No Train No Gain
Take advantage of tools that develop a motivated and skilled team to work beyond the simple job mentality.
Rewind to the 2007 March-April Automotive Recycling magazine article “Personnel Trainer” about the newly launched web-based university designed specifically for the automotive recycling industry. It reported that the educational opportunity would be “Convenient, Consistent, Continual” and that ARA University (ARAU) would bring standardized and needed training to every auto recycling facility 24/7 that is self-paced, trackable, and cost-effective.

Fast-forward to NOW. The on-trend ARAU continues to prove a huge success for ARA members and delivers all that it promised, and more. ARAU, on the forefront of this technology boom, has continued to grow its course offerings, expand its management and tracking tools, and even offers brand-
ed sites for a facility to customize.

Why E-learning? Why ARAU?

E-learning is exploding in popularity and today’s new hires are accustomed to this learning environment. Facilities that establish this platform as part of their training program will stay ahead of the curve as they move to train the younger team members.

ARAU works to provide your team the knowledge for success with an ever-growing catalog of 14 industry specific courses, with more in the pipeline. To meet the industry’s changing needs, seven new safety, health, and compliance courses were added earlier this year, and seven more will soon launch.

The response of ARAU to the training needs of an industry that is always evolving is challenging, and Ginny Whelan, ARAU’s Managing Director, is “totally immersed,” keeping modules current and up-to-date on complex automotive recycling skills and new technologies (Hybrids, for example), as well as environmental compliance and governmental mandate issues.

General Manager Jeffrey Robbins, Horseheads Pick A Part, Elmira, New York, recommends ARAU to all automotive recyclers. “It’s a great tool,” he says, “I especially like the accountability of the system. With me having a management account, it informs me of my employees progress or if they did or did not pass the module. And with ARA’s name behind the training programs, I know that I’m getting a quality product. There is a bunch of training out there that costs a lot of money to acquire, and then sometimes the training isn’t exactly what you are looking for, or it’s designed for large manufacturing companies or something like that. ARAU is geared towards automotive recyclers, so it gives me one more tool to equip my salesmen for good customer service. I’ve used the ARAU myself, and all my employees have gone through ARAU training.”

“It’s difficult to send employees off-site for training,” Owner and President Paul D’Adamo, Bill’s Auto Parts, Cumberland, Rhode Island, said. “It’s even more difficult to find training appropriate to our industry. So that’s where ARAU fills the gap. I think people overlook the need for training, and I would definitely recommend ARAU to other auto recyclers.

“It’s a different approach than in days past. I don’t know if we assumed employees came in trained, but we expected our people to have the skills of the industry when they didn’t. We didn’t really put a lot of focus on training. Most of our 12 employees have taken at least one seminar.”

“I’m all about educational information getting to the sources,” Whelan said, “and that it’s easy and reliable! It’s one thing to be giving out information, but it’s the actual knowledge applied real skills that I’m about. That’s why there is the testing, to make sure that the employees fully understand and then can go back and revisit the material. Then taking that knowledge into the workplace, actually using it, seeing how it applies.”

Points of Entry

The ARAU website has information available in PDF form, so you don’t have to enroll in the courses to learn something. “We have a Facebook™ presence (ARAU is the group name),” Whelan adds, “and I can post videos there if there is a recycler who’s done a great job on a little training snippet. We also have Twitter™ (ARA Professor). Tweets have been generated by vendors from the automotive recycling industry, automotive recyclers, etc., so it’s growing.”

Whelan also has a folder with at least 152 courses that have been requested from auto recyclers, which run the gamut through every career description that is being staffed at an industry facility.

“I’ve gotten module requests for basic things such as Writing Skills,” Whelan says, “and English as a Second Language. We have requests for courses to be in other languages, Spanish particularly. Our training now is focused on the full-service company, but we have requests for training from the self-service automotive recyclers as well. The value of ARAU is recognized. What we developed is a platform for small business with 10 employees and under whom we felt couldn’t send their staff somewhere to take courses because of the constraints of a small business. Now, we also have large companies that want more from the university.”

For Whelan, it is exciting to see the ARAU vision coming into its full potential. In 2007, it was a huge stretch to launch this Web platform, with looming questions like “who’s going to use it” and “who will understand its value” prevailing. Combine that with the fact that most people didn’t have high speed Internet access, she has been encouraged by the response. ARAU has doubled its enrollment size in the last year. The under-30 auto recyclers want an app for it, and want information delivered to the Smart Phones, as well as the ability to exchange technique videos through the system.

Expanding Education

While all this demand is welcome, producing courses that are exclusive for the automotive recycler is a difficult task within the confines of a donated fundraising budget supported by donors.

“The ARA Educational Foundation (ARAEF) has put all their fundraising efforts into the ARAU,” Ginny says. “We are the foundation that will host a fundraiser at the upcoming convention in Charlotte and that will define our working budget.

“I never know how much I’m going to have to work with, so this year we got creative to meet the clamor for new courses. In January, the ARAEF partnered with Summit Training Source, Inc. and licensed several generic-based training session including Back Safety; Decision Driving®: Truck, Employee Safety Orientation; Eye Safety; Fire Safety; First Aid; Forklift Safety; Hazard Communication; Material Handling; PACE-Behavioral Driving; Personal Protective Equipment; Sexual Harassment, Understanding and Preventing; Slips, Trips, and Falls; and Small Spill Prevention.” Summit Training Source, serving over 35,000 organizations worldwide, is an independent web-based training company resource.

And there is so much more to come, including:

• ARAU is now collaborating with a company that trains for the towing industry on an exchange that will result in the towing company to provide driver training through the ARA University from its platform to the ARAU platform.

• The Hybrid introduction is up and running, with at least two more in the works. One will coincide with a manual that the ARA Technical Committee will be introducing for ARA members.

• Webcasting is planned to broadcast ARAU individuals, using a real-time media stream, for a particular topic. And,

• A module is evolving that will focus on dismantling a car. ARAU is looking to work with trainers from the Automotive Society of Engineers (ASE is a training arm for a lot of the mechanical repair groups) and bring in recyclers who are dismantlers to develop this module.

Whelan has worked over the past few years to develop relationships with sister industries. “I’m looking for the synergy between industries that we are impacted by,” Ginny says. Her ultimate goal for the ARA University is a challenge, but not impossible: “One day we are going to have an actual technical center for automotive recyclers. Then I can say, ‘I’m done!’ That would be a great thing.”

Campus Movement

The vision of a training center may not be as far off as Whelan might anticipate. The momentum of ARAU has now looped back around to the real-world classroom on a college campus, a significant first in automotive recycling history. ARAU, in essence, has been brought into the college setting and serves as a shining illustration of the combined efforts of the Automotive Recyclers Association and ARAU members, Auto and Truck Recyclers of Illinois (ATRI), and staff of Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Illinois.

This collaborative effort resulted in the first-ever on-campus college coursework and training presented specifically for the automotive recycling industry. The team that spearheaded this has caught the vision of the ARAU, understand the importance of training the Next-Gen workforce, and were able to realize the future impact this will have on the industry.

Although not an entire technical center just for automotive recyclers (yet), Waubonsee Community College developed two face-to-face auto recycling courses that are offered on campus, in part using ARAU training modules to build the classes. The courses, which launched to its first class of students this summer, are part of the college’s nationally certified, fully accredited, award-winning automotive technology program:

Automotive Recycling Basics (AUT211): The automotive recycling industry, dismantling best practices and techniques, and safety requirements, quality control, and parts grading are studied in this course. The course prepares students for a variety of roles within the automotive recycling industry such as dismantler and inventory specialist. And,

Environmental Standards for Automotive Recycling (AUT212): Automotive recycling industry environmental best practices are reviewed in this course. Topics such as safe removal of mercury switches, stormwater sampling, and the Illinois Green Certified Automotive Recycler standards are included.

These two courses make up a 3-credit Certificate of Achievement, which is the first of its kind in the nation. The program was brought about by the efforts of ARA member Sean Krause, Owner and General Manager of Speedway Auto Parts; Ginny Whelan, ARAU Managing Director; Michelle Lechner, Executive Director & Lobbyist of ATRI; and several Waubonsee staff members, including Kenneth Kunz, Professor of Automotive Technology; Dr. Paul Hummel, Dean for Technology, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences; Jane Regnier, Assistant Vice President of Program Development and Distance Learning; Cassie Blickem, Program Development Analyst; and adjunct instructor Paul Bunge, who is teaching the courses.

How It All Began

This achievement started with a series of conversations between Kunz and Krause at their 4:30 a.m. workout sessions. The two held lengthy discussions about their lives, families, and careers, and eventually the idea of offering automotive recycling classes at Waubonsee. Given the college’s focus on sustainability, it seemed like a great fit. “We started taking our students to tour Speedway Auto in Joilet and I-55 Auto Salvage to show them another aspect of employment that they could explore,” Kunz said. “Sean explained to me that ARA has some training courses, and that we could educate these students to better understand total recycling of a car, how important it is to the environment, and what they can do as technicians and workers in the salvage and recycling industry.”

Krause and Kunz, with ATRI’s Michelle Lechner in tow, then met with Waubonsee officials to further explore the possibilities.

“I was there to promote the ARA University and see the program that Waubonsee has in place,” ATRI Executive Director & Lobbyist Michelle Lechner said, “not just because they are in Illinois, but because my hope is that other universities see this as an opportunity to broaden their curriculum. I hope other auto recycler state associations contact universities in their own states and offer them the same program ideas.”

“Sean and Michelle shared their industry with us,” Blickem said, “what their workforce did, and explain-
ed that there weren’t training programs available in a face-to-face format. They talked about the things they would want to see in a trained graduate of a program to work in auto recycling facilities. We did more research and wrote the course with input from Sean and Michelle. We previewed what ARAU had produced, and that helped inform the curriculum.”

Humbly, Krause says, “It was just our idea. Waubonsee and ARA have done all the work. I sent e-mails that connected people – that’s all I did. Cassie Blickem of Waubonsee and Ginny Whelan did the real work. Cassie was very passionate about the project when it came to the table.”

Integral to Waubonsee’s new curriculum are the ATRI’s Illinois Green Certified Automotive Recycler (GCAR) program standards. “Understanding them, applying them, and implementing them are a big part of Auto 212 Environmental Standards for Automotive Recycling,” Blickem said.

Help is coming from other places as well. “LKQ has volunteered to help instructor Paul Bunge,” Krause said, “which is good. Their corporate office is based in Chicago, and I’m glad they’re getting involved.”

Blickem continues, “We have a strong automotive program with strong faculty members here, and we feel that these courses are a great complement to that. They allow students another career pathway as they explore the automotive field.”

Since the courses are elective options in the main automotive technology degree, a student can easily graduate with both a degree in auto tech and the more specialized auto recycling certificate, ultimately making them more marketable to employers.

“Waubonsee has 12 instructors, both full-time and part-time, who participated in all the ARAU courses and are certified,” Kunz said, “including me and Paul Bunge. We are lucky because all our feeder high school automotive instructors are also certified. We are fortunate as a small community college to have such a big interest in educating others and taking opportunities like this. I think the ARAU is awesome.”

Catching On

Waubonsee has several sustainability initiatives in place right now, including its membership in the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN), and the automotive recycling program complements those efforts as well. “IGEN is a collaboration between businesses and community colleges that work together to grow Illinois’ green economy,” Kunz said. “Sean and I gave a short presentation at an IGEN conference, and now the whole state of Illinois wants to embrace this new course curriculum and teach it to all the other community colleges in the state. That’s a pretty big thing. It will be exciting to see if these little courses blossom into a bigger state initiative.”

Krause and Kunz got excellent feedback from the IGEN and the community colleges that are part of that group. But automotive recycling facilities weren’t something they had thought about, assuming it was a dirty industry that was not environmentally conscious. To build programs, Krause will be working to connect community colleges interested in the automotive recycling courses with auto recyclers from his state association. “It is very important that the public understand our industry,” Krause said.

“I’m also hoping that this spreads like wild fire,” Lechner said. “Let’s get other universities involved. Let’s face it, there are always going to be dismantlers and the more they know the better they will be at their jobs. So having all of these opportunities to learn more is a fantastic thing whether it’s through Waubonsee Community College, another college, or through ARAU modules. The beautiful thing for the college is that ATRI is able to promote it with them. We’ve been able to help them by widening their opportunities, and for us it puts opportunity out there to our members; this is great.”

“It’s been a great experience for us in education to see the automotive recycling business embrace us,” Kunz said, “and be so interactive with developing curriculum to meet their needs as well as the needs of the students. They’re not sitting behind the scenes. In fact, we’ve already had offers from three or four facilities to give tours and work interactively with the students.”

Do automotive recyclers train as an afterthought? Probably. Do they train because of OSHA enforcement or insurance company compliance concerns? Maybe. But this is changing. Automotive recyclers now recognize the value of training. They no longer assume a hire has current technical knowledge and skill for a job. They see the industry moving fast, and that they need to keep up with the new. Wise automotive recyclers know to do otherwise will cost their bottom line so much more than training with ARAU or sending an employee to a college course ever will!

For more information about ARAU courses, visit For more information about Waubonsee’s automotive recycling classes, visit

D. L. Foor is a freelance editor and writer, living in Cape Coral, Florida.

 ARAU Modules

ARA University is the premier online training resource of the automotive recycling industry. ARAU courses are the choice of hundreds of United States and International automotive recycling businesses.

ARA Educational Foundation recognizes that high quality training and education are essential to ongoing professional achievement in the automotive recycling field. It provides a Web-based training portal with interactive coursework ranging from management to sales to automotive recycling specialized training. Visit for more information. Courses currently include:

Sales and Motivation Training with D.J. Harrington

Twitter 101 – How to use Twitter for your business

Stormwater Sampling – Mike James

Rough Terrain Forklift Training & Certification

NEW! Dismantler Training – Dismantler basics, treating all parts as valuable merchandise, safety procedures, and maximizing the harvest.

UPDATED! Hybrid Training – Understanding the Hybrid technology, proper steps for Hybrid safety, new technology AC Compressors, and understanding the SmarkKey.Presented by Craig Van Batenburg, CEO ACDC.

NEW! Improving Your Business with Clear Core
Values – Learn how to set core values for your business, training on prioritizing those values, learning to manage with core values, and teaching your team to use core values. Presented by Phoenix Automotive Cores.

Core Processing for More Sales – Learning about core suppliers, benefits of selling to core suppliers, implement a core selling plan, and revenue through catalytic converter sales.

ARA Recycled Parts Guide – Profit from the new standards established through collaboration between ARA and the collision industry for parts grading. Covers all the basic guidelines and includes visual examples.

Inventory Specialist: Code Assignment & Parts Grading    – Individual responsible for the vehicle inventory process and has knowledge of vehicles, vehicle systems, components and parts. The ability to identify parts assesses damage or condition with the use of the ARA damage codes for the identification of parts descriptions, code assignments, and parts grading.

Mercury Switch Removal

Microsoft Excel for Automotive Recyclers: Where Numbers Come to Life – A primer to get you off the ground and running. There is so much to the program, but if you can master the basics, you can pretty much do most things you need for business. Presented by Bill D’Adamo

Click to download the full September/October issue in PDF format

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