As our editorial team recently gathered intel from the Farm Equipment Dealer 100 (100 biggest dealerships in U.S. and Canada), many CEOs and managers identified technicians as their greatest employment area of need for 2024. Some listed a lack of skilled labor as a top 5 concern and said the only thing harder than finding quality talent is keeping it.

“Keeping good team members and making sure the new ones are aligned with our values,” one dealer said when asked about their top concerns.  

“Employee retention (is a top 5 concern) and shifting workforce needs and expectations, we’re continuing to develop and adapt management strategies that recognize the diverse and multi-generational nature of the workforce,” another dealer said.   

The “multi-generational nature of the workforce” comment reminds me of something the owner of an independent precision dealer told me last summer about finding the right hire.

“Being able to pay reasonable wage is a big challenge,” he said. “An individual with experience is going to require a higher salary. On the other hand, someone with minimal experience will require us to invest the time to train them. Even then, a lot of the younger people coming out of college are expecting a big salary. Either that, or they don’t want to work.”

The construction industry is reportedly dealing with similar challenges. Before COVID, Bloomberg reported that 70% of employers were having trouble filling roles requiring skilled labor. And now manufacturing giant Caterpillar wants its dealers to hire 40,000 new technicians in 2 years to stem a global shortage according to a report from Axios Dallas, with Griffin Reome, the company’s manager of workforce development, calling it “an all-hands-on-deck issue.”

Reome tells Axios Dallas that Caterpillar is doing several things to reach that 40,000-mark, including the launch of a development program that pays people to train and targets a wide range of recruits from high school graduates to veterans to mothers who’ve been out of the workforce for several years.

The company is also leaning into more recruiting events, often alongside competitors like John Deere, and is trying to hire more women, who account for only 3% of the technician workforce in the U.S. according to the report.

“You don’t have to be a 200-pound male, and you won’t need a shoulder replacement when you’re 40,” says Reome, pointing out how technology shifts have made the job more accessible and less labor-intensive. “Women can easily do the job as efficiently as their male counterparts. Some would even say they can do it better because of the attention to detail and the ability to multitask.” 

We’ve heard of some ag dealerships implementing similar strategies to solve the technician problem. Swiderski Equipment, 5-store New Holland dealer in central Wisconsin, is finding success with a 3-year mentorship program that targets talent fresh out of high school or college with limited experience and works them into the mix with its lead technicians.

“If they can make it through that first year, they’re going to walk through the door in year 2 with confidence because they know what to expect,” says Abby Weltzien, precision solutions service and parts manager for Swiderski Equipment. “They’re doing installations on their own. They’re going on the road and they’re handling phone support. They’re doing everything. Maybe they made a mistake on an installation in year 1, but they’ve learned to pivot and not make that same mistake twice.” 

The mentorship program only works if team leaders are willing to invest their time and effort in guiding young technicians, Weltzien says, like a coaching staff practicing patience with freshmen going through growing pains.

“Where do you find precision techs?” Weltzien says. “If our ideal candidate walked through the door today, we’d hire them in a heartbeat. But that just doesn’t happen. We’ve found success with home-grown talent.”

Is your dealership struggling to recruit technicians, and if so, what kind of strategies are being put in place to find qualified talent and keep them on staff? Let me know at