FEATURES — You Are an “Automated Access Systems Technician”: Feds Officially Recognize Our Primary Occupation

© 2008 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2008
Author: Todd Thomas
Pages 40-42

You Are an “Automated Access Systems Technician”
Feds Officially Recognize Our Primary Occupation

By Todd Thomas, Managing Director of the Institute of Door Dealer Education and Accreditation (IDEA)

In a major advancement toward national recognition of professional garage door systems technicians, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship approved an industry apprenticeship program in January. This is the first time our industry’s technicians have been recognized by the federal government as an acknowledged occupation.

The occupational title used for the apprenticeship application is “Automated Access Systems Technician.” It represents the individual who has been formally trained in the major industry disciplines: Residential Garage Doors, Commercial Sectional Door Systems, Commercial Rolling Door Systems, and Rolling Steel Fire Doors.

Illinois Dealer Makes History

The application was filed on behalf of Midwest Garage Door in Pawnee, Ill., by its owner, Dewey Stewart. A director of IDEA, Stewart had proposed the pursuit of an industry apprenticeship program more than three years ago. Under Office of Apprenticeship procedures, a single company may submit an apprenticeship program that can then be used by any other company in the same industry.

In July 2006, the initial application was delayed because of an unusual obstacle: despite the tens of thousands of occupational titles available to the federal government, none was found that applied to an overhead door systems technician.

“The people who were helping us in the Springfield, Ill., office (Department of Labor) were stunned,” said Stewart. “They just shook their heads and wondered how an industry as big as ours had been completely missed for nearly a century.”

Further complicating matters, the Department of Labor required a recognized occupation to determine whether it was an “apprenticeable” occupation.

What’s My Line?

“That’s how we came up with ‘Automated Access Systems Technician,’” recalled Stewart. “We couldn’t use the word ‘door’ because it was too broad and would conflict with other apprenticeship programs, and we had to fashion a title that could be linked, somehow, to an existing occupational title.”

Federal officials in Springfield, Ill., determined the occupational title submitted by IDEA could be used as an alternative to “Mechanical Door Repairers,” and the occupation was subsequently evaluated and deemed apprenticeable.

The Birthday of a Profession

After the application was submitted to the Office of Apprenticeship in Washington, D.C., more delays dragged out the process. Finally, on Jan. 17, 2008, a year and a half after the original application was submitted, Steward received notification of the approval.

“This is a great day for the industry,” said Stewart. “Our technicians deserve the respect that they earn every day as professionals in an important occupation. We now have an opportunity to bring up the next generation of technicians with credentials and formal training that our industry has been working to create for the last 20 years.”

Special Seminar at Expo 2008

A seminar on the Apprenticeship Program will be presented as an educational session at Expo 2008 in Las Vegas. A representative of the U.S. Department of Labor will participate and explain how to register an apprenticeship program at the dealer level.

At the seminar, attendees will review a standard application that can be customized to any door company. Dealers participating in Automated Access Systems Technician Apprenticeship Training will file with a local site of the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship and be required to document that the company is following the Standards of Apprenticeship.

Local and regional offices are located throughout the United States. These sites will be listed in seminar materials and in subsequent literature about the program.

For Serious Dealers Only

The apprenticeship program is designed for professional dealers who view the business as a long-term venture and who hire with career development in mind. The program is a two-year combination of hands-on training and classroom/self-study learning that follows IDEA technician certification curricula.

To participate in the new program, companies must agree to formally train all technicians in Residential Garage Door Installation, Commercial Sectional Door Systems, Commercial Rolling Door Systems, and Rolling Steel Fire Doors. This requirement may eliminate some dealers, but all dealers may continue to pursue the individual IDEA certification programs for installers and technicians.

The benefits of the apprenticeship program extend beyond the pride of pursuing a government-recognized occupation. Participating companies will have a clear competitive advantage on large jobs and public contracts due to the nature of the bid process.

A New Future

IDEA President Steve Guyton noted that the establishment of a federally approved apprenticeship program for door systems technicians could have profound and far-reaching implications for dealers.

“For the first time in our industry’s history, our installers and technicians are being formally recognized by the United States government as a professional occupation,” Guyton said.

“This directly addresses one of the biggest challenges faced by dealers for decades. We can now go out and compete in the labor market, recruit young people entering the workforce, and attract displaced workers seeking a new career opportunity. This gives us a true training model that will carry career opportunities, professional certifications, and public recognition that can literally change the way our industry is perceived in the future.”