Technicians Wanted Part IV: Dealers compete to recruit, develop diesel techs

Jason Cannon

September 1, 2014

Climbing truck sales over the last two years have increased competition for techs among dealers and left them struggling to find the best ways to woo new recruits. Most use a several-pronged approach including local tech schools, classified ads and specialty recruiting sites.

RELATED: Technicians Wanted Part III: The changing face of tech candidates

Montgomery, Ala.-based Four Star Freightliner advertises its vacancies online and recruits from Finish First, a 12-week Daimler Truck elective training platform at Universal Technical Institute, says Sherrie Moore, human resources manager. “We find our best method is word of mouth from other techs,” she says.

Al Clark, diesel tech instructor at Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore., says the best way to assure dealers have access to highly-qualified applicants is personal involvement. “You want to make sure the industry people are getting involved in their local college,” he says.

That’s the path New Jersey-based Campbell Supply has taken. “We are a major sponsor and also sit on the board of a local diesel technical school,” Campbell Supply President Scott Campbell says. “We attend numerous job fairs that the school conducts. We participate in veterans’ job fairs across the state. We also are a member of the Universal Technical Institute and participate in their technician recruitment program.”

Clark suggested other dealers and OEMs follow that path. “Give us a hand,” he says. “It’s your guys, the technicians, that we’re grooming.”

Rush Enterprises has shouldered some of the responsibility for tech training internally by developing a yearlong mentoring program for new technicians. The program “develops not only the younger technicians that are coming into the business, but it also develops the technicians that are more mature and wanting to refine their leadership skills,” says Mike Besson, Rush’s vice president of service operations.

“The interesting part, on the flip-side, is watching the development of the mentor, not just the mentee,” he says. “The mentor gets a grade, too. What kind of leader was he?”

Rush Enterprises also has a recruiting department and has a relationship with CareerBuilder to list vacancies. But Besson says it’s the job of all company employees to seek out qualified applicants.

“Everybody in a location is a recruiter. I don’t care what your job is,” he says. “We do a very good job of working at selling ourselves as being the place to go to buy parts and service. It’s just as important that you badge yourself and sell yourself as the place to work.”

Expansion has driven Campbell’s need for applicants, and even being deeply involved with a local program hasn’t made the search necessarily easier. “We are constantly in the hunt for qualified technicians,” he says. “In September 2013 we moved into a new facility and almost doubled our service capacity. This intensified our need for technicians,” he says. “(It is) always a challenge finding techs. We are located in New Jersey where there are many dealers and independent shops competing for a small technician pool.”

SIDEBAR: Technician pay varies by location, segment

Omaha, Neb.-based Truck Center Companies has implemented a recruitment approach designed to reach students before they leave high school, meeting them on the playground of the 21st century – the Internet. The company has created a series of 10 “webisodes” to introduce high school students to the technical career path.

TCI“We looked at the state of the industry and our own business and decided to do something proactive about it,” says Trey Mytty, Truck Center Companies CEO. “Being a diesel technician is a rewarding career. Without them, the trucks that deliver goods and raw materials across the U.S. can’t stay on the road. They really keep America going.”

Mytty says the video series is designed to showcase the need for qualified technicians, but also detail the daily demands of the job. To build awareness about the video series, Truck Center Companies is sponsoring a contest and has invited nearly 1,000 high schools in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa to participate by displaying posters and encouraging their students to watch the webisodes. Schools with the most participation will win a Lenovo laptop.

“Students today are media-savvy, so we wanted to deliver our message in a way that is both educational and entertaining,” Mytty says.

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