Tim Zilke, who has served as CEO of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) for 13 years, says the process of creating an updated mission statement for the organization this past year was incredibly rewarding.
“We have had the same mission statement essentially since we started, almost 50 years ago. A tremendous amount has changed in the industry since then. ASE has become broader in scope than what it was back then, and we’ve grown from four tests in the automotive area to over 50 tests at this point in many different areas. ASE has taken on a larger role in the industry as well. When you go through a process like that, it allows you to sit down and look at where the organization is, where you are going and look at it in the full context, which you really don’t have time to do on a day-to-day basis. It was really a rewarding process.”
Zilke says ASE has grown from being a single point of contact with technicians to one that follows and supports them throughout their entire careers.
“Probably 12 or 13 years ago, we started to move away from strictly a relationship with technicians that was based upon them coming in to take the tests. [We went from being] a single contact point with technicians to be a lifetime partner with technicians beginning as they initially enter the industry.”
That lifetime of partnership spans from the initial touch point through the ASE subsidiary, the ASE Education Foundation, which accredits automotive training programs at the secondary and post- secondary level. “From there, the relationship goes to moving that future technician out into the workforce and then in turn ASE certification and then of course, lifetime learning, which is through another one of our subsidiaries, called ATMC- ASE Training Managers Council,” Zilke said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, while automotive repair facilities were deemed essential services, Zilke says they saw an uptick in techs and shop owners using this time for training. As a result, ASE came up with several ways to support techs during this challenging time.
“We at ASE have taken some steps to try and help technicians and take some worries off their minds. Anybody with an ASE certification that was due to expire at the end of June 2020, was extended out to Dec. 31, 2020. All told, we extended the credentials for about 42,000 technicians. We just wanted to take the pressure off,” Zilke said
“We also have offered an alternative for automotive technicians to recertify. It allows them to remain continuously ASE certified by using the ASE Renewal App without going to a test center. Technicians can answer a question a month on their mobile device and once they get eight questions correct, their certification is extended for a year. We’re trying to help technicians in any way we can,” he added.
In this time when obviously a lot of the work volume has slowed down for repair facilities, there seems to be a much greater focus on training, whether it’s technicians seeking that out or it’s the shops themselves encouraging folks to pursue training. To that end we’ve also introduced technical informational webinars. The response has been tremendous. We had one a few weeks ago with record attendance. We’re offering one a week right now,” said Zilke.
“It’s an incredibly challenging time for everybody so it’s nice when you can find a little something out there that’s positive. In the end, the consumer is the one who wins. The better trained the technician, then obviously the better the repair experience is,” he pointed out.
“One other thing I want to throw out there, as an organization we are blessed to have an incredible staff and board,” Zilke said. “Our board of governors is 29 folks from all segments of the industry. We are very fortunate, whether it’s the staff or board, all are passionate about ASE, what our mission is and how they can help further that. All their efforts are in the best interest of the technician.
“ASE has been around since 1972 and I think people forget how ASE was started and the reasons behind it. ASE has changed from when we started to where we are today, but I think it’s important for everybody to remember that we are the industry’s credential. We were created by the industry for the industry and we are stepping up and supporting the industry’s needs,” Zilke said.