We’ve talked about the retirement wave and the recruiting problem. Baby-boomer-aged technicians are retiring and no one wants to replace them. Government jobs don’t pay enough to be enticing, and benefits have been cut so much, they aren’t much of a recruitment tool. Local media talks about government waste and excessive overtime, sometimes unfairly, creating a sense that government is inefficient and perhaps not a place where you want to work.

It seems like the odds are against the industry. Despite all this, fleet managers are taking steps to combat the problem, and these steps are adding up to results.

Not Enough Money

I recently saw an editorial in a local newspaper, with the headline asking if government workers’ salaries were too low. It highlighted a county commission meeting where employees — including fleet employees — discussed how their pay was lower than those in neighboring cities and counties. One employee talked about how good benefits had always made up for low pay, but as the benefits were changed or taken away, turnover increased and morale and productivity plummeted.

Expressing concerns to elected officials, and providing proof, can lead to much-needed raises for staff members. Salary comparisons have worked for other public agencies and fleets, and managers should continue to propose these when appropriate. Some fleets are adding monetary incentives for technical certifications, or they’re offering stipends to train apprentices. They’re finding any way they can to reward their technicians, and at a time when some fleets are still feeling the effects of the recession, it’s good to know some are successfully able to advocate for their employees.

Not Enough Interest

Higher pay is just one part of the problem. The other part is that there aren’t enough technicians to go around. Fleet managers have reported the number of qualified applicants for open positions is significantly dropping. The public sector technician position is not glamorous; it is physically demanding, and the pay is not amazing. Kids aren’t known to say they want to grow up to be automotive technicians (except for my husband, who actually said this but did not end up being one).

To combat this, we’ve seen fleet internship and apprenticeship programs, which seem to be more common. Fleets have reached out to us to spread the word about recruitment. Local fleet organizations spread news about technician openings to their members. It’s been talked about at fleet conferences and meetings. I personally have tried to recruit a technician from a preventive maintenance shop by telling him all about government fleet positions — he had no idea these jobs existed.

I recently encountered what I thought to be a very effective message. When perusing the website of an Arizona-based newspaper, a full-screen web ad popped up, asking me if I was interested in a career as a maintenance technician. The ad from a county career center was eye-­catching, expressed urgency, and told me about available paid internships and scholarships and how to get more information. And it was targeting the right people — local newspaper readers from outside the industry.

A lot of entities are doing their part to address this problem: fleets, Human Resources departments, colleges and technical schools, OEMs, etc. Fleets are just one part of the solution, and the fleets that have decided to do something about it are benefitting.

How has your fleet made an impact on this problem?

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

View Bio