One-year certification program helps to fill service jobs
The State University of New York at Canton is meeting the increasing demand for skilled powersports service technicians with a specialized program that is firmly grounded in real-world experience to meet the needs of today’s increasingly technical powered recreational vehicles.
Graduates of this one-year certificate program are well-equipped to walk into the service shop of a powersports dealership and be able to contribute immediately. Alternatively, they can to go on to additional technical education.
Begun in 2004, the SUNY Canton powersports certificate program provides a rigorous education of both theory and hands-on experience with multiple types of powered recreational vehicles. Ten to 15 students annually complete this one-year concentrated course of study, and virtually all of them step directly into the powersports industry, a related technical field such as the automotive industry, or go on to additional technical education.
Powersports Curriculum coordinator Christopher Mayville has led the program since the fall of 2015. A former trainer and technical service representative for Polaris Industries, Mayville also has other mechanical experience from the military and is immersed in powersports on a personal basis. He is assisted by Instructional Support associate Neil Harvey, who contributes over 20 years of real world powersports service experience that includes ownership of a service shop with certifications from several leading manufacturers including Polaris, Victory Motorcycles, Mercury Marine and Yamaha Marine. He also has experience as a service trainer with Polaris Industries.
Drawing on the combined and diverse experience of these two instructors, emphasis begins with identifying where to start looking when problems arise. “When it does this, it’s usually this part,” is how Mayville explained the approach they teach to troubleshooting equipment.
But this course also goes beyond the greasy-hands jobs. “We try to not just teach the technical side,” Mayville said, “but also teach how to operate a dealership shop, and how to deal with a manufacturer and with customer-relations.” So the program also includes both practical tips from the instructors on these aspects of the business in addition to required courses in mathematics, writing skills, and a business elective.
This program also involves the complete disassembly, inspection, repair and re-assembly of contemporary powersports sub-systems for motorcycles, ATVs and side-by-sides, personal watercraft, boat power plants and snowmobiles. Particular emphasis is placed on the electronic engine management that is usually required for both performance and environmental compliance. Other systems covered include continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) and vehicle frames and suspensions.
As part of the program, students participate in seven hours per week of hands-on laboratory instruction during their first semester, and 10 hours per week of labs during their second semester. In these labs, the students use equipment that is typically found in well-equipped dealerships including a Land and Sea chassis dynamometer, a SuperFlow SF-110 flow bench for cylinder head flow metrics, a Kwik-Way boring center for complete boring and honing capability, an S&S Master Balance kit for crankshaft truing, Starrett precision measuring tools, Polaris diagnostic software for fuel injection systems and other specialized tools from Mercruiser, Polaris and Yamaha Marine. However, “we are not manufacturer-specific,” Mayville stressed, pointing out that the concepts and procedures taught in the courses transfer easily from one brand to another.
The lab courses are broken down by the vehicle component assemblies. “In electrical lab, they learn about electricals specific to the powersports industry,” Mayville explained. “In the marine class, we do a tear down, inspection and alignment of marine drive systems. In the spring, they do a complete tear down and reassembly of an engine.”
Fuel injection is a key point of emphasis. “Here’s where fuel injection was, here’s where it is, and here’s where it’s going,” is Mayville’s approach to the fuel metering technology.
CVT diagnosis for sleds and quads is another major point of emphasis. “It seems to be something that the industry needs,” Mayville said. “We spend a significant amount of time on it.”
The frame and suspension labs cover theory of suspensions for handling and ride comfort, then progress through component alignment and shock absorber specifics. “We go through everything,” Mayville said. “We do a shock tear down and rebuild, talking about the different designs.”
Suspension set-up is another area of concentration.
Prospective employers for SUNY Canton powersports certificate holders can make use of the college’s recruiting web portal Jobs 4 Roos.
Based in Pittsford, New York, David Wells is a member of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame. He has been a contributor to Powersports Business since its inception.