Volume 13, Issue 6 - November/December 2011

Feature

Certification Certainty
Program Heads into Future with Acquisition by AGRSS® Council Inc.
by Penny Stacey

The Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS®) Council Inc. recently acquired the National Glass Association’s long-standing auto glass technician certification program.

The AGRSS Council’s Education Committee is co-chaired by Dale Malcolm (DM) of Dow Automotive Systems and Jeff Olive (JO) of Glasspro Inc. Both gentlemen have been pegged with leading the integration of certification into the Council’s work. Both Malcolm and Olive have lengthy histories with the program, and recently sat down with AGRR™ magazine to talk about that history and the future.

Q What do you see as the overall purpose of the certification program?
JO: The purpose of certification is to validate that you know what you’re doing, not that you’ve studied, but that you’ve reached a level in your expertise that you can be certified.

Q How do you think the industry will benefit by the AGRSS acquisition?
DM: I think clearly there’s a renewed excitement surrounding it. Certainly we’re not going to try and make it into something it’s not, just because it’s now under AGRSS’s umbrella … We’re going to try to maintain it as it’s been and try to make improvements and see where it fits in with other things.

JO: I think everybody’s pretty excited about AGRSS acquiring the certification program and are looking forward to seeing what we can develop. Some of the people I’ve spoken with are excited and are interested in becoming involved—at Auto Glass Week™ (see related story on page 22) I had at least three different people come up to me volunteering their time.

Q What are your goals ?

JO: I’d say the overall goal is to make it relevant to the technician, to be able to have the certification that would be the industry certification. That would be the number-one goal—to have it be the most relevant certification in the industry.

DM: One of the goals I’d like to see is that we get enough people certified in this renewed environment—I can’t tell you what the magic number is, but there has got to be a tipping point where you go beyond a certain percentage and [the program] becomes somewhat self-sustaining and it becomes highly desirable for glass shops to certify their folks. If you have under 10 percent of the glass technicians in the field being certified, and we’ve never gotten close to 10 percent, it’s difficult. You’re always talking about it, and you’re always trying to teach people about it. But if you climb over 15 or 20 percent, then people will talk about it to each other and you’ll get that snowball effect. The more people that certify, the more valuable it becomes.

Q Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the certification process?
DM: The best I can tell is to say it was developed somewhere in the late 1980s. A group of people got together, including Ray Tate, Glen Moses, Bob Beranek, Tom Minnick, Karl Alberti, Frank Levesque, Don Day and Al Girard, just to name a few, to create the program. When they started this whole thing they literally started from scratch. They had nothing. That’s important for people to remember. It was a time when there were no written references for the auto glass industry. Nobody had really ever satdown and pulled anything together or written anything. They didn’t have a lot to work with.

Q What was involved during the early stages?
DM: They had to write both the test, and they also had to write reference materials so people could have a place to go in preparation for the test. I think it’s important for people who have been kind of on the periphery of certification to understand where it came from and really what it’s been intended to do.

Q Can you tell me about the levels of certification available, and how these have changed over the years?
JO: The original format of the program included three levels, a certified auto glass technician (CATG), senior auto glass technician, and then the master auto glass technician. A technician had to have been installing auto glass for six months to take the CATG, one year for a senior technician, and three years for master technician certification. We eventually went from three levels to two.

I believe we did that just because there was a fine line between a senior technician and a master technician. We wanted it to be set up so the master would have the capability of being a manager at a shop, not only installing but able to oversee the technicians and the operation of the shop.

Q How do you go about writing questions for such a program?
DM: One of the things that a lot of people don’t know about the certification test … is that historically the process has also been guided by a professional psychometrician, an organization that could come in and sit with you when you’re writing questions to make sure that you’re writing questions according to proper educational standards.

JO: Basically your correct answer has to be 100 percent correct, but your “distracters,” the incorrect answers, cannot be correct in any way. So that’s sometimes the hard part of writing the questions.

Using Certification as a Tool

Some auto glass companies have found ways to utilize technician certifications as a tool in their business, both for marketing and internal purposes.

Glasspro Inc., an AGRSS®-registered company based in Charleston, S.C., requires all of its technicians to become certified.

“One of the nice tools that we’ve incorporated into the certification program here at Glasspro is that when you come into our company if you don’t have a certification you are required to get the certification to move up in the level of pay,” says Jeff Olive, training manager. “You’re going to need to go through that certification and prove that you have the knowledge and then you can move to the next level of the pay structure.”

But it doesn’t end with just the basic certification. “We want them to continue to develop and make sure that they know the right processes and the AGRSS® Standard, and we want them to graduate into the master technician,” says Olive. “Once the technician reaches the master level, then he can once again graduate into a higher level pay bracket. It actually generates a lot of interest with our technicians. Obviously they want to increase their incomes but they also want to have that status of becoming certified technicians or master technicians.”

Waco, Texas-based Glass Doctor requires certification as well. “When technicians come through our training class, that’s one of the things we require—is for them to get certified immediately,” says technical manager Frank Levesque, who also has a lengthy history with the development of the certification program.

Tiny and Sons Glass in Pembroke, Mass., utilizes the certification as marketing tool. “All of our advertisements, our website, our Facebook page, our LinkedIn account—we include information about our technician certifications on all of these,” says Peter Brown, vice president of the company.

Brown says it’s also become useful to utilize with networks, such as LYNX Services, which asks for certifications to be included on its METRYX system.

“This is something we can present to the insurance company,” says Brown. “Now this is going to be more like ASE certification in the auto body industry.”

Brown hopes the move of the program to the AGRSS Council Inc. will further the use of this tool. “I think this will bring the certifications more to the forefront of safety and the insurance companies to push forward more for the shops with certifications,” he says.

Q It sounds like a detailed, lengthy process.
DM: You don’t just walk into a room and scratch out 50 questions and off you go. Someone’s livelihood is being scored by it. It’s taken very, very seriously because we know companies might use it in hiring, firing and pay scales (see related box to the right). It’s a big responsibility to make sure those questions are very accurate and correct. The other thing is we have to constantly review them because there have been many, many times over the years where a question with four multiple choice answers and there was one correct answer, but technology, tools and procedures and products have changed, and now suddenly two or three of those incorrect answers are now correct.

Q What types of challenges has the program encountered over the years?
DM: In the early days there was a fair amount of questions that we consider now “auto glass trivia.” An example would be: how many cowl screws on a Toyota Tercel? Or how many windshield clips on a Honda Accord? About ten or twelve years ago, we eliminated all those auto glass trivia questions from the test, and the rule was if you were looking at a NAGS book, and you could look up something in the NAGS book, or if you were standing there looking at the car, and you could count the number of clips or the number of screws, you didn’t need to test somebody on it.

Q What misconceptions do you think exist about certification?
DM: The biggest thing most people don’t understand is that certification is not training. Certification really validates under an objective testing process that you know the correct answers to the subject, you know the subject matter, and you know right from wrong—that’s really what the certification program does. Training is what you would put everybody through whether they certify or not.

Q One criticism that’s come up about certification is that it doesn’t include a hands-on or practical portion. Has that ever been considered?
DM: It’s been talked about a lot, but it’s very expensive to do. We would love to do it. The interim step that’s always been out of reach and we’re hoping to be able to pull it into reach would be [something similar]. Right now the test is set up so that for each question you get four multiple choice answers. We’d like to see it to go to the next level where maybe you get a photograph of, say the inside of a car door, and you would have to click on the right adjustment bolt to make the back of the window go up and down.

Q How would you recommend those who’ve not ever been certified prepare to do so?
DM: Someone who’s been in the business for three to five years probably should be able to, by all rights, sit down and take the technician test without ever having to study. This is not the kind of test that somebody should be sitting up late at night cramming before they take the test.

JO: Also on the AGRSS website you’ve got your AGRSS-registered training programs that are approved by the AGRSS Council. There’s a number of them listed, and those are all relevant, good training programs that would help a technician gain the knowledge to confidently take a technician exam. You need to be up on your game with all the most current information and training available out there. In any aspect of your job that’s probably a good recommendation, but if you’re planning to take the certification exam, even if you feel like you’ve got experience, a review of some training materials would be highly recommended.

“I’d say the overall goal is to make certification relevant to the technician, to be able to have the certification that would be the industry certification.”
—Jeff Olive, Glasspro Inc.

Q What, if any, changes are expected, now that AGRSS has acquired the program?
DM: I think in the short term not a lot of changes. The goal right now is add ten more ANSI/AGRSS-related questions to the technician test and ten more to the master test.

We’ve written some for years but there clearly aren’t enough … Writing the questions will be part of it, but the other tough part will be trying to figure out which questions we don’t need anymore, which questions are outdated or irrelevant, so we can make room for the new ones.

Q Now that the education committee is leading the certification program, what will happen to the original certification technical committee and certification council?
DM: We see the AGRSS education committee taking on the role of the original certification council—steering the program, running the program, and deciding policy issues. Then the certification technical committee will write the questions and review the questions. We’re looking for volunteers for that group. We’re looking for people, especially people who have never done this before who think they might have something to offer. We’re going to do our meetings by telephone and computer, so we can meet more often and not incur a lot of travel expenses. We’ll probably try to meet in person at least once a year.

JO: I plan on contacting the members of the certification committee that were involved in the past to see if they’re interested in helping us now that the certification has been switched over to AGRSS.

Q How do you expect the AGRSS registration program and certification program to work together?
DM: If a glass company does not choose to become registered with AGRSS, we still want their technicians to feel welcome or encouraged to go through the certification process. And if an AGRSS-registered shop has not certified its people, we hope that this tie-in might encourage them to also certify their people through the testing. But we don’t want to exclude anybody. We don’t want to discourage people who are not AGRSS-registered, or talk so much about AGRSS that all the people who have done the certification over the years and have been loyal to the program suddenly feel like they’re not welcome anymore. We want everybody to feel welcome, whether part of an AGRSS-registered company or not. It’s a useful tool. It’s not a replacement for anything.

“I think it’s important for people who have been kind of on the periphery of certification to understand where it came from and really what it’s been intended to do.”
—Dale Malcolm, Dow Automotive Systems

Q How should technicians who wish to become certified, or companies that want to have their technicians become certified, do so?
DM: The best thing to do is contact the AGRSS Council at info@agrss.org and express an interest in it and we’ll probably have a committee member call them and talk to them about it.

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR™ magazine. Email her at pstacey@glass.com,

follow her on Twitter @agrrmagazine, read her blog at http://fortherecord.agrrmag.com, and read her updates on Facebook by searching for AGRR Magazine.

 


 


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