Why is it so hard to recruit diesel technicians? Technicians are hard to find, job requirements vary greatly, and there are simply just not enough of qualified techs. This isn’t just traditional recruiting; this is try everything we’ve ever tried before and do it every single day 2x a day! I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it is extremely complex, and skills, specialties, and job offerings vary wildly. As I could write a full term paper on this, what I’ll go through is the challenges of recruiting techs as it goes for the diesel industry.
The Diesel Technician Pool is Small
A technician is a technician right? Absolutely not!
Not all technicians are created equally. Not all career opportunities for them are created equally for them either. Diesel and automotive programs focus on different aspects and very rarely cross over. Mechanical aspects are similar, but you very rarely have technicians that can jump into both industries.
With that being said, the pool of technicians automatically is reduced to half and the bucket wasn’t big to start with and now they are separated into two, very small, buckets. Within the diesel industry, you have medium/heavy construction equipment technicians as well as diesel technicians that are trained to work on fleets and semi-equipment. The buckets continue to shrink depending on if a technician chooses to go into an independent shop career or work for a dealership group. Technicians can jump lanes when it comes to those details, but change is hard on everyone including the technician and the employer.
Diesel Technicians Have a Tough Job
Diesel technician positions generally have great compensation plans depending on the employer, but starting out can be tough. The equipment that needs to be maintained and repaired needs to run during the daylight hours, so when is there time to fix it? Many of the technicians have to start out on the second or third shift and work weekends. That is not desirable for the vast majority, and it is tough to put in your time to earn the first shift. That is one of the many reasons why this work can be undesirable for students looking for careers as a technician. This can also be a determining factor for a student who is entering school to pick automotive vs. diesel.
Working conditions for a diesel technician can be more difficult as well. Towing a large piece of equipment isn’t always an option which forces a technician to be very adaptable when it comes to working conditions. WrenchWay, being located in Wisconsin, can range anywhere from -30 degrees in the winter (without the windchill!) to 100 degrees in the summer. Those types of conditions can make it difficult on technicians as they have to be able to work in all weather conditions.
Along with weather conditions, a team generally isn’t going out to help do the diagnostic work. A technician must be trained to do mobile repair and learn how to diagnose and work completely independently. Reliability and confidence are a must for an employer, and unfortunately it can take years to train a technician to get to the caliber.
Searching for Jobs is Painful for Technicians
To recruit technicians, there is no magic wand. Every technician has a different desire for a job position as it goes for compensation, how they are paid (flat rate vs. hourly), benefits, and perks.
One big problem I see is, from a technician’s perspective, finding a good job isn’t exactly easy. There are a million job boards to look at and an overwhelming amount of job openings available for techs. To top it off, all job postings look the same. “We have great company culture and are a great team!” Do you? Do you really? This makes it extremely difficult for techs to figure out which place is actually a good place to work.
So what do techs do? Most of the time, they won’t get too far in their job search. It’s not worth the time and effort to comb through identical job postings, apply, and interview only to discover the shop isn’t a good fit for them.
This is why we are constantly talking to the shops and dealerships we work with about the importance of being transparent and making all the details about their shop and the position available from the start so techs are more likely to apply. (This is also why we created WrenchWay.)
Moral of the Story: It’s Hard, But Don’t Make It Harder
All in all, recruiting a technician is difficult — whether it’s automotive or diesel.
Everyone’s value of employment is different, and every job has its own benefits and challenges. The largest challenge we will continue to face is sheer population in the industry. Your best recruiting tactic is to retain your current employees, build your team from within, talk with their technician friends, and SHOW the prospective technicians why and how you will be the best place to work.