Entry Level Technician Needed
Guest writer Bill Pyles tackles more staffing shortages (hint: it’s not just teachers and nurses) in today’s blog post, “Entry Level Technician Needed.”
Most segments of the country are enjoying growth in the construction area, which translates to growth among construction equipment dealerships and other companies. A couple of challenges for the equipment dealers are the availability of new equipment and the severe shortage of equipment technicians.
I can recall this economic cycle back to the early 1990s when most dealers began to realize the tech shortage was real. A heavy equipment technician was not a glamorous job, and more of the younger generation was moving to the new dot com boom. Around this time, major equipment OEMs, Cat, Deere, Komatsu, and other companies began to partner with local colleges to implement technician educational programs, offering a tech certificate or a two-year degree. Even the military changed their recruiting ads showing soldiers, sailors, and Marines staring at computer and radar screens, launching high-tech armament, no longer the recruits crawling through mud pits.
Technical schools such as Universal Technical Institute, Nashville Auto Diesel College, Lincoln Technical, and others were utilized by equipment dealers looking for entry-level techs to bring on board.
I’d like to use this opportunity to discuss what’s worked for me in recruiting and retaining entry level-techs. It’s always a great day to have a resume cross your desk presenting a tech with years of experience with the equipment your company represents. Unfortunately, those techs are gainfully employed and do not move around. Today tech recruiting begins at both ends and in the middle of the technician level of experience. Companies that neglect to grow their entry-level techs will likely pay the price over the long term.
But what is considered entry-level? What is a good hourly wage? What do I, as the hiring manager, need to know or do to successfully hire entry-level technicians?
I have always felt if you gave me a motivated individual with a strong mechanical aptitude, basic skills, and a willingness to learn, over time, he or she can be developed into one of your go-to technicians. All it takes is dedicated time, training, coaching, and encouragement, all things I bet your company is currently using! Carefully planning and reviewing your entry-level tech process will normally transform a new tech into a loyal, dependable employee. Keep in mind that I have hired numerous techs over the years who left their last dealer due to a lack of training and direction.
The first bridge to cross with the new entry level-tech is what do you pay them? Salary.com lists entry-tech wages between $20.00 and $27.00 per hour. Of course, this will vary depending on where you do business and if you are a union shop. Base your entry wage on experience and certifications (for example, A/C; Welding). Another financial aid the dealer can offer is the new tech’s cost of technical schooling. Perhaps you can offer a tuition reimbursement amount to help offset the training debt the tech has already accumulated. Of course, other benefits such as medical insurance, paid time off, paid training, tool allowance, the opportunity for advancement, and a good 401K add value to the new tech’s wage structure. Sell the entire package your company has to offer, not just an hourly wage.
Before agreeing on an hourly wage, be sure to have a copy of your training program to share with the candidate. Basic tech testing should be used to measure the level of experience (and helps structure the new tech’s training path if hired). I would have a copy of the training outline the company has developed (both online and instructor-led) based on the OEM’s and dealer’s training requirements. This outline of required training was usually spread across a three-to-four-year period. Usually starting with basic safety training and an expectation of quickly completing the basics within a given timeframe. At the successful completion of the required training modules and mandatory on-the-job-training, there would be an increase in the hourly wage.
The first 90 days are critical in bringing the new tech into your process and procedures. I highly recommend the new tech be partnered up with one of your experienced techs who is willing to be a coach and mentor to the new tech. I would appoint one or two coaches/mentors in each shop. These more experienced techs take pride in knowing they are helping to develop another tech. I can remember when I started my career as an entry level-tech. It’s scary realizing you’re surrounded by trained, competent techs, and I’ve just broken off three bolts because the impact was set to install, not remove the bolt. But I had a great coach/mentor, a man named Tom Kennedy. Tom was the lead tech for the shop, and I swore the man was a wizard. No matter how deep I got into a problem, Tom would never lose his temper or chew me out for screwing something up. He’d then show me what I did wrong and instruct me on how to properly make the repair. Yes, I was truly fortunate to have a great mentor early in my career. Without a doubt, it helped shape the rest of my 48-year career. Thanks, Tom!
Depending on your dealer’s onboarding process, a new tech should not pick up a wrench for at least five or more working days. One of the best suggestions I can offer is to carefully create and constantly review your on boarding process for all employees. During the first days spent onboarding, introduce the new tech to the safety rules and policies, and meet with shop and parts personnel and those he or she will be interacting with. Cover the basics, what your expectations are, break times, lunchtime, writing service reports, etc. Make the new tech feel he is part of the team, not the “New Guy.” Please do not put the new tech on the shop floor and expect immediate performance. You’ll be very disappointed and have a very confused tech.
Be sure to engage the new tech and ask how things are going, then listen. Sometimes a new set of eyes in your shop will see things you may have been overlooking. Several of my best ideas have come from other people, and new techs are no exception!
If you’ve done everything correctly in hiring, training, coaching, and mentoring, you’ll see an amazing transformation of the new tech into a confident and contributing technician who may be your next mentor/coach. With a plan and the resources, it’s within your reach.