ASE Education Foundation Updates High-Voltage, EV/Hybrid Safety Accreditation Standards

Every three years, ASE looks at updating its standards in response to the changes taking place in the industry.

The ASE Education Foundation works with more than 2,000 automotive technology training programs and over 100,000 students nationally to provide a skilled entry-level workforce through its standards and accreditation. Photo courtesy of ASE.

Since 1972, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has worked to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals. More than a quarter of a million individuals hold ASE certifications developed by the nonprofit organization.

The ASE Education Foundation works with more than 2,000 automotive technology training programs and more than 100,000 students nationally to provide a skilled entry-level workforce through its standards and accreditation. The foundation also offers career development through its partnerships.

The ASE Education Foundation recently revised its accreditation standards for trucks and collision repair training programs, specifically focusing on the tasks, tools and equipment related to high-voltage (HV) systems. These include those found on electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids.

To learn more about the new high-voltage and EV/hybrid standards, Autobody News talked to Dave Johnson, ASE's new president and CEO, and Donna Wagner, who transitioned from assistant vice president of the ASE Education Foundation to the role of vice president of industry and media relations for ASE.

Johnson, who took over from Tim Zilke, previously worked with Ford Motor Company in Detroit, and has more than 30 years of automotive industry experience. He retired in 2023 as the global director for service engineering operations. Johnson has been a member of ASE's Board of Governors for the past three years.

With more than 30 years of automotive experience, Wagner began working as the program manager for the Car Care Council while finishing her MBA. She held multiple roles, including president, over the 12 years she was there. Previously, she held marketing and sales roles with parts manufacturers and was a professor and department chair of the Automotive Aftermarket Management Program at Northwood University. She began working at ASE in January 2020.

Can you share background information about ASE?

Johnson: ASE was founded in 1972 out of a concern about repair quality and honesty in the automotive repair industry. The U.S. federal government was considering requiring licensure as a national initiative. However, auto companies and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) collaborated to regulate themselves. The aftermarket industry was invited to this unique entity. Out of that group, ASE was born.

The nonprofit organization's mission is to promote the recruiting, training and retention of professional automotive technicians, and advance the automotive service industry so that customers receive the kind of service care they deserve from quality, knowledgeable, certified technicians.

ASE's Board of Directors consists of what I call "a community of cats and dogs living together in harmony." Representatives include OEMs, dealers, aftermarket repair industry leaders, independent shop owners and tool and equipment suppliers. In the natural environment, they might be more interested in competing against each other rather than working with each other. Because of ASE's mission, they recognize the benefits and work together marvelously.

Initially, ASE was more focused on the mechanical side of the industry, but that quickly grew to include collision. With Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and new technologies, the industry recognizes that collision is just as important as mechanical.

An indicator of the increased focus on collision is the ongoing collaboration with the ASE Education Foundation and the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), as well as working even more closely with the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) as we bring together ASE training program accreditation, I-CAR curriculum and ASE certification testing. The goal is to help provide the best-certified collision technicians from qualified training programs that meet collision industry standards.

How are ASE's accreditation standards developed and used by the industry?

Johnson: One of ASE's charters is to bring together subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the industry, which include OEMs and collision repair experts, to determine the appropriate levels of knowledge and capability to repair a vehicle. You have the best of both worlds with the OEMs that have spent years designing vehicles and those with actual on-the-ground repair experience. They work together to develop those standards, which are shared with educational institutions and trainers. Combine this with all the great work of I-CAR and CREF in the collision repair education arena, and you have the foundation for supporting this critical intersection of mechanical and collision repair capabilities.

Based on these standards, ASE develops a list of skills and exam questions to help demonstrate competency for certification. It's no different than going to a lawyer who has a degree but hasn't passed the bar exam or a dental hygienist who hasn't been certified. Would you go to either? Probably not.

In the automotive service industry, some businesses may take the importance of whether somebody is really an ASE-certified professional lightly. While there are licensing boards in a few states that use the ASE certification process to satisfy their requirements, it is otherwise voluntary. Some businesses even advertise that they are "certified" without saying who certified them. This means they are not ASE-certified.

That's why we are focused on delivering an accreditation process for all training programs so customers get what they deserve: ASE-certified service professionals.

ASE certification doesn't solve all the world's problems. Mistakes can still occur or sometimes purposely shortcut repairs can happen, but with that ASE certification, you're showing that they know what they're supposed to do. Having those certifications is a huge benefit to the industry.

What is the importance of accreditation and certification?

Johnson: ASE has developed accreditation standards to enable schools to prove that they have the wherewithal to teach and train to the standards set by the industry and facilitated by ASE. When students come out of those programs, they can say they have been trained with something relevant to the work that they'll be doing.

Unfortunately, there are too many schools that teach to their own standard. Sometimes, it's what we call a hobby shop where they work on somebody's favorite hot rod. They're not learning the critical skills and receiving the knowledge that will enable them to enter the workforce once they've received their certificate or graduation diploma. It may not mean anything if they haven't been teaching to standards.

We are pushing hard for them to be accredited. That's what delivers quality technicians into the industry who can get certified and provide customers with good value and quality repairs.

ASE also offers entry- and professional-level certification tests for the automobile, collision repair/refinish and medium-/heavy-duty truck segments.

What new ASE collision standards are being created?

Wagner: Every three years, we look at updating our standards in response to the changes taking place in the industry. We rotate between the collision, automotive and medium/heavy truck programs.

We recently looked at what was being taught and what the industry was asking for from entry-level technicians. Then, we developed an accreditation focused on the tasks and skills that entry-level technicians are expected to perform when they come out of their high school and college programs.

With the shortage of technicians, it's important that students are focused on what is most important for the businesses hiring them and they have entry-level skills they can build upon. The better prepared they are to enter the workforce with some training, the easier it will be for them to move up their career path. It also allows businesses to hire someone productive from day one.

We're adding high-voltage standards for EVs to ensure safety for the person working on the vehicle and consumers. This new area of accreditation for collision is focused on entry-level skills.

What are some of the outcomes of ASE accreditation?

Johnson: From the studies we've conducted on the mechanical side with a big aftermarket partner, there is about a 40% higher productivity of certified ASE-certified techs versus those who are not certified and about 60% lower comebacks or repeat repairs, which is huge. That's up to two to three times the retention of those certified techs.

How does ASE work with I-CAR?

Wagner: I-CAR develops curriculum and we accredit the program. It's a great partnership in that their curriculum aligns with our accreditation and the tasks that the programs are to teach.

Johnson: To me, we're two ends of the same stick. I-CAR develops and delivers fantastic training for the industry. We work closely with them through the ASE Education Foundation as we develop ASE standards for the industry based on the knowledge technicians need to do the physical repair.

What is the importance of industry involvement in ASE to help create standards?

Johnson: There are real challenges facing the transportation industry, from the need to attract and retain service professionals to complex vehicle designs and advanced technologies that demand more knowledge and ability than ever before. Having lived with these challenges firsthand and working within one company to address them, I view ASE as the place where the industry can come together to multiply our efforts, influence and accomplishments and rise to meet these challenges.

I am honored to follow in the footsteps of Tim Zilke and take on the mantle of leadership of this vital industry organization. I look forward to working with industry stakeholders as well as the outstanding ASE staff to serve the industry's service professionals and motoring public. I know we have an exciting future ahead of us and I look forward to sharing the amazing mission of ASE.

Wagner: ASE is industry-driven. For service professionals, industry SMEs help create certification test questions and task lists. In regards to secondary and post-secondary training programs, the industry creates accreditation standards and task lists that align with their needs. Every accredited program has an advisory committee made up of local employers. This is the industry's opportunity and responsibility to show up and ensure that program meets their needs.

ASE is "cradle to grave" for service professionals. Let's get students into ASE-accredited programs, nurture them, treat them well, pay them well and give them a career path so that they have a positive experience and a long, successful career.

For more information about ASE accreditation, certification and training resources offered, visit

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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