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Veterans Help Tackle Technician Shortage at Sunbelt Rentals

With over half a million rental units spread across more than 900 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, Sunbelt Rentals is one of North America’s most established rental equipment companies. Keeping their fleet operational requires the hard work of over 15,000 employees. When it comes to skilled labor, Sunbelt Rentals runs into many of the same hiring challenges that many heavy equipment dealerships face – mainly recruiting and retaining talent. But the sheer number of industries that Sunbelt serves adds an extra level of complexity to their hiring needs.

Sunbelt services the agriculture, construction, and forestry industries with heavy equipment needs, but it also offers comprehensive solutions and rental offerings to a wide array of customer segments,  such as emergency and disaster response, entertainment and events, commercial food and beverage safety, government and municipalities, health care, manufacturing and industrial, oil and gas, remediation and restoration, and utilities.

Beyond furnishing a number of industries with their equipment rental needs, Sunbelt Rentals now operates ten specialty lines of business geared toward bringing practical solutions to these industries. The company has grown rapidly since its humble beginnings in Charlotte, North Carolina, circa 1983. Now headquartered right across the border in Fort Mill, South Carolina, Sunbelt empowers its employees and locations to undertake efforts that help deliver on the company’s promise of providing availability, reliability and ease when renting equipment.  

One issue that poses problems for many of Sunbelt’s locations is finding and keeping technicians. “Finding technicians who are versed in all of the equipment we offer to our customers is virtually impossible,” says Carson Hagar, Sunbelt’s director of recruitment services. “Those types of skill sets are acquired over years of training and hands-on experience. The challenge is creating an infrastructure for training and development of those technicians that brings them up to speed quickly in a fast-paced business that is rapidly growing.” Rather than trying to find these jack-of-all-trades technicians, Sunbelt instead trains them.

Recruiting Refined Talent from the Military

One of Sunbelt’s strongest allies in the fight against the skilled labor shortage is the U.S. military. Hagar commented, “Our recruiters and hiring managers are active on military bases throughout the U.S. and always evaluating how veterans’ skills would fit within our team. Technicians are only a portion of the skill sets we are actively recruiting out of the military.” Sunbelt’s Jacksonville, North Carolina, store near the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base was recently highlighted in Construction Equipment magazine. Several Marine veterans – Andrew Raynor, Ferlin McClanahan, Steven McNeill, Michael Cuntapay and Michael Plummer – now work at Sunbelt’s Jacksonville location.

Sunbelt Rentals was recently named as a top Military Friendly® Employer by VIQTORY, a military marketing firm, for their ongoing relationship with the veteran population. Military Friendly is VIQTORY’s ratings division that ranks companies on their efforts to recruit and retain veteran employees. 

The process to earn the Military Friendly designation takes about 6 months. Every March, VIQTORY launches a free Military Friendly® Employers survey that companies with veteran employees are encouraged to fill out. In June, VIQTORY compiles the survey responses, public data sources, and personal data from surveys of veterans themselves to determine which employers receive the designation and announces the recipients in September.

VIQTORY has been awarding their Military Friendly designations for 16 years, and every year the standards are raised. These continually rising standards are a result of improved methodology and criteria, not to mention stiff competition. The standard for earning the designation is based on an annual curve which is set by the leading organization’s score. When VIQTORY started in 2003, about 20 companies filled out the survey. Last year, more than 2,000 employers applied to gain the Military Friendly designation, making it the toughest year so far to earn one. 

Looking back on what it took to earn this year’s Military Friendly designation, Hagar reflected, “Creating a framework specific to veterans is vital for those companies looking to become more engaged with the veteran community. Everything from engagement and hiring to training, development and career progression needs to be thought out.”

Sunbelt Rentals’ relationship with the nation’s veterans is not solely for recruitment purposes. It actively supports veterans through various charitable channels. “Beyond recruiting, Sunbelt Rentals is an active supporter and partner of the Gary Sinise Foundation and its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) service, which provides 100% mortgage-free, specially adapted custom smart homes for America’s severely wounded heroes,” said Hagar. “Sunbelt supplies tools and equipment to the contractors on each home build, free of charge. Sunbelt also supports the program by donating a portion of rental proceeds from uniquely branded Gary Sinise Foundation equipment and implementing various fundraising efforts, including a social media campaign #EveryVeteranDeserves. Since forming the partnership in January 2016, Sunbelt had contributed more than $3 million to aid the foundation’s efforts.

AED member dealerships wishing to make a deeper impact on their local veteran communities are encouraged to check out the U.S. Department of Defense SkillBridge program Heroes MAKE America (HMA). AED has partnered with HMA to create stronger bonds between veterans seeking civilian careers and the dealerships that so desperately need quality skilled labor. Here’s how it works:

During the last six months of their duty, service members sign up for HMA, which allows them to collect military pay and benefits for training. At the end of their training, they receive credentials in areas like maintenance awareness, safety, quality practices, measurements, and production. Furthermore, those in the HMA program get extensive training in forklift operation, résumé writing, personal finance and interviewing techniques – all of which help to ease their transition into the civilian workforce.

Heroes MAKE America was established by The Manufacturing Institute. AED partnered with the Institute last November to help raise awareness and funds for the program. As a result of this partnership, AED dealer members have access to HMA job candidate pools.

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