The technician crunch is real. Fleet managers have said they have problems hiring qualified technicians. Our annual industry trends survey shows that 21% of fleets have less than 90% of their technician positions filled. Our biennial salary and retirement plans survey showed that 12% of fleet managers believe at least half of their fleet staff are eligible to retire in the next five years, so this won’t go away any time soon.
I’ve read articles about how the “gig economy” is hurting millennials, who are forced into contract jobs with no benefits or stability. Fleet technicians make as much as, if not more than, those with gig-type jobs, and they have stability and benefits. What prevents these workers from considering fleet maintenance as a career option? Is it the education and training, lack of flexibility, or the hope that these jobs will be temporary until they find their dream job? It could be all three of those, but I wonder if the industry can at least address the first two to expand the recruiting pool.
Can We Be More Flexible?
When recruiting, everyone seems to want young, fresh-out-of-school technicians or those with years of experience, but it may be time to expand recruitment to those seeking career changes.
I’ve heard of a program recruiting veterans, but are there programs for mid-career people looking for a change? What about mothers returning to the workforce? I imagine a 6-hour day in a less physically demanding job, such as in the parts room or as a service writer, could be ideal for a working mom. Another flexible solution is job-sharing, where two people split the responsibilities of one position.
Fleets create flexible training programs for interns and apprentices, to work around their school schedules. If the technician shortage is only going to get worse, we should think about creating flexible training and work programs for those who aren’t normally targeted. We keep hearing that millennials want flexibility in their jobs; perhaps fleet operations need to provide this flexibility.
Making Positive Changes
I’d argue that the technician crunch has been good for the industry, forcing fleet managers to provide more for their technicians. Many government agencies have created financial incentive programs for those with technical certifications. Government jobs shouldn’t be about wringing all the work you can out of any individual. Encouraging employees to attend training and then paying them for it can improve morale while boosting productivity with highly trained staff members.
During a recent advisory board call, one fleet manager wanted to know if anyone had considered adding air conditioning to their shops, because some dealerships had it and it was a potential recruiting tool. This is likely unrealistic for most, but it’s encouraging that we’re having this conversation. Technicians are in demand, and we should definitely be talking about how to retain them.
The growth rate for technician jobs is expected to be 6%, but with the number of retirements reported, it’ll likely be even harder to recruit. The public fleet industry is actively working on recruiting more techs, but is it enough? Maybe it’s time to think outside the box.