regional report

Key Workforce Events Highlight Value of Networking to Solve Problems

Workforce events held recently in Iowa and Ontario are further proof of the value of networking to AED members as they continue to blaze a path of cooperation between industry, education and government.

A very successful workforce event was held in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) Building, attended by AED members Road Machinery & Supplies, Star Equipment, Logan Contractors Supply and Iowa Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association, as well as leaders from the Iowa Department of Education, Southwestern Iowa Community College and Eastern Iowa Community College.

As expected, the key discussion centered on how AED members can work with schools to alleviate the technician shortage costing the industry $2.4 billion per year. It was strongly recommended that employers work through their local intermediaries rather than trying to build relationships themselves with counselors, advisors and teachers. Starting with intermediaries will save time and result in more targeted activities to accomplish goals. Joe Collins from IDOE offered to be the point person for this effort. 


One successful strategy that was noted is to offer an “expo” or “experience day” when students can visit a centralized location to experience different types of careers and associated technologies. Similar to a speed-dating program, students visit booths/rooms for a 15-minute experience before transitioning to another location. Job information is available but is not the focal point. The goal is to provide students with as many hands-on, interactive experiences as possible in a short amount of time, for example with an equipment simulator, a 3-D printer, or problem-solving equipment with VR/AR glasses.

Intermediaries are great resources for setting up opportunities for educators, counselors, and other school staff to take site tours, hear from employer panels, and participate in summer externship programs in which they work for a local employer for a short period of time. Like a student internship, the goal is for teachers or other staff to gain understanding and awareness of different occupations and industries that they can then use in their classrooms and when career planning with students.

North of the border, things were percolating as well at a workforce event sponsored by the local dealer group in Toronto. AED members in attendance included Joe Johnson, Nortrax Canada, Vermeer Canada, Strongco, Toromont, Wajax and Ritchie Bros. They were joined by representatives from Conestoga College, Centennial College and Bear Creek Secondary School.

The importance of The AED Foundation’s mission was discussed, as well as the critical nexus between the Foundation, AED members and schools, including colleges and secondary schools. The group walked through The AED Foundation Accreditation Program, noting that Conestoga College has completed their gap analysis and that Centennial College is looking to start the process this year. Conestoga stated that they were very impressed with the process; it took two days to go through it and they were surprised at how rigorous and professional it is. Conestoga instructor Reg Legere stated, “It was interesting to find the standard that AED has set. It’s an eye-opener, and we have a little work to do.”

The critical need to work with secondary schools to develop a stronger pipeline to feed the community colleges resulted in a plan to provide much-needed financial assistance to Bear Creek Secondary School, now that Ontario ministry funds have dried up. The Toronto local dealer group is stepping into the breach to help Bear Creek defray the cost of busing students to Centennial College and Conestoga College to participate in day labs and tours, visit dealers (including Joe Johnson, Ritchie Bros., HJV Equipment and Toromont) and attend the National Heavy Equipment Show in Mississauga to network and explore careers in the industry.

AED board member Craig Drury, vice president of operations for eastern Canada with Vermeer Canada, remarked, “This is what this association is all about. Working together for a common goal. Nice to see.”





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