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December 2017
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Everybody needs technicians!

Over the past four years I have not been into one equipment dealership (farm, construction, outdoor power, industrial or lift truck) that hasn’t had a sign posted on the parts counter, a banner across the front window, or a sign in the yard expressing the need for technicians.

Sounding like “chicken-little” claiming the sky is falling, manufacturers, associations and dealers have a serious problem! Today there is a shortage of well over 100,000 off-road and on-road technicians. As reported, the average age of technicians has increased to 58. That number alone should indicate just how serious the problem will be 8 to 10 years from now.

It is a political year and all candidates, as well as the president, are pushing education and in particular, higher education for everyone. It seems as if no one can live the “American Dream” unless they have a college education or even higher. No one running for office is interested in touching or commenting on the community and technical training facilities to solve this problem. As I said in an article years ago, this only means someday we will end up with a “whole bunch” of out of work history professors and political science graduates, while sophisticated equipment manufactured by dealers’ suppliers sits idle for lack of technicians to work on that equipment.

Unemployment is indeed a problem today in North America. Who knows the positive effect the equipment industry could have upon this if more recognition to the problem of hiring qualified technicians was being addressed on a national level. In Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota, technicians are bringing down as much as $70 per hour and jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of entry level technicians.

Manufacturers (there are exceptions) seem to pay little attention to the problem. Too many manufacturers view the dealer’s service department as an expense and not as a profit center. There is a tendency to forget if dealers don’t have a sufficient staff of qualified, well-trained technicians, there will be a problem satisfying the dealer’s set-up problems, and the manufacturer’s warranty problems. It also will seriously affect the dealer’s cash flow and overall profitability. In the long run, this will erode the dealer’s and the manufacturer’s market share dramatically.

Manufacturers today are building better and very high tech products. These are products that take special tooling and advanced training. Qualified, certified, highly-skilled technicians are required for the job of maintaining this equipment. There is indeed a tremendous shortage of trained technicians to maintain and keep this sophisticated equipment operating!

These high-tech products were manufactured not only to build a better product, but also to protect the dealership’s aftermarket business. We believe this makes good sense. The manufacturer (in most cases) offers excellent service training to their dealers and service personnel on how to work on this sophisticated equipment.

Two of the problems however, are that the dealer: 1. Does not have a sufficient amount of trained technicians to send to the manufacturer’s training facilities and/or, 2. Is “penny-wise and pound-foolish” about paying to send technicians off for training.

E-Learning, CDs and in-house training certainly can be effective in this area. However, too many times we see these education tools sitting in the dealership simply gathering dust and not being put to use.

Equipment dealerships are certainly not without fault. It is hard to count the number of times we have heard a dealer say, “You don’t know how difficult it is to hire technicians!” Believe me, we do! We also recognize a typical equipment dealer’s greatest opportunity for increased profitability lies within the dealership’s service department. The dealer’s service department can and should have five times the positive financial impact upon the dealership, versus the impact of new equipment sales. Therefore, rather than frustrating yourself over how difficult it is to find technicians, focus upon the profitable opportunity the dealership has and put some effort into hiring, training and maintaining quality technicians. Quality technicians can be the most important hires the dealership will ever make.

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