Such accreditation "provides the employer with an understanding that the student coming out of the program has the skills to be an entry-level tech," the foundation's president, Trish Serratore told Fixed Ops Journal.
The foundation, headquartered in Leesburg, Va., is part of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, an independent, nonprofit organization that certifies automotive techs and service professionals.
There are about 2,300 foundation-accredited institutions nationwide, most of them high schools or community colleges. The foundation accredits automobile, collision repair and refinish, and medium/heavy duty truck service programs.
The initial accreditation fee is $850.Renewal every five years costs $750.
The accreditation process is stringent. It begins with a self-evaluation by the academic institutionbased on 12 standards developed by auto industry participants. Standards range from offering adequate student services to having proper tools and equipment.
Students must complete a series of tasks based on these standards to graduate. Automakers add specific curricula, such as Honda's Professional Automotive Career Training program, to meet their tech needs.
Key to the self-evaluation is an advisory committee selected by the applying institution. Committee members include instructors and administrators at the school, local dealers, independent repair shop owners, automaker representatives and other industry experts.
If the self-evaluation survives an initial review, a foundation evaluation team leader conducts a two-day on-site inspection. If the institution passes, it is accredited.
Each accredited institution is re-evaluated every 2 1/2 years. It must be reaccredited every five years.
The advisory committee continues to meet twice a year after accreditation to discuss program needs. In addition, Serratore says, "Advisory committees are key to a strong and active program in the community that allows dealers to get involved at the schools and get to know the students."
The foundation maintains its standards through an auto industry peer review process. Every three years, industry experts review the standards and student task list. They delete, add and tweak tasks to meet the changing needs of repair shops.
The standards track current technology, says John Saia, a consultant to the foundation. He is a National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence-certified master tech, a former Toyota National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation representative and former member of the foundation's board.
"Fifteen years ago, techs weren't carrying laptops and iPhones," Saia says. "Now they need both of those if they want to be successful."
Maintaining foundation accreditation is getting tougher for high schools because of the growing number of academic requirements, Serratore says.
"We need students who can read, write and communicate," she says.