Attracting technician talent takes creativity

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Updated Mar 2, 2016

IMG_1587Depending on which source you use, the trucking industry needs between fifty-something thousand and one hundred-something thousand more trained technicians by 2020 to meet anticipated demands.

Exact numbers aren’t all that important.

It’s like trying to figure out the minimum requirement of oxygen you need to get through a day. It doesn’t really matter until you don’t have enough.

And there aren’t enough.

Finding the right fit for your service department is a recipe of hiring, training and retaining good people.

A tried and true method for filling vacancies for years has been to steal them from a competitor with fatter paychecks – a solution that becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy. These for-hire mercenaries are tougher to integrate into the ways of your shop, and they are perpetually on the lookout for the next big spender.

If the average age of your technician force is hovering in the 50s, and you rarely celebrate anyone’s fifth anniversary, there are problems for you on the horizon that can’t be solved with free spending.

What are you doing to invest in the education of the technicians you need?

A $5,000 sign on bonus is great, but there’s a lot more at your disposal than that. Invest that $5,000 in a recent graduate’s tooling and into training and career development programs. You’ll hang on to that person a lot longer than the period that triggers the sign-on bonus payout.

Do you have a table at your local schools’ career days? Are you an easy phone call for all the diesel instructors within a 100-mile radius?

Fostering these kinds relationships can do a lot to wreck the age curve of your technician force.

The responsibility for educating today’s workforce about the industry doesn’t lie solely in the classroom.

If you asked fifty 17- to 20-year-old people within 30 miles of your office what they think of when they hear the name of your fleet, I would bet 47 of them say, “truck driving.” It probably never dawns on most of them that you have entire staffs of people who do other things.

As technology continues to infiltrate service shops, I think a technician job is as attractive now as it has ever been. The problem is, Generation Z doesn’t know that.

“It all comes down the perception of diesel technicians in the minds of young people considering career options,” Landair President and CEO John Tweed wrote in a recent whitepaper. “The image of a diesel technician that ‘gets dirty’ often times does not appeal to the younger generation who might have entered the field in the past. Becoming a diesel technician does not have the social status that it did fifty to sixty years ago.”

The sexiness of the business card is an obstacle that will have to be overcome, and clearly explaining how sophisticated the industry has become since the release of High Ballin’ gets that conversation started.

Say what you want about this participation ribbon generation, but they are technologically savvy.

They may not be the most mechanically inclined population you’ve ever come across, but they can find, download and decipher a schematic or instructional how-to by the gigabyte. It’s all they’ve ever known.

Today’s high school seniors have never lived in a world where the answers to the universe’s greatest questions couldn’t be found on Google.

That’s a skillset often confused with laziness.

Finding and managing this new generation workforce can be a challenge, but if you want to set up your shop for long-term success, you have to find prospective techs on hunting grounds vastly unlike the techs currently approaching retirement age.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]