With the onset of Tier 4 engines and precision farming, the challenge has compounded itself.

Jeff and Tom Bloom, co-owners of Lake County International, a single-store Case IH dealership in Madison, S.D., believe this will be even more challenging for the smaller dealerships. In fact, the Blooms recognized this developing challenge more than a decade ago and have instituted a program with a regional vocational education program.

“We have a program that we started with a couple of employees that have been here going on 15 years,” says Jeff Bloom. “We keep in touch with the ag shop coordinator at the local high school and FFA advisor and ask them to identify ‘stars’ in their programs. We then visit with them and ask if they would be interested in becoming a diesel tech or some other area that matched our needs.”

Once the dealership identified promising students, it would pay for their schooling at the Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., with the promise of employment after meeting graduation requirements.

Some are happy to be service techs or parts people, but others “want more,” according to the Blooms. “About half of our service technicians have gone through that program and are still with us. It’s challenging as a single store to provide something that young people can grow into,” says Jeff.

“In my view, this is going to be the single biggest challenge we’re facing in the next 3-5 years. But we will continue training current and existing employees. Even as a single store we can’t afford to let up.”