With a significant portion of the heavy equipment industry’s workforce nearing retirement and a concerning lack of young workers or new hires available to take their place, the workforce crisis looms large in the minds of many dealers. It costs the industry a shocking $2.4 billion per year in lost revenue and, with no end in sight, more and more dealerships are having to find creative ways to attract new employees – including reaching out to a demographic that’s been historically underrepresented in the heavy equipment industry: women.
Boasting strong mechanical aptitude and interpersonal skills, along with a drive to work hard, learn as much as they can, and prove themselves to their employers and co-workers, women make ideal employees – and those in the heavy equipment industry aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed. Employers in the related fields of construction, mining and agriculture are also courting female workers like never before.
However, despite their desirability to employers, few women actually pursue careers in the heavy equipment, construction, mining and agricultural industries and, sadly, many young women don’t even consider these fields an option when entering the workforce. That needs to change – and it’s up to dealers not only to reshape perceptions of who belongs in the industry, but also to convey to women that careers in heavy equipment offer great pay, benefits and opportunities for growth. To that end, it’s important for dealers to know where, when and how to conduct this essential outreach.
Schools are exceptionally fertile ground for recruitment. Outreach efforts geared toward students should begin long before they’re ready to choose a career – ideally while they’re in middle or high school. Attending a child’s “Bring Your Parent to School” career presentation is a great way for dealers to get their feet wet. Donating equipment to a school’s shop program, organizing or participating in career day events, and inviting teachers and students to tour a dealership are all great ways for dealers to not only expose students of both genders to the possibility of a career in the heavy equipment industry, but to point out to young women that jobs in the industry aren’t just for men.
Dealers can also work to develop relationships with the counselors at their local middle and high schools. Many schools and school counselors push four-year higher education programs as the only legitimate path to success, despite the fact that trade workers often earn more than those with four-year degrees. Failing to inform students of the validity of careers in skilled trades does them a disservice. School counselors who have had positive interactions with local dealers and dealerships may be more likely to recommend trade careers to male and female students who work hard, enjoy working with their hands and are willing to work, but don’t necessarily excel in traditional academic settings.
High school students who display maturity and responsibility may even be ready to participate in a structured internship program, where they attend school part time while also working part time at a dealership in order to receive hands-on training. Structured internship programs are also ideal for college students – and community and technical colleges are a great place to find and develop potential employees. Volunteering time and donating equipment are just a couple of the ways that dealers can develop relationships with colleges and gain access to students.
While student outreach and engagement is vital to the long-term health of the workforce, dealers who need technicians now may be more focused on finding ways to get potential hires in the door and throw them into training. Industry-specific job boards can help dealers connect with job seekers, though female applicants are often few and far between. Still, the internet – particularly social media – can be a fantastic resource for scouting potential female employees. The plethora of female-led direct-selling businesses demonstrates the need for well-paying jobs for women, and careers in the heavy equipment industry can deliver in a way that many other opportunities can’t.