National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Tomorrow’s Technicians Are in Middle School Today!

Trying to recruit Millennials to a career as a diesel tech is fine, but if you’re not also going after Gen Z, you may find yourself losing future candidates to your competitors.

The two major issues you continually hear from fleet owners and managers concern finding qualified (and younger) drivers and technicians. With more than 77 million Baby Boomers expected to retire over the next 20 years and only 46 million new workers anticipated for replacement, it is clear that attracting qualified employees will be a challenge for every business. Many jobs in the future will likely be replaced by robotics and automation and that may limit some of the problems; however, some jobs will not be easily replaced by anything other than another human being.

The ability to attract Millennials has been discussed in numerous articles, but the problem is that going after Millennials (ages 23 to 38) should not be your only target. Your goal should be to start attracting future technicians at the age they begin middle school, around 13 years of age. This is a generation that has no recollection of life without laptops and mobile devices. Most of them have never seen a rotary phone and most can’t imagine operating a TV without a remote. They are comfortable with technology and technology can be used as an enticement to enter the field.

I have written in the past about TechForce Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on championing and aiding aspiring transportation technicians. Greg Settle, director of national alliances for the foundation, spoke at a recent NationaLease meeting to impress upon our members the importance of speaking not only to this age group, but also to their parents…especially parents of STEM students and those who are hands-on, do-it-yourself types.

We also limit ourselves if we consider the job of diesel tech predominantly a job for men. With so much of the job dependent on technology, not trying to recruit women means you are limiting your scope to only 50 percent of the potential workforce. While it is true that today, women make up only 2 percent of technicians, there is no place to go but up when it comes to numbers.

At NationaLease, we have been working with UTI (Universal Technical Institute) for years to help train future technicians and, of course, to attract them to our organization and our member fleets. We know that competition for these up-and-coming technicians is fierce so we also explore what drives these younger techs. Like Millennials, Gen Zs are looking for a company that will provide learning and development along with a positive work experience. Money alone is not the way to attract this group.

It will be necessary to “romance” the career opportunities for technicians while still being totally upfront about the day-to-day needs and the fact that wrenches are not yet a thing of the past. If the newer generations love technology, use that current and future technology to attract them. What could be more enticing than autonomous trucks? They may be in the future but the future, for these younger candidates, is not that far away.

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