As if wrapping a vehicle isn’t challenge enough. Things get even more complicated when you consider all of the new graphic film products hitting the market-from 3M 1080 to all the various window films, and even new DI-Noc carbon fiber films. The product choices are almost endless, and when you toss in the fact that materials are designed for different substrate and pose their own unique installation demands, installation can become quite confusing.
Even seasoned installers find themselves asking, “What kind of material is this, and how do I install it correctly?” Where do you begin? It all boils down to quality education.
In today’s wraps world, installation training has become a very important tool for installers and manufacturers alike. Everything from finished product appearance to warranty issues come into play, and unless you know the correct techniques for installation, you will surely run into trouble.
How to Get Training
Once you decide you need training, where do you turn? The obvious solution is to pick up any wrap industry trade magazine (like the one you’re holding) or surf the net for a while and anyone can come up with at least a dozen companies or installers that advertise training at some level.
Knowing what to look for in a trainer/training program can mean the difference between learning crucial career-changing skills and wasting time and money on knowledge you already have.
Selecting the Right Course
Deciding on a course can be the most difficult part. First thing to look at is the course content. Do your research on what exactly they are teaching and compare that to what it is you feel you need to learn.
It would be counterproductive to attend a class on car vehicle wrapping to further your knowledge on wrapping for fleet graphics. Make sure the class is equal parts material selection; surface prep and installation instruction, all are key components to good graphic application.
Check to see if the class has any manufacturer affiliations. Most shops that do also have a never ending supply of product support and information. With that kind of support, the latest techniques and materials are no more than a phone call away. This will come across in the information you receive and retain.
Location, Location, Location
Where you attend you training can be a very important part of your decision too. Find a place as close to your home territory as possible. If you live in a northern U.S. state, for example, regional trainers who are used to wrapping for severe winter conditions may have specific tips to help with wrap durability in your area.
Additionally, if you don’t have to travel far, you can relax and enjoy the learning experience without the added travel stress. Look for a location close to amenities such as hotels, travel and restaurants. This might seem like a trivial detail, but things like this can add or detract from you training experience.
Cost can be another factor in your decision. Don’t let the possible high price of training deter you. There are classes and instruction materials that are available to fit any budget. Let the content, location, availability and length of the course help you determine what’s best for you-and how much you want to spend. If the class is structured correctly even the less-expensive courses can be very effective.
The Right Instructor
Now for the big one: The Instructor. He or she is the most important aspect of your training. Look for someone with appreciable real-world experience in wraps graphics installation. Ask for references and look for training certification programs such as those offered by 3M, PDAA, Lowen and Fellers.
“Bringing real world experience into the classroom” isn’t just a slogan that I use for my business, it’s the motto that my training partner Mike Zick and I both use to show students just how important experience can be. You want someone who can understand the scientific side and show how it applies to the installs. This kind of knowledge can be easily passed on to the students. Put simply, real world knowledge makes for a better instructor.
Other considerations include how well you “click” with the instructor, their teaching style and how well you retain the information they give you.
References are a must if you truly want to get the most out of your training and trainer. Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials from past students. This can give you a good look into what you will get out of your training investment and the instructor. If they can’t provide references, you might want to question your choice.
Whether a program offers some kind of official certification is another way to potentially choose a course and instructor. Most of the major graphics manufacturers have a certification program for installers and trainers.
A certification, however, doesn’t always show weather a trainer or installer knows what he or she is doing. Making the choice on the best training program and trainer is a decision best made using several factors, not just one.
Too Many Choices
Way to many choices exist when it comes to finding qualified trainers and courses that fit your needs. The best way is to first determine your wraps education needs and then to search the various programs and consider instructor experience, content, price, location and references to make your final determination. Using a well-rounded approach and applying the guidelines outlined above, you will no doubt find something that works for you and your company.
Training used to be something of a luxury that wasn’t always needed. But with the ever-changing materials, substrates and techniques-today training is a must.
* From the 2015 issue of WRAPS magazine.