Portable or stationary stand-by power generators can be a good fit for outdoor power equipment dealers because they already have the engine knowledge. The electrical side can be quite foreign, though. To help dealers and their technicians bridge the gap from horsepower to watts, many OEMs offer training programs.

Based in Waukesha, Wis., Generac has been manufacturing backup generators since 1959. Its product line ranges in output from 800 watts to 9 megawatts. As senior training manager at Generac’s Eagle Training Center in Eagle, Wis., it’s Tom Wein’s job to train dealers and technicians on every product the company manufactures. Since joining the company 5 years ago, he has worked to make the training one of the most comprehensive of its type in the nation.

There are 16 different courses available for various products, including portable generator as well as the air-cooled sets typically used as stationary backup power for homeowners.

Generac University was started three years ago. It’s an intense 10-day course held in Eagle that’s designed for people looking for a career change. Evening exercises and homework is part of the course. The program is partly subsidized by Generac, including meals and lodging.

Wein says many dealers put their new hires through the course, offering to pay time and the course fees if the person passes.

To become a dealer, training is required for generator sets starting at the air-cooled level. “Training for portables, power washers and RV generators is recommended,” says Wein. “This will likely become a requirement in the future as part of the dealer’s warranty work. Portable generators are really not a high-tech piece of equipment — most of it’s an engine.”

Training Tools
Courses at Generac’s training center includes time in the classroom as well as the lab.
Courses at Generac’s training center include time in the classroom as well as the lab.

There is no expiration date for the qualification following training with the portable generators, although certification for the air-cooled units must be refreshed every 2 years. “These are the units that are permanently mounted in a house. The 2-day course for the air-cooled units require 50% classroom time and the rest is hands-on learning in Generac’s extensive lab. Students must fix at least 9 faults in 4.5 hours in order to pass the course.”

Support after the sale is perhaps one of the most important things the courses teach students. Troubleshooting in the field is common. “We teach technicians to quickly identify a poor installation,” says Wein. “The No. 1 problem we see out there is installers who use an improper gas pipe size. We teach them how to size the pipes and safely work with gas.”

Last year, more than 4,000 techs went through the course, a number that has been growing for the past 3 years. Wein is particularly proud of the fact that since the training program was started, the attrition rate for generator technicians has declined to 18% from 30%.