- James Cade
Shops and Schools Working Together - WrenchWay
I recently had a conversation with a leader of a large company as to how Asset and Maintenance Insights (AMI), LLC could assist in lowering their fleet operating costs. During our conversation it was shared that there are two hundred and forty-eight maintenance technician openings in his company. All I could think about during the rest of the conversation was a blog I wrote a few weeks back on the technician crisis (https://www.fleetami.com/post/technician-crisis) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projection of the need for an additional 142,000 technicians by 2022. If we are having this magnitude of shortages now, what will it be like in 2022 and beyond?
Shortly following our discussion, I received an invite from WrenchWay regarding a webinar titled “How Shops and Schools Can Work Together, To Get More Students in The Industry”. I eagerly accepted the invitation as this topic is a passion of mine and believe it is the solution to the problem. I found out once on the call that I was not alone in my interest as there were nearly a thousand participants, even though it was an evening call. The normal issues associated with the technician shortage were discussed but with greater insight.
Each time the technician shortage comes up, the perception that high schools are pushing students to a “four-year-college-degree” over a “technical degree” is discussed. New insights were shared on the call, directly from high school administrators, on how funding in some states is based on college enrollment scores for students coming directly from high schools. Overall, however, the bias of high school guidance counselors for four-year-degrees is seen as the biggest obstacle to overcome for attracting high school graduates to the trade skills, which includes technicians.
The ability to acquire tools for new entrants is also seen as a barrier to entry for potential technicians. Although it is a source of pride for many “seasoned” technicians, new entrants do not have the financial resources to purchase the required tools and are looking to potential new employers for assistance. I personally addressed this issue by developing a tool ownership program tied directly to a three-year training and development program (https://www.ruan.com/resources/blog/becoming-a-tech-at-ruan-9). The program addresses three issues with one solution: tool ownership, incentive for training and the all-important retention issue.
Recruiting new technicians to our industry is critical, but if you cannot retain them, you are wasting your time. According to George Arrants, VP of the ASE Education Foundation, “our industry is better at eating our young than any other industry”. Explaining that statement, George shared with the group that 42% of all new technicians leave the industry within the first two years of employment, with 18% moving on to other trades (not transportation) and 14% going into retail food sales (flipping burgers). Numerous examples/reasons were cited for the statistics but overselling the opportunities and unrealistic expectations of employers are the primary motivators. Fleet leaders, to be successful, must be aware of the needs of new recruits and address, or face escalating costs and vehicle downtime.
As with any industry wide issue there is no one “magic bullet” to address the technician crisis. As George Arrants stated, we need “local solutions to a national problem”. Getting involved with local high schools and educating guidance counselors on how the industry has changed over the last few years will have the most impact. We as leaders of this industry can solve this issue by getting involved and developing local solutions to the growing shortage of technicians.
If you or your company needs assistance on how to get started, go to www.fleetAMI.com to contact Asset and Maintenance Insights.