We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the truck driver shortage, but what about the technician shortage? The fact remains, trucking needs to do a lot more to fill its truck shops with qualified technicians.
According to the Department of Labor, between 2014 and 2024, the country will need an estimated 76,900 bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine technicians. This need is expected to cover both growth and replacement.
But before you tell yourself the technician you are looking for doesn’t exist, consider that annual graduates from private and public schools should number around 10,000. You should be able to make up that number. So where are all the technicians?
The Case of the Missing Technicians
With 10,000+ medium and heavy truck technicians graduating each year, one must ask, where are all these qualified workers going? Should trucking be doing more? The short answer is yes.
There are three main reasons why graduates aren’t ending up in fleet shops:
- The schools aren’t teaching what the industry needs the graduates to know. Fleets should be involved with what local schools are teaching their graduates.
- Many trucking companies don’t have mentor programs in place for new techs. It is unrealistic to expect a brand new technician to be super productive as soon as they start.
- Other industries are stealing potential new recruits. Without strong recruiting efforts, industries like wind power generation and oil and gas are scooping up qualified graduates.
So in the end, the real question is this: Is there really a technician shortage or is the industry simply not doing enough to catch those who are graduating today.
Recruiting a Generation
Today’s trucking industry faces a challenge in how it recruits young people. Although trucking has not failed to innovate, there is a difference in thinking between the generation of today and yesterday’s generations.
The old way of doing things taught us that the only thing that matters is what people are paid, but Millennials are disproving that. Younger generations want more than money, they want meaning.
They want to feel like they are part of the family, they want to feel needed. When they do well they want to be recognized for a job well done. They don’t want participation trophies; they want real recognition.
It’s a Good Career
Another area the trucking industry could improve upon is how well they promote being a technician as a desirable career. Most of today’s youth think that they have to go to college and get an expensive degree to have a satisfying career, but that isn’t always the case.
Many a director or vice president got their start on the shop floor. These are people that are passionate about trucking and have worked in the trenches. It’s a career that eschews the typical career ladder.
There are also a number of different positions and fields you can move into from starting out as a technician. The career offers flexibility that others cannot offer.
Work to Do
The problems facing trucking companies and their drive to find qualified technicians are entrenched. They run deep. We now live in an environment where there are no more shop classes in high school. Young people aren’t learning basic hands-on skills.
Perhaps the local business communities within those regions need to be more active if they had industry advisory committees putting resources into developing new programs and making outreach.
It’s not just about finding the right people; it’s about making sure the right programs are in place to ensure they are taught what the industry needs them to know. You can put more students in a classroom, but they need to be more than just a warm body, they need to be capable.