Recognizing the importance of filling the skilled trades gap, the RV Technical Institute has started working with technical schools and community colleges to create a pipeline of skilled technicians. Although the program is in the early stages, training could start as early as this summer, and students could be ready to graduate in 21 months. Check out the article below from Trucks, Parts, Service to see how others are addressing the challenge.
Service providers trying to fill open heavy-duty technician positions seems like it has a been a challenge since the beginning of time. Would anyone be surprised if an old cave painting was found with a stick figure’s hands in the air in exasperation, standing next to a truck with its hood open?
Sure, there’s a fair helping of hyperbole in that scenario. However, it likely strikes a chord with the many service providers who feel the seemingly perpetual, and often frustrating, search for trained technicians is never-ending.
Heavy-duty service shops use different means to attract tech candidates. Some opt for word of mouth and some use job search websites, among other methods.
Still others have decided to support tech schools and vocational programs with their time and resources. Creating a talent pipeline can be rewarding as long as service providers are willing to put in the time up front. Do that and it will only be a matter of time before recruiting techs becomes less arduous.
Overall, Hugo Rodriguez, service manager, Fresno Truck Center, understands the importance of vocational schools of all kinds. “I think we’re finally on the right track of understanding the need. Whether it’s truck mechanics, plumbers, electricians or nurses, I think we’ve finally woken up and realized that we need those people and not every kid is going to college.”
Regarding truck technician programs and the extreme tech shortage in particular, “The thought is if we can get to them earlier and tap into students with an interest in transportation we can get them involved much earlier. We do this by showing them first-hand how you can have a career, show the opportunities and provide a path through the technical college to then get [hired],” says Danielle Olson, human resources generalist, Blaine Brothers.
In addition to reaching students early in their academic career and educating them about the trucking industry, the industry must understand aligning with tech schools and programs is a long process, but it’s not impossible. Betts Company Chairman and CEO Mike Betts says, “we need to get rid of the [myth] that it can’t be done and the bureaucracy is too great. It is being done.”
As one of the trailblazers in the industry, Betts spearheaded a group of trucking professionals who spent years engaging with the community’s school districts about the importance of career technical education (CTE) and helped them develop tech programs of their own in the Central Valley of California. The most advanced of the schools he works with is Duncan Polytechnical Career Pathways High School in Fresno, Calif.
Efforts to establish a relationship with schools helps if more than one service provider is involved in explaining to schools either without a current tech program or fledgling one the benefits to the students of training to be a truck technician.
“Get a group of industry folks who are like-minded and have the same interest as you do and go together,” Betts says. “Maybe your group is the very first advisory board for that program that starts from scratch. You offer your services to the school to help them.”
Establishing a consortium of service providers when approaching a school is highly advantageous as it displays the commitment the area businesses are willing to make, but it’s not a necessity.
Bill Smiewec, director of warranty, training and business development manager and service manager, West Michigan International, works with nine different colleges, universities and tech schools, some for as many as eight years.
He believes there are three steps that provide service providers the most efficient way to develop a relationship with a tech program. Contact the school program director; get involved with the advisory board; and attend the school’s career and employer fairs.
“Most importantly, follow up with the schools and students to stay engaged and keep in constant communication. Internship programs are the best way to identify career-hungry employees who are interested in working for a company and are a good fit,” Smiewec says.
Blaine Brothers says when the company reaches out to new schools, it’s about research, connecting with the recruiting team, getting Blaine’s name out there and remaining in communication with the schools. The company works with several Technical Colleges, including Hennepin Technical College, Anoka Technical College and Dakota County Technical College.
“We chose these schools because they are regionally close to our facilities and near our shops. Since we recently had an acquisition in Baldwin, Wis., we’ve been working on building relationships with schools there and just started working with a new school in that area,” says Olson.
When Blaine Brothers visits schools, the company informs school officials it wants to invest in students, partnering and getting more involved. It starts with partaking in programs schools have, such as job fairs.
“The relationship builds from there. We don’t wait for them to ask for our help, we volunteer and continue to build relationships and participate in their programs and classes. We offer up ideas and being there to help the students get ready for a career,” she says.
Leanne Fitzpatrick, strategic programs manager, Volvo Trucks Academy, says a good way to identify possible educational partners is by selecting programs that have been accredited thru the ASE Education Foundation, which provides a rigorous accrediting process, diving deep into the school’s lesson content and verifying they have the necessary tools to teach today’s skills and technologies.
Volvo works with Western Technical College, El Paso, Texas, University of Northwest Ohio, Lima, Ohio; and J-Tech Institute, Jacksonville, Fla.
According to Mike Mallett, manager, service training programs, Daimler Trucks North America, Universal Technical Institute (UTI) offers the Finish First program, a DTNA-specific 12-week elective at its Avondale, Ariz., Lisle, Ill, campuses. This year, the Orlando, Fla., campus will come on board.
Get Ahead is a program where DTNA dealers partners can sponsor a local school for access to web-based technician training, service literature access and DiagnosticLink software — all free of charge. The program began in 2015 and there are 259 locations currently enrolled across U.S. and Canada, Mallet says.
“For both UTI Finish First and Get Ahead, we encourage employing students prior to graduation to give them a real world experience of learning and then doing. Onboarding and mentoring is crucial to bring them up to speed and support their entry into the field,” Mallet says.
Check out the rest of the article from Trucks, Parts, Service here.