Jason DeWater had been looking to expand his electronic appliance repair business iFixOmaha beyond the Omaha metro area.
But he did not have the staff of skilled employees to do so. Also, he said it took months to train an employee. And there was no guarantee that the employee would develop into a high-quality one.
“This is an industry that is still a fairly new industry,” DeWater said. “Until very recently, there haven’t been any kind of industry standard certifications … That meant we had to do everything in-house.”
But in 2019, the national industry organization CTIA created the Wireless Industry Service Excellence certification program to train people to provide predictable, high-quality repair for phones. With that in mind, DeWater, Metropolitan Community College and CTIA have partnered to launch the Mobile Device Repair Academy. The first cohort of students will begin the program at the college’s Digital Express library on the Fort Omaha campus in March.
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Officials say the repair academy is a first for educational institutions. Beverly Lahlum Taylor, director of Digital Express, said a similar training program is offered by CTIA on the East Coast.
“It’s very exciting to be the first in the country to offer this at an educational institution,” she said.
Gary Girard, Metro’s associate vice president of community and workforce education, said cohorts will be limited to 15 students. The cost of the program for one student is $1,500, but scholarships may be available to eligible students.
The students have to go through a five-day bootcamp. They will be trained to repair smartphones and learn how the devices are made. At the end of the boot camp, students are tasked with repairing a broken phone.
After successfully completing the bootcamp, a student will earn two WISE certificates and move on to an internship that will total eight weeks.
Girard called the internship component an essential part of the program. He said internships will give students experience interacting with customers in addition to repairing devices.
“It’s not just fixing it (device), but it’s wrapped around this whole concept of customer service,” he said.
The academy will provide an opportunity for savings for the area’s residents with broken phones. The College will charge these customers the cost of parts, with no labor or other costs added.
Girard and DeWater played down the idea that such a model puts the college in competition with device repair companies such as iFixOmaha.
“Our intent is not to create competition, but to develop a skilled workforce to meet the needs of these repair communities,” Girard said.
DeWater said the academy will allow his company to expand its repair capabilities to handle more high-level repairs.
“What this allows us to do is actually focus on what our core values are as a company, which is building the best technical staff that we can, which can then unlock these amazing repair centers where we’re able to fix pretty much anything that could possibly go wrong on a smartphone, laptop (and) tablet,” he said. “This is a dream come true for iFixOmaha.”
DeWater said iFixOmaha plans to hire only people who have completed the program at Metro. He said the starting salary for a new iFixOmaha technician is $18 an hour and the position comes with benefits.
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