The off-campus Lab and Mentors Role:

For off campus students, you will need to find a suitable lab setting or shop to do your hands on training. It is in your best interest to find a location that has ample opportunity to practice the competencies set forth by the EETC. I don’t have tight restrictions on this because of the wide variety of shops available out there. I place 50% of your grade on the passage of the EETC exam, which the competencies prepare you to pass. For this reason it is in your best interest to find the best environment available in your area. In some cases you may chose to use several different facilities or mentors to gain the knowledge necessary. With this in mind, find an environment that will have the opportunities to make you successful whether paid or not.

The mentor you chose is also your personal choice. I don’t have much control in who you choose. You may even have more than one mentor if this is helpful to you. Your mentor should be someone you can communicate well with, knows more then you do, is willing to collect components for you to fix or take apart to study how they work (broken components from the garbage), and is willing to push you to learn. They should be willing/able to provide that look/listen/feel aspect that cannot be provided through the computer learning. (Your wives may fit some of these descriptions but are probably not in your best interest for the mentor role.) Having more then one per person is a great idea and definitely having multiple ones broadens the base of information that you have to gather from. Their role is to mentor you in the subject you are studying and to make sure you achieve the necessary skills to be successful as an outdoor power technician in your area of study. Amount of time spent will vary greatly from student to student depending on their background and learning style. In many cases this person is a shop service manager that, as part of his role, he will advise you, give you back ground information on a machine, or technical advice and a particular repair. Understanding that you are a student and learning, the mentor may provide more detailed instruction, possibly tied to a learning concept beyond the current problem or machine.
Mentor compensation varies greatly too. Most students will be actively working for a shop or company of some sort and the employer pays the mentor so the mentoring is part of the job. In most cases they are giving a gift that someone gave to them years before and are happy to do so. In some cases the student will be donating their time to a place of business in order to gain useful experience. In return, the mentor gets free labor in compensation for the extra time spent with the student. At first this might be a break-even situation but as the students knowledge grows ideally the mentor will be paid back ten fold. This can be a way for the employer to evaluate the student and it’s possible to develop into a full time position. Some employers may look at you as a threat to their business after you are trained but as most students see more and more the cost of owning a business they become more satisfied just working for the employer. In a limited number of situations the student may pay someone to be a mentor but this would be a unique situation where the mentor is not involved in the business at all. For example, if the student has his own shop that is well stocked, (perhaps on a farm, as an automotive hobbyist, or some other reason), but they are retooling for the outdoor power industry. In this case the student may hire someone to come and give then one-on-one training on a regular basis. Compensation for this would vary greatly and needs to be dealt with between the two parties.

You’ll need to have your list of competencies to review with your mentor during the first week of school. The mentor needs to know what you already understand, are attempting to learn and what areas you need help in. I will not be checking off each competency or requiring particular ones each week. It is up to you to compare the list with what you are studying and what you have available and start checking them off. Taking pictures and notes of what you are doing helps me to keep abreast of what you are learning and allows me to comment on something I may know about that component. This is not required but is in your best interest.

So far, the ideal mentor has been an older retiring technician that loves what he does and wants to share the many years of personal learning, seminars, and classes they have attended. There is a great deal that cannot be taught through a computer or in a classroom that can only be learned in the real world. In some cases the learning on the job is more real and pertinent than the college lab environment and can be tailored specifically to the job you are doing. The main advantage of the college lab is the ability to go far beyond the original problem to learn the theory of how the machine or component really works. In the off campus environment this can be addressed by taking the old parts and disassembling them to study how they work together. My only concern for off campus students working at a shop is that they may get too busy doing the basic maintenance work and don’t get the opportunity to go deeper. This is where a clear understanding of the quarter’s goals and keeping the mentor updated on what you are learning comes in. Communication – Communication – Communication!