Repair report: How to connect colleges, state programs to build base of repair techs

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Friday, May 31, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – As a leading advocate of the repair industry, Matthew Macpherson, ATP, is pleased that tech training and certification had an even bigger presence at the International Seating Symposium this year.

But ISS, March 20-22 in Pittsburgh, is only one of many pieces that Macpherson is trying to put in place to advance the tech profession. Macpherson, director of FIOS DME Repair Training and a member of the executive oversight board of directors of The DMERT Group, which certifies repair techs, is also trying to drum up support among colleges.

“Providing more of a presence at a show like ISS is important, but the other side is getting people into our industry to begin with,” he said. “Where colleges are going to help is by offering an avenue for formal education and for already being familiar with unemployment agencies that can help get people into our industry. That’s one of the harder aspects from a DME employer’s side: How do I find technicians?”

The DMERT Group offers three levels of certification: Level 1  (tech able to repair basic medical equipment); Level 2 (tech able to repair complex rehab manual wheelchairs, Group 3 power wheelchairs, and to perform basic seating adjustments and installation); and soon Level 3 (tech trainer able to teach in community colleges).

Macpherson’s strategy toward colleges is two pronged. The first: getting colleges to offer tech training and certification, and connecting them with state workforce development programs. Such programs typically have money earmarked for unemployed individuals who are seeking to complete certification programs to help them get jobs. A two-year pilot program in Oregon resulted in 30 new techs.

“If it’s being offered through a college-level class, you can bring in outside money,” he said. “Our goal is to have multiple colleges offer it as classes.”

The second prong, which Macpherson says is a “longer-term goal”: challenging already employed technicians to go to college and get certified or advance their certification to the next level. While there’s no subsidized mechanism to help make this happen, it’s a wise investment, especially for their employers, he says.

“For an employer, what’s the bigger expense, having a trained tech or having to replace a tech when you find out they’re not going to work out?” he said.