The demand for diesel technicians grows but the number of young people considering the profession declines. Key to changing this dynamic – and attracting new candidates – is for the industry to better educate the young about the realities and rewards of the job. In addition, the industry needs to salute excellence within the profession as a way to improve its image in the general public.
A report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education states that today’s “college for all” emphasis can actually keep students from viable careers paths as they enter adulthood. Faced with a prospect of tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt on the horizon and degrees that yield few marketable skills, many high school graduates continue to ignore alternate pathways that can have real currency in today’s labor market. Maybe the best example of the “road not taken” in the transportation industry is the profession of diesel technician.
As 40-50% of current technicians reach retirement age through 2030, the number of young people entering the profession continues to dwindle even as the demand for qualified diesel technicians skyrockets. To address this challenge, the industry is working hard to improve the image of truck technicians and attract more technicians to the industry through programs that celebrate the proficiency, competency, and skill that are needed to be a success in this rewarding career.
Today’s diesel technician has moved far away from the outdated image of a person with minimal computer skills learning the trade in his garage. The reality is quite different. The advent of computerized truck engines and other equipment advances has required technicians to be educated in and adept at addressing diesel engine fundamentals, fuel injection systems, electricity and electronics, and starting and ignition systems. According to the job search Website Indeed.com, the current average salary for a technician is $43,000, but journeymen professionals can earn up to $57,000 at the peak of their careers, not including overtime. And with demand for qualified technicians so strong, finding a job in today’s tough economy can be amazingly easy, with candidates basically unencumbered by staggering student loan debt.
The ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council has been working hard to raise the profile and image of diesel technicians through programs like the annual SuperTech national skills competition in the fall each year that salutes the knowledge and hands-on skills required by leading maintenance professionals. NationaLease, the organization of the nation’s independent truck leasing companies, has instituted an annual Tech Challenge to identify and salute the most proficient technicians nationally, who will then compete in SuperTech.
We in the truck maintenance industry feel passionately that more young people would purse the career of diesel technician if they knew more about the rewards of the job. Employers too can attract and retain budding technicians by mapping out a good, clean career path for them, giving each person a clear view of how their hard work starting at the bottom can lead to a well-paid long-term career. It really all comes down to ongoing and effective education of young people – and maybe not-so-young people who are considering a career change – who have the aptitude and ability to move forward in the career of diesel technician. In the end, everyone will benefit.