The AED Foundation Releases New Technician Workforce Research

THE EQUIPMENT INDUSTRY TECHNICAL WORKFORCE: ADDRESSING THE TECHNICIAN SHORTAGE 2017

A COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY RESEARCH STUDY COMMISSIONED BY THE AED FOUNDATION

This research study focuses on Career and Technical Education (CTE), one of the main proxies by which skilled technicians receive training to prepare them for the skilled-labor workforce. In the examination of CTE, this report seeks to identify the reasons for the collapse of high school CTE and the resulting effect on the economy. The report also identifies best practices at the secondary (and to a lesser extent, the postsecondary) education level in delivering successful CTE programs. Next, the report provides a detailed overview of CTE funding levels from federal and state sources. Finally, the report identifies key access points at the secondary and postsecondary education levels via individual state “playbooks”; AED members can use these playbooks as guides in contributing to closing the skills gap.

Click below to download the report:

Research Report — Part I
State Playbooks — Part II

Top 20 Reasons That Technician Recruitment Efforts Fail

Writer: Steve Johnson

We all know that Top 10, or “whatever number” lists, are popular in media today. At the risk of presenting “a list too long,” I figured this would still be a good approach to what I think is an important topic. Why do technician recruitment efforts fail?

There are, of course, the “uncontrollable” issues. These include things such as: demographics, parental and cultural bias, industry stereotypes and the “four-year degree syndrome.” Let’s not focus on these, but on what can be controlled. Yes, the uncontrollables are there, but we also know that many of you have overcome such obstacles and have creatively established highly successful recruitment programs.

I have been at AED for a number of years and have observed several things that “more than once” have stood out to me as potential self-inflicted obstacles to success. Here are the Top 20:

Lack of:

  1. Recruiting knowledge and processes – Is there resident or an outsourced expert at your dealership?
  2. Effectively managed recruitment plan – Is someone in charge of plan development and execution?
  3. Continuity; short and long-term – Do you turn recruitment programs on and off? It’s counter-productive.
  4. Resources: financial, material, human – Is the needed investment, per the plan, being made?
  5. Understanding tech job requirements – Who does the initial screening; are they trained?
  6. Interest level of those assigned – Do those involved and accountable care?
  7. Tenacity; persistence – Do those involved and accountable have “the fire in the belly?”
  8. Market knowledge – Do you know your target audience, competition, and job market dynamics?
  9. Engagement with local schools – Are there established solid relationships and involvement?
  10. New recruitment ideas – Are there opportunities for team brainstorming?
  11. Team decision making authority – Do good prospects disappear while waiting for a decision?
  12. Promotion and public relations – Do you have a formal plan with items that reinforce each other?
  13. Repetition – Is your recruitment message communicated repeatedly in various media and events?
  14. Assigned ownership and accountability – Is this person identified and assigned; with goals?
  15. Collective local industry efforts – Do you work with other local stakeholders to meet mutual needs?
  16. Tracking – Do you track recruitment outcomes and take corrective action
  17. Incentives (recovery rates, production goals) – Do they disincentivize journeyman mentors of new techs?
  18. Consistency – Does your recruitment team communicate the same message, or create confusion?
  19. Expectations of success – Do previous recruitment obstacles affect future optimism?
  20. Student and decision-influencer engagement – Do you spend time to develop these relationships?

The above can be valuable to you as a checklist of potential obstacles to your recruitment efforts. Of course, the converse of these items are potential controllable keys to success. I suggest you take a few minutes with your team to review your recruitment plan. See what is working and what may not be working. Develop new ideas and approaches; talk with others who have been successful. Again, recruitment success is attainable, as demonstrated by AED members who are successful technician recruiters.

Contact The AED Foundation or your AED Regional Manager to discover opportunities for your dealership in these areas.

AED Technical Assessments – How Are They Benefiting Dealers?

A Q&A with Charles Paradis of Brandeis Machinery & Supply Co.

Many AED dealers are using the AED Technical Assessment as pre-hire tool. We asked Charles Paradis, VP Human Resources and Compliance for Brandeis Machinery & Supply Co. in Louisville,,KY several questions about his experience using AED Technical Assessments. This is what he had to say about the benefits of using this hiring and training tool.

How does the AED technical assessments help you maintain a quality service technician staff?
The AED technical assessment provides numerous benefits that help us maintain a quality technician staff. It is useful in hiring decisions as well as developing existing technicians. It aids our trainers in knowing where our employees need additional training, and can help our managers identify top performers and those with increased aptitude.

How have AED technical assessments helped you in the hiring process? Have they saved you money?
Every applicant takes the AED technical assessment as part of the screening process during application. It is one of two assessments we ask our applicants to take, the other being a personality assessment. That being said, it is just one piece of many that we consider when looking at an applicant. Also, we recognize that not everyone has an equal ability as a test taker so the assessment is never used as a pass/fail criteria.

We track everyone who has every taken the assessment for us and create a rough scale identifying where the applicant falls in relation to others who have taken the assessment for us. We classify someone as having a score in one of the four quartile’s of assessment takers, and also note whether someone in the top quartile also fell within the top 10% of assessment takers for us.

The AED technical assessment helps us understand where an applicant’s skills and abilities may lie. It is particularly useful since it breaks out an applicant’s score into different categories, identifying where the applicant may be strong or weak. The assessment can also help us identify whether the applicant would be more suited for our apprentice program rather than going directly into our shop or one of our field service trucks.

At a minimum, the technical assessment saves us money by identifying an applicant’s current skill level and where he or she needs additional training.

Do you currently use AED technical assessments for existing service technicians? If so, how has it benefited your company?
After seeing such success using the AED technical assessment for technician applicants, we are beginning to roll it out to our existing employees. We would like to ensure every one of our technicians has taken the assessment. Our trainers are excited about the ability to get useful data on our technicians that they can then use to improve directed training where needed. Our managers are also excited about having existing technicians take the technical assessment to help ensure we are putting the best and most qualified personnel in the field and that we are doing everything in our power to provide our employees with feedback and training necessary to help them in their careers.

Interested in how AED Technical Assessments can help your dealership? Visit http://aedfoundation.org/faqs/ for more information.

25 Years of Building a Model for Dealer Success

Article by: Dennis Vander Molen, 2016 Chairman, The AED Foundation

In April of 1991, The AED Foundation (AEDF) was founded with the mission to enhance the success of member companies by encouraging continuous learning, providing educational opportunities for today’s employees, and improving the availability and quality of equipment industry employees in the future.

This month marks exactly 25 years as an organization and we are taking this opportunity to look back at how The AED Foundation has impacted our industry with the following:

  • Creation of national technical standards for college diesel technician curriculums
  • AED Foundation Accreditation Program that currently has 40 accredited programs at 30 colleges in U.S. and Canada
  • Development and implementation of technician pre-hire assessment
  • Development of industry-specific professional education delivered via webinars, seminars and online courses
  • Certification of over 80 managers at AED dealer members as a part of our certified manager training

New Features of the AED Foundation in 2016

The AED Foundation has already taken strides to enhance member’s services. A new Learning Management System allowing access to webinars in a live & “on demand” feature was implemented. If you haven’t already, take a couple moments to view this new system at https://lms.aedu.org/.

The Foundation has consistently been the champion for workforce development. AEDF commissioned a team of public policy researchers from the College of William and Mary to analyze the industry’s technician shortage based on a 2015 survey of AED’s members in North America. The report was release at 2016 AED Summit provides a series of recommendations including improvements to federal workforce policy and steps to strengthen community-based relationships for recruiting and developing talent. Full report can be found at http://bit.ly/AEDReportSkills

In February I visited with representatives in Washington D.C. to discuss how we can lead changes to many of the workforce issues identified in the report. AED will continue to build these relationships but I encourage you to do the same on a local level. Send the Skills report to your governor, elected official and anyone on a state level involved in workforce funding. If you have questions about the report please reach out to Steve Johnson at (630) 468-5134.

The AED Foundation accredited its first Canadian diesel technology college program. This affiliation is an important part of the Foundation’s school partnership strategy for North America; as well as AED’s strategy for Canadian members. In addition, the networking of college diesel-equipment technology programs across North America is beneficial for all the schools as well as the equipment industry. The Foundation has identified additional programs in Canada that could lead to additional accreditations.

Looking Forward

As we look ahead to the next 25 years, The AED Foundation is dedicated to continuously develop school partnership programs based on industry needs in partnership with AED-affiliated dealers, manufacturers, technical colleges, and volunteers.

However, AED dealers need to be involved in the development of industry too. I challenge you to step back and think about how you are currently using AEDF services. If the answer is not at all…why is that? The Foundation has many industry-specific services (seminars, webinars and certifications) to assist you as a company to grow and develop your talent pool. Start working with an AEDF accredited technical school if you aren’t already. Developing technicians takes time and resources, start planning now for you dealership future.

Finally support the future of the AED Foundation by investing in the 2016 Annual Campaign. You are supporting the progress The AED Foundation is making for the construction equipment industry as whole! Your tax-deductible donation will allow us to continue serving you better. Visit bit.ly/investaedf (case sensitive) to contribute online or contact Rebecca Lintow at (630) 468-5113; rlintow@aednet.org.

The Skills Gap in Canada

CANADIAN PERPECTIVES FROM “THE EQUIPMENT INDUSTRY TECHNICIAN SHORTAGE: CAUSES,
IMPACTS AND POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS — 2016”

A College of William & Mary Research Study: Commissioned by The AED Foundation
Researchers: Danny Berg, Josh Klein and Will Nisbet

You can access the online version of the full U.S. research report by visiting bit.ly/AEDFSkillsGap
This “Canadian Perspective” of study results is available at bit.ly/AEDFCanadaReport                

A skills gap refers to a mismatch between the skills that businesses are looking for in employees and the skills present in the workforce, which makes it difficult for businesses to hire and expand. This report focuses on a shortage of technically skilled workers in the Canadian heavy equipment distribution industry. Businesses in this industry distribute, rent, and support heavy equipment that is used in construction, mining, power generation, and a variety of other sectors.

For context, we’ll first look at summary United States information from the study. Analysis of economic trends and of a survey of Associated Equipment Distributors’ (AED) members conducted in the summer of 2015 indicates that the anecdotal evidence of a technical skills gap is also borne out in the data. The skills gap has significant negative effects on companies’ bottom lines and on their ability to grow. Studies of the manufacturing industry indicate that businesses may be foregoing 11 percent of earnings and 9 percent of revenue due to the skills gap and the inability to hire qualified workers. Assuming that holds true for the equipment industry, the skills gap could be costing the full AED membership in the United States approximately $2.4 billion each year, at the average estimate of total dealer revenues in the United States. That translates to costs for individual member businesses of around $6.1 million each. If current AED member employment trends held true, eliminating the current skills gap could lead to an additional 4,000 jobs in the United States.

AED members in the United States report significant difficulty recruiting technicians, with the primary cause of this difficulty being a lack of technical skills among job applicants. More than 50 percent report that the inability to find qualified technicians hinders business growth and increases costs and inefficiencies. More than 60 percent say that the skills gap makes it difficult to meet customer demand. Respondents to the AED survey also report a job opening rate (the percent of jobs going unfilled) more than three times the national average. These factors indicate a significant mismatch in skills that is hampering businesses’ ability to hire, grow, and serve customers.

The skills gap in the technical workforce is not a problem unique to the United States. Canadian businesses are also starving for technical talent. A recent survey of Canadian executives found that 59 percent of respondents expressed concern about their ability to find qualified candidates with the skills needed to fill the job openings anticipated over the next two years.[1] Asked how the skilled technical worker shortage had affected their companies, 80 percent of Canadian member respondents said it had made it difficult to meet customer demand. Sixty percent said they had lost customers as a result of the technician shortage. And 40 percent said that it had increased costs and inefficiencies and made it unable to seize new business opportunities.

Asked to rate factors that made recruitment difficult, Canadian respondents cited the lack of hard technical skills among applicants as the most significant (4.4 on scale of five with five meaning very significant). A lack of soft skills among applicants (e.g., communication ability) was cited as the second most significant factor (three on scale of five).

A variety of causes are likely to blame for the technical skills gap. Chief among them are failures in the technical education system, retiring Baby Boomers, and poor visibility and perception of vocational careers among youth. United States programs in workforce development at the federal level are often focused on new skills for workers or targeting at-risk demographics, but not on helping youth who want to pursue a technical career. The lack of new technical workers is exacerbated by retirement of Baby Boomers. Among manufacturing executives, 93 percent say that Baby Boomer retirement is an issue contributing to the skills gap. Finally, data from both the equipment industry and the broader economy indicates a poor perception of technical careers. Respondents to the AED survey report that youth are being pushed away from vocational education tracks and towards 4-year degrees. Other studies find only 37 percent of parents would encourage their child to pursue a technical career.[2]

Canadian respondents, when asked to rate the quality of local technical education (how well graduates are prepared to work in technical positions, the relevance of the curriculum to local economic needs, outreach and engagement to the business community), rated private, post-high school technical training schools the highest (3.5 out of five, with five equaling excellent). Community colleges scored three out of five. High schools scored the lowest: 2.7 out of five. Only 20 percent of respondents said local educational institutions in their areas understand their company’s workforce needs and align their curricula and train students to meet those needs. This suggests considerable opportunity to encourage cooperation and communication between Canadian dealers and local institutions.

Asked which workforce development activities their companies engage in, Canadian AED members unanimously indicated they provide apprenticeships to technical program students. Additionally, 80 percent said they provided tuition assistance for current employees, and 60 percent provided internships to expose students to industry opportunities and provide financial support or in-kind donations (e.g., equipment, technology) to schools.

Asked what recruitment tools their companies use, the most frequently cited (100 percent of respondents) was word of mouth; 80 percent used general online jobs boards and local media advertising (e.g. newspapers); 60 percent used social media, recruiting from competitors, and professional recruiters; and only 20 percent used job fairs, on campus recruitment, or construction-specific media. This suggests opportunities to promote workforce development best practices among our members.

Much like their counterparts in the U.S., Canadian policymakers who have traditionally identified skills with academic attainment now recognize that traditional classroom strategies are insufficient for providing the entire range of hands-on skills needed by industry.[3] The Interprovincial Red Seal Program is responsible for promulgating federal standards for integrating vocational and apprenticeship training into existing academic curricula, and certifying programs developed by the individual provinces. The Canadian provincial governments exercise a significant degree of autonomy in designing, administering, and funding their own separate workforce development programs, but the federal government does provide targeted employer tax credits and educator grant funding to encourage collaboration between employers and provincial governments in developing apprenticeship programs. As in the U.S., the programs comprising the Canadian workforce development system are primarily oriented toward new skills for adult workers, but there is a growing emphasis among policymakers on strengthening apprenticeship and career and technical training programs that will more effectively transition high school graduates into high-demand technical careers.[4]

The survey responses of Canadian AED members demonstrate the importance of maintaining a strategic focus on younger workers transitioning out of school and into technical workforce. Canadian respondents report the highest percentage of workers aged 18-25 (18.5 percent) as well as the lowest job opening rate (0.017) and the shortest number of days a job remains open (36 days). Furthermore, the relative perception of local schools is more favorable on average among Canadian AED members than their counterparts in the U.S., particularly at the high school level (2.75 out of five).

Addressing the skills gap requires the input of all stakeholders to further coordinate and develop effective policy initiatives at the federal, state and local levels. Outside of government, cooperation between technical schools and businesses has proven effective to share curricula that best prepare students for vocational careers. Finally, addressing the skills gap requires engagement with students and parents at the high school level (or earlier) to increase their awareness of viable technical careers and to give interested students the resources they need to pursue these professions.

[1] Robert I. Lerman, “Expanding Apprenticeship Training in Canada: Perspectives from International Experience,” Canadian Council of Chief Executives, April 21, 2014, accessed December 4, 2015, http://www.ceocouncil.ca/publication/expanding-apprenticeship-training-canada-perspectives-international-experience-2.

[2] Deloitte “Overwhelming Support U.S. public opinions on the manufacturing industry,” 2014, Manufacturing Institute

3 Robert I. Lerman, “Expanding Apprenticeship Training in Canada: Perspectives from International Experience,” Canadian Council of Chief Executives, April 21, 2014, accessed December 4, 2015, http://www.ceocouncil.ca/publication/expanding-apprenticeship-training-canada-perspectives-international-experience-2

[4] Ibid

       

The AED Foundation’s Workforce Survey

New Report: Skilled Worker Shortage Costs Equipment Industry Billions Each Year

WASHINGTON – The U.S. heavy equipment distribution industry loses at least $2.4 billion each year as a result of dealers’ inability to find and retain technically skilled workers. The figure, based on an estimated nine percent of earnings foregone by American dealerships represented by Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), was included in a report released on Jan. 20 by The AED Foundation (AEDF).

The foundation, established in 1991 and directed by AED members, focuses on professional education and workforce development issues specific to the equipment distribution industry. AEDF commissioned a team of public policy researchers from the College of William and Mary to analyze the industry’s technician shortage based on a summer 2015 survey of AED’s members in North America.

“This report provides a window into the current state of our industry’s workforce,” AED President & CEO Brian McGuire said. “Distributors have known for far too long that finding the right people is tough and it’s getting tougher. A report like this tells policymakers this isn’t just an anecdotal or local problem, it’s a national crisis.”

According to the report, the equipment distribution industry is suffering badly from the mismatch between the capabilities needed to fill technical roles and the skill possessed by prospective employees. This “skills gap” has been the focus of much analysis across the broader economy and observed by AED members struggling to replace retiring workers and grow their companies while overcoming biases against technical careers and trade schools.

The report found that a lack of “hard skills” is the most significant challenge dealers face in their struggle to hire for technical positions. Equipment distributors also have a job opening rate three times the national average and vacancies remain open for extended periods. Time, resources and economic opportunities are squandered as positions go unfilled because the right candidates are not available. Without training and resources to develop practical competencies, American students are simply unprepared to maintain the machines that build and maintain the nation’s infrastructure. The anticipated increase in building activity associated with the new five-year highway authorization law recently passed by Congress is expected to exacerbate the problem.

“In the equipment distribution industry, the skills gap is real and it adversely affects businesses,” the report said. “These effects appear in the form of decreased expansion potential, lost revenue and lost wages, among other detriments.”

The report provides a series of recommendations including improvements to federal workforce policy and steps to strengthen community-based relationships for recruiting and developing talent.

“The problem is daunting, but there are solutions,” McGuire said. “Congress will consider a host of workforce and education-related policy issues this year, including Perkins Act reauthorization.  We hope this snapshot of how the nation’s skills gap affects just one industry will serve as a wakeup call on Capitol Hill and help lawmakers understand that the future health of the U.S. economy depends on tackling the skills gap head on.”

The full report is available at: bit.ly/AEDFSkillsGap (Link is case sensitive)

The one page report is available at: bit.ly/AEDSkillsGapStudy (Link is case sensitive)

###

AED is an international trade association representing companies involved in the distribution, rental, and support of equipment used in construction, mining, energy, forestry, power generation, agriculture, and industrial applications. More information is available at www.aednet.org.

The AED Foundation enhances the success of member companies by encouraging continuous learning, by providing educational opportunities for today’s employees, and by improving the availability and quality of equipment industry employees in the future. More information is available at aedfoundation.org.

What are the Influences Affecting Student Career Decisions?

When you think about effective ways to recruit student technicians and develop your company strategy, where do you start? We know all students are different, and so are their career decision- making processes. You may find yourself struggling to understand this “audience” and what might be meaningful to students exploring careers.

Continue reading “What are the Influences Affecting Student Career Decisions?”

Preparing Students for College Career & Technical Education

When our industry thinks in terms of technician education, much of our efforts revolve around identifying and recruiting students for diesel-equipment programs at technical colleges. All those efforts are fine, but a good question to ask is how they are prepared in the K-12 years to succeed in those programs. College dropouts aren’t of much industry benefit. Let’s take a quick look at that issue.

Continue reading “Preparing Students for College Career & Technical Education”