It’s no secret among equipment dealers in North America that there is a shortage of well-trained, highly-skilled service technicians. Any dealer reading this has almost certainly run into this problem when recruiting new talent to their team or replacing someone who has retired or moved on.
The Equipment Dealers Foundation (EDF), the philanthropic arm of the Equipment Dealers Association, is committed to ensuring that its dealer members have the resources they need to find and hire the best technicians for their operations. There are some persistent, outdated perceptions about this industry, particularly when it comes to service technicians, and these misconceptions have resulted in fewer students pursuing careers as service technicians. In 2019, EDF set out to try to change this.
We interviewed several dealers and their technicians to better understand what led them to their profession, in order to utilize this information to attract more students to consider careers in the field. Additionally, we know that teachers and parents act as two of the biggest influences to younger students when they’re considering their choices for their careers and futures. To accomplish this, EDF developed a nationwide educational campaign, Technicians for Tomorrow (equipmentdealer.org/workforce-development/awareness/) directed at parents, teachers, and students in late elementary, middle and early high school that live or teach near our member dealers.
In autumn 2019, EDF invested more than $30,000 into the Technicians for Tomorrow education and awareness campaign to increase recruitment of entry-level service technicians. After a successful test in Illinois in September of that year, the campaign and videos expanded nationwide in a campaign that ran from January through July, 2020.
The campaign consisted of a video series featuring interviews with service departments and dealership management, breaking down perceptions of what the job is and what it entails. Technicians who were interviewed described the kinds of training they underwent, as well as the benefits they enjoyed from their careers.
EDF wanted viewers to relate to the people in the video, envision themselves in their roles and feel that the profession could provide them with a well-paying and rewarding opportunity. Viewers would come to understand that today’s service technicians need to be computer literate as well as mechanically proficient. Lastly, we wanted to emphasize that a career as a service technician is incredibly rewarding: not only is the job itself challenging and engaging, but it is also highly valued by the farmers who rely upon their services. In this way, service technicians are respected and appreciated in their communities more than ever before.
EDF’s investment in the campaign paid off, as illustrated by the following performance metrics. In just six months:
• More than 165,000 students, 40,000 teachers, and 40,000 parents nationwide have engaged with our videos.
• Nearly 750,000 people that reside near an EDA Member Dealership have seen one or more of the campaign videos.
• More than 250,000 have watched a video through to completion (1-5min).
• Over 400 people have downloaded our resource kits and signed up to receive our newsletter for more information.
In all, nearly 2 million people nationwide have seen one of EDF’s ads and/or videos; this includes 465,000 parents, 600,000 students, and 285,000 teachers. As encouraging as these results are, they’re just the beginning.
EDF would like to continue our campaign for the next five years by following students as they complete high school education and enter the workforce. We want to be able to target specific areas of the country differently and focus on regions that are most in need of help.
Our goal is to expand the campaign and boost dealership recruitment efforts by connecting students directly to nearby equipment dealers and help them to find the resources and training they need to succeed in the field. To this end, we envision an evolving campaign with messaging designed to highlight specific training programs, enhanced by the stories and experiences of service technicians from across the U.S. and Canada.
EDF envisions a future where the skills needed to excel as a service technician are taught as part of STEM curriculum in classrooms beginning in elementary school. We hope to see trade schools support the heavy equipment industry by positioning the equipment technician as a modern choice for mechanically inclined students who are looking for well-paying, rewarding careers.
This campaign will require time and a concerted effort in order to change perceptions and encourage young people to find opportunities where they may not have seen them before. EDF continues to engage with industry stakeholders, teacher education programs and ag education programs to promote our message and create strategic partnerships. We believe strongly in the value and benefits that this program will provide to equipment dealers, manufacturers, and other affiliates within the industry. A dealership is only as strong as its service department, and strong dealerships sell equipment.
The challenges faced in America’s rural communities are three-fold: farmers relying on advanced technologies need help keeping their equipment operating at peak efficiency; dealers need skilled and reliable technicians to keep up with the demands of their customers; and young people entering the workforce are looking for career opportunities that are financially and personally rewarding. Working together, we can meet the needs of everyone while ensuring that a successful and prosperous future is enjoyed by all.