Ways to hire and maintain the next generation of maintenance personnel

Training and onboarding brand-new technicians

Like many other companies in our industry, hiring and retaining a maintenance workforce is top of mind. I want to provide insight as to how we approach onboarding and training for our new technicians, where I will focus on the 54% of our starting level associates 30 and younger.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) pointed out that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that we as an industry will need to hire over 67,000 maintenance employees by the year 2022.

When it comes to servicing a large fleet (246,000), we’ve experienced success by focusing on four areas: teaching the fundamentals; offering blended learning; creating How2 videos; and administering a career advancement program.

Trucks from 2004 might have 350 diagnostics fault codes. Today’s vehicles can have over 2,000 fault codes. With those complexities come new challenges that we have all had to adapt to.

Let’s start with the fundamentals. Yes we appreciate the energy and drive of a 24-year-old technician. He or she wants to dive into the complex issues right away, without taking stock of the basics. We bring things back to square one in our system, stressing the importance of basic fundamental practices, and how vital a role they play in keeping our customer’s trucks on the road.

Like anything in life, you start small and work your way up.

In this digital media age, we’ve grasped the need for blended learning. For our company that consists of online courses, in-person classroom instruction and the shadowing of existing technicians, so that peer-to-peer learning can aid a young associate in immeasurable ways.

I can’t tell you how many things I have learned to fix by watching YouTube videos. But before the Internet, we needed someone to show us how to tie a tie or how to check your oil. That’s how we all learned in the pre-Internet age.

Today’s millennials simply pull up a video online and absorb the information visually and this has become part of how we all work.  That’s why in less than two years, we’ve created 100 new videos. They’re all five minutes or less by design.

Let’s say a technician is having trouble properly diagnosing a failed NOx sensor fault code. All they need to do, while at the truck, is access our intranet and watch a short video to quickly learn the proper procedure to diagnose the root cause. On-demand and there when they need it.

The Penske technician certification program is an excellent way for any associate, at any level, to work his or her way up our maintenance career ladder. It is nationally recognized by the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC), a member of the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Industry Alliance.

To date, we’ve awarded over 1,520 certifications across the 11 years we’ve offered it. This has been very successful for us in building loyalty in terms of retention, and I recommend this process for companies seeking to formalize their career advancement programs.

We regard onboarding as another key component of the new associate experience.

Through our ambassador program a Penske associate will reach out to new technicians before their first day. The ambassador then continues to do several check-ins in his or her first month with our company. New employees can also access a specialized internal website, where they can find critical information that all recent hires need.

It is important that we get it right at the onset and keep doing things right to retain their talents for years to come. The truck technician shortage is very real for us; we’re expecting to bring aboard 2,000 new techs in the next three years.

At the end of the day, millennials really aren’t a whole lot different. They want to know that their company will invest in their career, they want to feel a part of its success, and they want to see an advancement pathway clearly laid out, which is defined differently for each and every one of us.

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