Offering its first class to the public in February 2006, CarWash College is the first continuously operating carwash school in the history of the industry. It was set up to provide basic and advanced training on carwash equipment repair, equipment maintenance and management to help operators be more successful.
Although Sonny’s Enterprises is the primary sponsor of the College, all of the training is non-brand specific and the College is operated independently with its own staff and meeting facilities. Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine spoke with Steve Gaudreau, president of the College, to obtain information about their plans for the new year.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Tell me about a typical course.
Steve Gaudreau: The focus of all of our course offerings is to teach participants how to use the training they received the job. For example, when students attend our carwash equipment maintenance or repair classes, they spend most of their time in our equipment lab. This allows for hands-on training as well as an educational experience so they can immediately transfer these skills back on the job.
PC&D: Who participates in CarWash College programs?
SG: About a third of our participants are managers or assistant managers at conveyor carwash locations, both exterior express and full-serve. Another third of the participants are owner/operators.
The balance of the final third is a mix of several different groups: maintenance technicians that work for carwash distributors, carwash chains, new investors to the industry, suppliers to the industry and people in administrative positions at carwash chains who are looking to understand the business better.
PC&D: How many instructors do you have at the College and where are they from?
SG: We have a total of 17 instructors at the College. Five instructors are full-time and the other 12 fall into three groups composed of operators, employees of Sonny’s Enterprises and subject matter experts. The subject matter experts are brought into certain discussions to touch upon particular points during the course.
PC&D: Can you tell me about the college’s attendance numbers in 2007?
SG: The total attendance for all of our programs in 2006 was 266 people versus a total attendance of 404 in 2007. Most of this increase was accomplished by word of mouth from previous attendees and we were very pleased with the growth. In 2008, we expect our growth to continue.
PC&D: What are the college’s plans for 2008?
SG: In response to participant requests, we’ll be offering a second level of preventive maintenance and two new courses in management. These courses will provide training in areas not previously covered and will be focused on full-serve and flex-serve operators.
In the new year, this new second level preventative maintenance course, combined with the current repair and maintenance courses, will create a master certification program specifically for conveyor carwash equipment.
The two additional management courses, primarily focused on flex-serve and full-serve carwashing, will also be available. The combination of these three new courses will provide the opportunity for students to obtain a master’s certification in carwash management.
With the addition of these new programs, our curriculum has essentially doubled in size.
PC&D: What are some lessons learned in 2007 that will be applied in 2008?
SG: The message of increased revenue based on utilization of the training offered at CarWash College needs to be made clearer, especially in the areas of preventive maintenance. Our participants include many of the top 50 conveyor carwash companies in the U.S., very experienced individual operators, as well as new operators in the industry. They have sent us dozens of e-mails telling us how valuable financially these programs are to them.
PC&D: After two years of operation, have there been any surprises?
SG: I was very surprised at the level of enthusiasm that very experienced and successful operators demonstrate when they attend our programs. Some of the very best carwash companies in the industry have sent people here and frankly, I did not know how much they would learn. Their feedback has been as positive as anyone’s even though they are learning at a different level than someone who is brand new to the business. It is obvious that the industry has been starving for this knowledge for a very long time.