The skills gap facing the heavy equipment distribution industry has the potential to affect sectors such as construction, resource extraction, and a range of others. In fact, according to The AED Foundation, the industry is currently facing a $2.4 billion loss in revenue owing to this skills gap. A 2015 report commissioned by AED noted that this gap, between the skills that job seekers have and those that companies are looking for, can hinder the ability of a business to hire new talent, to grow, and to meet existing client demands.
There are several issues contributing to the skills gap: the retirement of baby boomers, social perceptions regarding employment in manufacturing, a misalignment between education systems and projected needs in the future labor market, and a stagnation of wages in the equipment industry. In addition to all of the above, employers also face retention issues with the skilled workforce they currently have. If you would like more information about the skills gap facing the heavy equipment industry, you can find it on The AED Foundation’s website.
Addressing this skills gap is important, not just to the overarching industry, but to the small and medium-sized businesses that are propelled by the technical expertise of their crews. Participation with and outreach to institutions regarding closing this gap can support the industry and can help your business to identify and recruit young and emerging talent. However, beyond recruitment, the training and retention policies of your business can go a long way in supporting a sustainable and highly competent workforce.
Here are five tips that proactive businesses in the heavy equipment distribution industry can use to reach, train, and retain the next generation of construction equipment technicians:
1. Partner with local secondary and postsecondary institutions
Many students are hungry for real-world experience and are looking for opportunities to bridge their education to the workforce. Schools are aware of this and are often willing to work with you on such things as co-op programs and work placements – even extending or modifying their curriculum to be more tailored to the needs of your business, if they see you as a potential employer of their student body. Create a pipeline between your business and the local education scene!
2. Reach out
Perhaps you don’t have enough people or organization to form an association; maybe the enthusiasm for a full partnership isn’t quite there. But you still have you! Sign up to speak about your job at a local elementary or high school. This will help raise awareness about the heavy equipment industry, the benefits of the technician profession, and the types of careers available to young people – careers they may not yet know about.
If a student, or a group of students, shows interest or aptitude, invite them on a tour of your business. This could translate into a trained technician down the line.
3. Support the growth of new hires
Once you have a new hire, discuss your support of their career track. Be a practical sounding board, and find opportunities for uptraining and special projects to expand the skill set and competencies of your workforce.
4. Have competitive retention policies
Competitive wages are certainly a cornerstone of any corporate retention policy. However, benefits packages, including health coverage, can be major incentives. More tailored or unique benefits such as allowances for tools, reimbursement for training, or micro-scholarships can support not only your workers, but also your business, via new and upgraded skills.
5. Tailor your employment policies
Veteran employees may consider leaving your company or the wider industry for a variety of reasons, never considering there could be a solution right in front of them. Consider creative options such as flexible schedules and opportunities for uptraining on an individual basis. These are the kinds of value-added policies that can convince skilled and talented employees to stay with your company for the long haul.