If you manage the maintenance of a large fleet, then you’ve likely seen the myriad of statistics out there pointing to an impending personnel shortage. If you are responsible for recruiting, training, and retaining quality technicians, you’ve likely felt it first-hand. There is a “perfect storm” brewing in the transportation industry. Experienced “baby boomer” technicians are retiring at staggering rates, creating a vacuum of demand behind them while the current pipeline of qualified candidates entering the workforce falls short of filling the void.

To properly address this issue, we have to look at the underlying causes and tackle each head on. There are three key factors leading to the breakdown in the qualified candidate pipeline.

  • Perception and sentiment among youth entering the work force
  • Inadequate educational programs
  • Improper utilization of new-hire technicians by employers
  1. Perception and sentiment among youth entering the work force – There is a wide misconception among today’s youth as to what a lucrative career path is supposed to look like. Ask any high-school student what fields provide the best opportunity for financial success and you’ll hear: medicine, law, and technology. Society has created a perception that a conventional “four year – State U” college education is the foundation of a successful career, and it is generally accepted as a universal truth. While these types of programs are valuable, and do prepare students to enter certain segments of the work force, they are not the best fit for a large number of rewarding career paths. If you’ve seen a GE ad on television in the last six months, you’ll notice that they are targeting millennial job seekers, not consumers. Many industrial and vocational employers are missing out on quality candidates simply because the opportunities they offer aren’t perceived as rewarding career paths. The truth is, transportation and logistics are vital to the global economy, and offer some of the most rewarding and stable career opportunities available. The industry needs to do a better job of communicating this to young people who are in the process of selecting a career path.
  2. Inadequate educational programs – When’s the last time you hired a new employee from a diesel technology program, only to find out that they weren’t quite ready to hit the ground running? To be fair, employers cannot expect recent grads to be productive team members on day one. There is a certain level of OTJ training that needs to take place before a new employee can be assigned to complete an important task on their own. However, many tech school graduates are not receiving the very basic mechanical skills and experience necessary to get the ball rolling. To make things worse, most technical training programs don’t have the funding to provide students with current industry equipment to use in the class room, so the experience that they do get is not immediately applicable when they go to work. Equipment OEMs are reluctant to provide technical schools with their cutting-edge technology to use for training, which means new techs will have to be trained post grad by their employer. Carriers, tech schools, and OEMs will all need to step up to the plate in order to effectively educate and prepare the next generation of diesel technicians.
  3. Improper utilization of new-hire technicians by employers – Because new-hire technicians often lack the fundamental mechanical skills needed to leverage their educational knowledge, they tend to get stuck performing low level tasks like PMs and inspections. While this type of work can serve as a means to provide new technicians with basic “wrench turning” skills, it can also bore them quickly and lead to burnout or turnover. Chances are, new-technicians (especially those that have completed tech programs) chose this path under the impression that they would be performing technically advanced diagnostic and repair work. If they are held to low level responsibilities for too long, and don’t get the opportunity perform the advanced work that they were promised, they are likely to quit or go somewhere else. Shop managers would benefit immensely by pairing more entry level technicians with their seasoned vets in order to retain the years of experience that will leave when they retire. It is critical for managers to actively engage their new technicians, and provide them with the challenging and rewarding work that they signed up for.

Unfortunately, there is no magical “silver bullet” to solve this problem. Employers will need to get creative, and take action to find a solution that works for them.

Could delegating your fleet’s PM and inspection process to Sharp HES allow your new technicians to more effectively shadow, train, and repair equipment? If so, CONTACT US today to discuss an on-site service program built around your fleet’s existing specifications.