A few weeks ago I joined dealers and manufacturers at the Equipment Dealers Assn.’s 2019 Workforce Development Summit held during the GIE+Expo in Louisville, Ky. It was a great time spent not just talking about the problem of finding technicians, but also about some real solutions. While most dealerships have some sort of relationship with their local high school and/or tech and community college (and if you don’t — you should), there are other places you can be looking for potential employees. Some of the ideas shared over the course of the day include:
- Veterans — There is a direct crossover of transferable skills.
- Dairy Industry — With dairies in a lot of states going out of business, there’s an untapped market of potential technicians who need jobs.
- Department of Corrections — While this is an option more often used by manufacturers, most prisons have work release programs. The inmates are bused to your facility — so they arrive on time — and with one program that was cited their pay gets split among child support, some of the cost of incarceration and then into an account for the inmate upon release, setting them up for a smoother transition into the world. One dealer shared a story about hiring a former convict and said the technician ended up being one of his best employees.
- Home Schooled Kids — Often kids who are home schooled have strong work ethics and have good problem solving skills.
- Charter Schools — Reach out to schools outside your immediate area. A lot of charter schools have specific trade and STEM focused curriculum and are another opportunity to attract young people to our industry.
During a panel focused on best practices from other industries, Greg Sizemore from Associated Builders & Contractors said something that I think carries over to all industries facing this problem: “We need to stop saying training and start saying educating.” What he was getting at was that a trade school program has just as much impact on a student’s life as a 4-year college, both are educating them for the future.
However, often trade programs use “training” vs. “educating” in their lexicon. He also added that they focus on talking about a career pathway with students to help show them what their future might look like and then continuously following through and staying invested in students.
During a break I had a chance to sit down with Richard Dugan, the ag technician recruiter for KanEquip, and Ryan Goertzen vice president of maintenance workforce development with AAR Corp. & the Aviation Technician Educational Council immediate past president to compare and contrast what’s going on the ag equipment industry and what the aviation maintenance industry is facing.
One unique challenge facing Goertzen’s industry is that everything they do “is behind the security fence. The doors are all closed and without heavy access and approved FAA access, you can't get there.” And that means, getting students in to experience what the job might be like is extremely challenging. In response, Dugan says, “When you said that, a little while ago, I'm going, ‘OK, I'm going to stop complaining.’ It's kind of like someone's got it worse than I do. Because we do encourage students to come to us.”
The immediate challenges might be slightly different, but there is something to be learned from other industries. You can find more of Dugan and Goertzen’s conversation in the Conversations in Ag report that will be featured in the January Showcase issue of Farm Equipment.
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