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The AED Foundation Launches New High School Initiative

The resounding voice of industry reaffirms the need to develop uniform student certification testing at the high school level. The AED Foundation (AEDF) is rolling out high school technician tests to utilize the industry’s measurement tool to gauge technician knowledge accurately. These tests will afford colleges and dealers easy access to detailed reports on students’ strengths and weaknesses, not to mention ultimate benchmarking data.

The tests measure diesel learners’ knowledge at pre- and post-test levels. AED’s technician certification tests are, on both secondary and post-secondary levels, closely entwined with AEDF’s Vision 2024, an initiative that brings all industry partners to the table to address the technician shortage. By 2024, AEDF will accredit 100 college programs, recognize 50 high school programs, add 10,000 diesel technicians to the workforce, educate 500 AED Foundation certified managers and certify 5,000 AED technicians. 

Current demographic trends, coupled with conventional recruitment strategies, are setting the stage for a crisis in the construction industry. Our industry must unite as a cooperative entity on each level of youth recruitment; sharing successes and failures facilitates relationships. Two factors threaten to deplete institutional knowledge, technological advancements and candidate quality: an exceptionally large cohort of management personnel eligible for retirement and a disproportionate number of new entrants. AEDF is stepping up to ensure that an influx of qualified technicians is funneled into the pipeline.

The AED Foundation was recently granted a $300,000 contribution from the Caterpillar Foundation, to be made available to AEDF-recognized high schools for scholarships. Upon graduation, scholarship recipients will attend an AED-accredited college and receive an industry-recognized education.

AEDF has accredited 59 college programs and recognized six high schools. This ratio prompted the Foundation to better address member needs at the high school level. The Vision 2024 initiative was launched to combat the technician shortage by increasing the number of qualified techs in the field while providing work-based learning opportunities for students via AED member dealers.

The Foundation is working diligently toward expanding outreach to high schools. AEDF will allocate awards to the greatest possible number of eligible and talented beneficiaries. The goal is to recognize an additional five high schools before the first scholarship offering in the fall of 2020. AEDF-accredited colleges are stepping up to identify regional prospects based on secondary schools’ program curriculum competencies, mandated by a subset of AEDF’s six technical standards.

The recognition program benefits the secondary school, the post-secondary school and AED member dealers by increasing the pipeline of qualified technicians entering the field in the preliminary stage of the recruitment game. Local equipment dealers, the sponsoring college and the secondary program form a partnership to build and execute a plan to achieve secondary curriculum standards. The collaboration among these three entities emphasizes the immediate need for succession planning on a widespread industry level.

AED recognition provides high school students with a top-notch education and general industry preference upon graduation. It facilitates sustainable partnerships with AED members who rely on secondary schools for their pipeline of candidates. Recognition affords secondary and post-secondary schools a substantial marketing tool for program recruitment. The Foundation is illuminating the flexible and boundless career opportunity paths to students, parents, high school instructors and guidance counselors. The recognition process solidifies formal relationships between the high school and the accredited college, which provides overarching educational support.

Standardizing industry best practices at the secondary level prepares future technicians for flexible career pathways industrywide. Cross-sector partnerships among local dealers/OEMs, sponsoring colleges and high schools facilitate a cohesive and common goal: build an influx of top-notch technicians entering the construction industry. AED-recognized high school programs are derived from a subset of AEDF’s technical standards and give students premier industry access based on their performance.

Linley Thompson is The AED Foundation’s technical program manager and can be reached at lthompson@aednet.org.

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