manufacturer as well as every glass, tool and adhesive vendor. Trade shows and vendor nights are a great way to gather information. Glass shops are doing themselves a great injustice if they do not attend these functions. The industry will always be in need of a more complete source of information.
DM - How do you see training changing in the next ten years?
GN - We are all self-taught, whether it’s going to a class or finding a quiet corner and opening a book. The future will probably bring easier ways to gather the information and more efficient ways trainers will use to convey their messages. Perhaps it won’t be long before we simply download a virtual, holographic trainer to project right there in the office.
DM - What changes do expect to see in auto glass in the next ten years?
GN - More bare-edged glass design, thinner glass, more color options and larger glass in more complex shapes.
DM - Any final thoughts?
GN - Even in a slow economy, the auto glass industry needs good, qualified auto glass technicians. Selling price is what it is, but good service will always prevail. To offer good service, auto glass techs must focus on the basics to have a good handle on what they are doing. The key to anyone in this industry is to dedicate themselves to doing their absolute best—always. The key for glass companies is to hire the right people; that’s the tough part.
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