Brian Cruickshank, AAP, was named director of Northwood University’s University of the Aftermarket (UofA) in February. Cruickshank, an award-winning automotive journalist and editor, spent the last 14 years at Babcox Publications (parent company of aftermarketNews) where he served in a number of editorial and leadership roles. Since 1999, he worked as the editor of Counterman magazine, and also directed the editorial content of all of Babcox Publication’s AAPEX properties, including AAPEX Today, the official daily magazine of the AAPEX show in Las Vegas.
Join us as Cruickshank talks about his new role at UofA and his plans for the future of aftermarket education.
Making time for training and professional development is a challenge for this industry, whether you are a technician, a product manager or a VP. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Yes, it is a tremendous challenge but also crucial to our industry’s future. While OE dealers are certainly under stress due to recent economic conditions, they remain focused on capturing an ever-larger share of the maintenance and repair market. In addition, dealership networks have traditionally invested far more in employee education than have most aftermarket organizations. We need to reverse this trend if we want to protect and ultimately expand our market share.
Having said that, however, I think it’s obvious that our industry’s traditional education model is broken. And certainly the University of the Aftermarket has relied too long on conventional, classroom-based programs that simply don’t address the time and budget constraints facing most manufacturers and distributors. When I moved from the editorship of Counterman to my new position as director of the University of the Aftermarket, my first priority was to develop a more appealing and impactful curriculum that could be delivered in a far more flexible and accessible way. So far, the results have been overwhelmingly positive: We attracted our largest and most professionally diverse class in years for the Leadership 2.0 program; we’re involved in a number of exciting new educational partnerships with leading industry organizations; and there’s an entirely new level of interest in our AAP and MAAP certification programs.
I should add that a key pillar of the new University of the Aftermarket will be announced during a press briefing on Tuesday of the AAPEX Show. It represents a new approach to continuing education for aftermarket professionals. I can’t wait to share this news with the industry.
You’ve been in your new role as director at UofA for nearly 10 months now, and from the get-go you’ve been very vocal about your goals to provide aftermarket professionals an effective and practical way to obtain executive education. Tell us about some of the actions you’ve taken to this effect thus far?
One of the first and most important projects I tackled after accepting the position was to develop a new strategic plan for the University of the Aftermarket. This plan is the blueprint through which we will deliver greater impact and value to our educational participants and to the industry as a whole. One of the first steps in developing the plan was to determine the areas and activities that would enable us to make the greatest contribution to industry. After speaking with dozens of industry leaders and others, we determined that the University should focus on six key areas: 1.) Offering accreditation and certification programs, including AAP and MAAP certification; 2.) Performing custom education projects for key industry manufacturers, distributors and associations; 3.) Collaborating with AAIA, AWDA, MEMA and AASA in developing and accrediting educational offerings; 4.) Increasing access to education through affordable, technology-based delivery systems; 5.) Conducting industry research for aftermarket organizations; and 6.) Providing valuable networking opportunities for current and past University participants.
We’ve been hard at work in each of these areas. As an example of our progress in the networking area, I’m happy to report that we have established the University of the Aftermarket Alumni Association. The first official event of the Association will take place during AAPEX, and we even have a page on the social networking site, Facebook.
Another major accomplishment will be the introduction of our new technology-based educational delivery system. I’ll save the details on that new capability for our AAPEX press briefing, but it has involved a great deal of work over the past several months.
We’ve also taken a hard look at our existing curriculum to identify courses that need to be refreshed and new ones that will help power the success of today’s aftermarket professionals. Our signature program, of course, is Leadership 2.0, which was dramatically enhanced this year with a variety of relevant and timely new topics.
Another excellent example of our new approach to industry education can be seen in the Executive Briefing session we’ve prepared for this year’s AWDA Conference in Las Vegas. On Sunday, Nov. 2 from 2 to 4:15 p.m. the University of the Aftermarket will present a program titled “The Petroleum Problem: Strategies and Solutions for Distributors.” There probably isn’t a single North American distributor who hasn’t been severely impacted by the wild fluctuations in fuel prices. Our Executive Briefing will examine the issue both from a macro perspective: looking at the geopolitical dynamics that affect oil supplies and pricing; and an operational perspective: What other WDs are doing to reduce fuel consumption while maintaining service levels. We’ll have some fascinating success stories to share.
One last point: We need to make the University’s AAP and MAAP certification programs more accessible and appealing to aftermarket professionals. There are thousands of aftermarket professionals who have earned continuing education units toward their Automotive Aftermarket Professional or Master Automotive Aftermarket Professional certifications.Some of these individuals are working very actively at completing their certifications, while others may have lost their momentum in recent years. In all cases, we will be far more aggressive in helping industry participants assess their current CEU status and in offering new opportunities for them to complete their certifications. For example, the University of the Aftermarket is now offering CEUs to those who attend any of nearly a dozen education sessions and other events during Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. We plan to do the same during next year’s Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week. The AAP and MAAP certifications are meaningful, valuable and, now more than ever, accessible to virtually any qualified industry professional.
Earlier this year, UofA moved into the new Sloan Family Building for Aftermarket Studies, which offers classroom and meeting facilities on Northwood University’s Midland, Mich., campus. How does it feel to have use of this facility solely dedicated to aftermarket education and what are some of your favorite amenities?
The Sloan Family Building is truly the crown jewel of Northwood University’s aftermarket programs. Everyone who tours this impressive facility comes away convinced that Northwood and the University of the Aftermarket are taking industry education to an entirely new level. The facility also is a powerful testament to the generosity and commitment of the Sloan family and the dozens of other key contributors.
One of the most important long-term benefits of the building will be our ability to attract a larger student body to Northwood’s aftermarket degree programs and, ultimately, to the aftermarket itself.
Where can aftermarket professionals go to find out more about UofA programs?
I welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone who is interested in the new direction of University of the Aftermarket. They can contact me directly at (989) 430-7774 or [email protected]. For general information about courses and registration, your readers can call (800) 551-2882 or visit our web site, www.northwood.edu/aftermarket.