Mr. Lube greases wheels for online certification

The next time you pop into a Mr. Lube to get an oil change, the technician looking after your car could be one of the approximately 750 trained online.

Mr. Lube, a chain of “”preventative fluid maintenance”” stores across Canada,

is halfway to its goal of moving its 1,500 technicians to an online training and certification program. The Toronto-based company is replacing its paper- and video-based training tools with 1,100 Web pages.

“”The way it’s tailored and designed is for a technician to go in at their leisure and work within their timeframe,”” said Bob Anderson, senior manager of brand standards. “”It’s basically a month to do the basic technician training and there’s levels beyond that. To get it totally completed is probably about six months.””

The training includes animation, interactive features like a tour of the pit, and exams which are taken online and culminate in certification. The whole process is automated, requiring little human intervention from management, but trainees are assigned already-certified mentors so they can demonstrate their skills in real-life situations.

“”We want all our existing technicians to be certified in this program. For all those people who are already trained, it should be fairly easy to them to get through and be re-certified with this new program,”” said Anderson. “”Our goal is to have 85 per cent . . . certified by the end of the year.””

Training levels range from automotive newcomers to experienced technicians. Anderson estimates the average age of his employees is 24 years old. “”You can start of with a person who’s just getting out of high school who walks into our store to get a part time job for the summer. He has to learn all the information to be proficient at his job,”” he said.

The e-learning program was designed by Ottawa-based Acerra, a division of Algonquin College, which has also delivered online training solutions for local companies looking to educate their channel partners.

“”Our customers are people who have existing content and they need to get into a different way of delivering it,”” said Justin Ferrabee, executive director at Acerra. “”We helped (Mr. Lube) re-work the entire certification process, re-design the levels and content and structure of the certification and then to integrate it into the online delivery method.””

The online system will be tied into the Mr. Lube head office so “”they can correlate levels of certification and training with levels of performance by store as well as their quality assurance (program),”” added Ferrabee.

The system will be hosted by Toronto-based Q9 Networks Inc. Mr. Lube selected Q9 because it was “”the most eager”” and “”returned our calls,”” said Ferrabee, who found other contenders to be less enthusiastic.

Ferrabee considered hosting the solution at the Mr. Lube head office, but wanted 100 per cent uptime, which internal IT staff couldn’t guarantee. “”The big factor was the time zones. We’re a national company (and) we wanted to ensure that the site was up 24 hours a day, seven days a week,”” he said. “”It was little difficult for our guys to guarantee that. If the power goes out on the weekend in Toronto . . . it could be down for a few hours.””

Q9 CEO Osama Arafat said hosting online learning solutions is a small part of his overall business, but that could change as their popularity grows. “”Whether you’re in fast foods or car maintenance or whatever, you’re going to see people doing a lot of these certifications or tests, (switching from paper to) online,”” he said.

Mr. Lube is currently limited to online learning for technicians, but the goal is to eventually have all employees, from administration to human resources, on a similar system, said Anderson.

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