Sunday, June 21, 2015

Meet Jim Allen, Sponsor of the Appliance Tech Scholarship

Jim Allen is the CEO of Appliance Zone, an online resource for buying parts and accessories for appliance brands like Whirlpool, GE, and KitchenAid. He worked for a number of years as an appliance repair technician and ultimately invented a tool called the Allenbar which is still popular today. In 2004, Jim and his wife Paula founded Appliance Zone.

Jim and Paula's latest project is funding a scholarship for military veterans to learn appliance repair. Visit to learn about this unique vocational education program.

1. What inspired you to create the Appliance Zone scholarship program?

The scholarship program was really born out of our desire to do something positive for our military veterans. There is a shortage of high quality appliance repair technicians out there. We knew that if we could get some interested veterans the training needed to be successful in the appliance repair trade, it would be a win/win situation.

2. Would you tell us a little more about the Samurai Tech Academy Appliance Repair Training Course and what skills students learn? 

Susan Brown of the Samurai Tech Academy states that the Fundamentals of Appliance Repair training course was designed to give a thorough and solid background in the essential knowledge needed to become proficient at troubleshooting and repairing appliances. It covers a broad variety of topics, but its particular strength is in teaching basic electricity, schematic analysis, and troubleshooting--skills that are increasingly vital to competently and profitably repair modern appliances.

Although Fundamentals was initially designed with the novice in mind, at least half of the students are experienced techs who recognized that they needed to fill in their knowledge gaps and are excited to see the resulting improvement in their skills after taking the course.  

Susan also says that in the Fundamentals of Appliance Repair training course, students learn about the tools used in the appliance trade, basic electricity, reading schematic diagrams, using schematic diagrams to develop troubleshooting strategies, gas fuels used in appliances, electronics in appliances, appliance parts, and electric motor systems in appliances.

3. How long does it generally take for students to complete the course--and how do they generally gain hands-on practice in applying the skills they learn from their online training?

According to Susan, the Samurai Tech Academy courses are self-paced, so the time to complete the course varies widely depending on the student's schedule and the knowledge and experience that they already have. Those who can devote a few hours a day to the course should finish in a matter of weeks. Others who have to fit it in around a work schedule might take a couple of months. Note that students have lifetime access to the course material, so they can go back and review anytime they want.

There are various ways that techs get the hands-on practice that they need. One effective way is to get hired as an apprentice at an appliance service company and spend part of their day taking the course, and part of the day riding along with a senior tech. (Being an STA student or graduate is a great selling point to a prospective employer!) Those with a strong entrepreneurial drive who want to have their own business will typically start tinkering around with their own appliances and those of friends and family, then slowly expand to take on regular customers. 

4. Based on your own experience in the appliance industry, what is your best advice for people who want to break into the field?  

I learned early on when I started in the repair industry to stay on top of new appliances that were being developed, then sold nationwide to consumers. Appliance designs and functionality has changed dramatically in the past several years. Today consumers are demanding "smart appliances," so from a technical perspective one would need the proper training on these appliances and the proper tools to successfully diagnose the problem and complete the repair. Technicians that are up to date on all the new products will have a much larger audience of customers vs. those that prefer to only work on the older appliances and only certain brands. Techs today, if properly trained and equipped, can rapidly expand their business into a leading appliance service and repair company that handles all brands of all appliances and furthermore are able to get the customer's appliance up and running in an instant regardless of what brand it is or where it was purchased.

5. Why is appliance repair a good field for veterans to explore?

Today's military veterans know what hard work and discipline are all about. You see something new every day in appliance repair. No two days will ever be the same. You have to be able to not only think on your feet and get the repair done right the first time, but you also have to be able to work with people and help them understand what you are doing to their appliance and why. We feel confident that this segment of the population has the dedication necessary to be successful in this field.

Thanks, Jim!

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