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Lake Washington Technical College

Training Tomorrows Motorcycle Service Technicians Today In Kirkland

By late winter and early spring Bob Monroig's phone begins to ring with calls from dealers all over the Western United States. The conversations usually start like this - "I need a service tech who can do motorcycles, watercraft and ATV." From there it's banter about brands and skill levels.

Since 1986 Bob Monroig (pronounced Mon-roy) has been heading up classes offered by Kirkland's Lake Washington Technical College, teaching students how to repair and maintain motorcycles, boats, ATV and various other power equipment. Over the years Monroig has graduated hundreds of students who have moved on to provide service to dealers in Puget Sound and around the US.

The curriculum consists of a four quarter one year program that teaches the student all the basics necessary to service, maintain, and trouble shoot motorcycles, boats and ATV's. "A lot of dealers are multi-line carrying watercraft and ATV's alongside motorcycles and this is why we build it into the program", notes Monroig.

At the end of the four quarters students are given a certificate and encouraged to select an "Associate Specialty" for which Monroig then creates a 2-quarter curriculum designed specifically for the student's choice. "I have students who want to specifically be Harley mechanics, so for them we have a special program." At the end of the program they have enough skills to become a journeyman and hone their craft in the field.  Placement rate at Lake Washington runs about 86% within the first 6 months of an Associate degree completion.

Bikes are supplied to Lake Washington in a number of ways. Some are provided by manufacturers, others come in as crash bikes and students are eventually allowed to bring their own bikes in for certain assignments.  In recent years manufacturers like Suzuki and Yamaha have been very generous providing new models to the program allowing Monroig to retire an older model into the basic program.

The inventory must keep changing with the times. "Manufacturers have not produced bikes with points for many years now. Since most dealers don't service bikes over 15 years old, we only teach back that far, so points ignition is not in our curriculum; only electronic."

Lake Washington Technical College provides employability skills to people from all walks of life. Motorcycle mechanics aren't all born knowing they want to be wrench heads, some get the notion later in life. "Some of my students are young, but we also have a number of people that are older taking the classes because they are changing vocations are semi retired and want to learn these skills."

The supply and demand curve can really create a shortage in the industry. Monroig puts it this way, "Typically if the economy gets good it takes about six months on the service side to kick in and then everyone needs technicians. But we only train about 100 students a year and usually don't have enough to fill everyone's need. Then when the economy swings the other way I have graduates waiting around for work."

As for class availability, classes usually fill up quick, so the sooner someone signs up for the program, the better.  Lake Washington Technical College is always on the lookout for qualified instructors which allows them to expand class sizes.

In 2003 Monroig worked with Harley-Davidson for the collage to become a contract service training provider for the manufacturer on the West Coast.  Now, instead of dealers having to send their techs to Milwaukee and pay accommodations, LWTC can train them locally on Harley's highest level accreditation, the PhD program.

In 2005 the Evergreen Safety Council joined up with the college to incorporate their MSF program training into an enhanced enthusiast level class that also provides some basic maintenance skills training. 

Monroig's next project is to create a skills set standard that dealers can use to evaluate a probable hire with prior to employing an applicant. 

For more information about the recreational motorsports vehicle classes offered at Lake Washington Technical College visit the LWTC website.

TM/Summer 05


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