A Look Inside the PowerSport Institute

PSI is solely dedicated to providing students with hands-on tech training for today’s most advanced motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft, snowmobiles and other powersport vehicles.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) says that there were approximately 15,000 motorcycle technicians in the U.S. in 2010. The number of technicians is expected to grow 7 percent by 2018, despite the downturn the industry has faced.

Not surprisingly, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the powersports industry prefers to hire technicians with formal training from a motorcycle/powersports technical school or a small engine technician program. One such training school is The PowerSport Institute (PSI) located in North Randall, Ohio. It is the largest motorcycle and powersport training campus in the U.S., set on nearly 15 acres. PSI is solely dedicated to providing students with hands-on tech training for today’s most advanced motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft, snowmobiles and other powersport vehicles.

“Most students complete a 72-week program,” says Bernie Thompson, PSI campus director.

He says that upon graduation, students typically find jobs in dealerships, repair centers, performance shops or other technically related facilities. Some students have even started their own service and repair businesses.

Although PSI is a branch campus of Ohio Technical College, an automotive tech training school, its only curriculum is powersports. There’s no beauty programs or computer technology offered (unless it’s related to powersports). The school draws students from all over the U.S. to train in such specialized programs including Powersport Technician, Powersport Specialist, American V-Twin (a 48-week program) and Custom Bike Building. And there’s even an Associate of Applied Science degree in Powersport Technology that students can earn. Featuring a variety of powersport units from a wide variety of manufacturers, students graduate with a well-rounded knowledge of equipment and resources from OEMs like Arctic Cat, Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki, Victory and Yamaha.

“Our dedicated instructors at PSI have the flexibility to give individual attention that enhances problem solving, troubleshooting and creative thinking,” says Thompson. “In addition to the technical training, students learn how to work efficiently in a repair facility, utilize shop manuals and handle customer service issues, so they leave our school as skilled, valuable employees.”

The PowerSport Institute also offers its students ongoing career placement through its employment services department, where they receive resume and interview support prior to graduation. The school also communicates with hiring managers to help students contact dealers and set up interviews.

Thompson says the industry has evolved a lot over the last two decades, since the days when many technicians learned the trade as an apprentice or in a high school vocational training program. “Fuel Injection and electrical systems have become much more complex,” says Thompson about today’s technician requirements. “Suspension systems have been improved with increased adjustability, and engine technology has increased mechanical efficiency. And our service industry has improved customer outcomes by focusing on enhanced customer service.”

On a recent visit to PSI, we saw firsthand what a top-notch training center it really is; there were even mock storefronts representing each OEM training program, as if students were working in a real Honda, Yamaha or V-Twin dealership.

The school is based in an old department store that has been converted into a training facility. The school’s size works to its advantage .
In fact, Thompson and his associates have been so thorough with their vision that they even put in a boardwalk/Main Street-style entrance and walkway. You can browse through the windows and see technicians performing various tests and tearing down brand new bikes. You can even visit the tool store, which is a Matco Tool dealer that has a storefront inside the school. The dealer is there throughout the week, and students can open their first account and receive some pretty great discounts on tools as well.

As part of an alliance with the school, training classes for franchised Yamaha dealer technicians are held at the PSI’s Yamaha Technical Academy. The school has dedicated more than 10,000 square feet of its facility for Yamaha technical training. In addition, Yamaha supports PSI’s own student training program – Yamaha Power Sport Academy (YPSA) – by supplying curriculum and donating the latest technology for student training.

“We recognize the excellent training capabilities available at PSI to help us conduct our dealer training programs, and we endorse the PowerSport Institute as a valuable addition to our nationwide training program effort,” says Ron Leming, Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. service division manager. “We believe that PSI will play an important role in supporting our dealer network.”

S&S Cycle also recently partnered with PSI to create the S&S Factory Training Center. This expanded dealer training program allows dealer techs to enhance their skills with hands-on training on S&S’s Variable Fuel Injection (VFI) system, which includes tuning VFI-equipped motorcycles using S&S Pro Tune II software, as well as the Sidewinder training, which covers the mechanical aspects of engines and kits.

“With a maximum of six techs in each S&S training course, participants receive one-on-one instruction that maximizes their experience in the course,” says Thompson.  “The result is increased efficiency when it comes to rebuilding S&S engines and utilizing the S&S Pro Tune software.”

Thompson says that at the end of the course, techs who receive S&S certification will have their shops promoted as certified dealers on the S&S Cycle website. In addition, those dealers who achieve Pro Tuning Center status will earn special discounts.
Altogether, there are about 325 students enrolled at PSI, where they have the opportunity to train on a variety of vehicles.

The fully accredited school trains students to become today’s drivability and maintenance specialists through its diploma programs in powersport technology.  

Thompson says that in the future the school plans to offer more opportunities to assist the independent dealer who may not have anywhere else to receive training.  And PSI is also considering two- to three-day workshops on fuel tuning with its new DynoJet dyno as well as offering electrical and suspension workshops.

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