We're still overjoyed about the amazing webinar we recently hosted with a panel of industry experts addressing the problem of recruiting, training, and retaining technicians. The ideas presented were excellent, and the overall turnout and response were great as well. If you haven't seen it for yourself, there's still time to watch the free replay!
There was so much useful info that it only makes sense to spend a little time digging into the ideas presented. So, in this article, we wanted to talk about the portion of the webinar presented by Kenneth Calhoun who works in Product Engineering at Altec, Inc.
Altec is an equipment and service provider to the electric utility, tree care, light and sign and similar industries. With equipment in more that 100 countries, they have top-tier experience in managing technical staff. In addition, Kenneth currently represents the transportation sector on the Arkansas Career Education and Workforce Development Board, he had plenty of useful suggestions for anyone managing their own service group.
Five Key Tips For Improving Your Technical Services, From Industry Experts
1. Engage in more outreach at the high school level
One unfortunate trend that Kenneth noted was that too many students are entering trades because they're being told they “aren’t cut out" for college. Beyond what terrible teaching that implies, it points towards one of the big problems attracting younger workers into the trades. The proverbial best and brightest are told to go to college, while other students are basically told to settle for trade work.
Technical and support services need the best and brightest too - and there's plenty of reason for them to be interested. A modern service tech works with hardware and software that's at least as advanced as anything in Silicon Valley, and it can be an excellent choice for someone who wants to work with cutting-edge technology. Reaching out to students at the high school level can help overcome the stigma of entering a trade profession.
2. Utilize VR
We're big fans of Virtual Reality training, and so is Kenneth. It's a truly excellent tool for helping trainees get "hands on" experience, even on machinery which they might not yet be qualified to work on. After all, nothing can break in VR. In addition to the Be Pro Be Proud mobile exhibit which utilizes virtual and augmented reality to introduce junior high and high school students to 12 different career paths, Arkansas has now also deployed 14 virtual reality labs across the state to allow students to virtually experience these lucrative career paths.
3. Participation in PACs
Participate in the school Program Advisory Committees (PACs) which are relevant to your field. As we know, nothing in industry is static, which means that industry has a critical role in making sure that what is taught in the labs and classrooms is current and relevant to industry.
4. Keep training technology and techniques up-to-date
Another great insight from Kenneth regarded the tendency of trainers to become set in their ways. He told stories of diesel technology instructors who were still teaching students on farm tractors built in the 60s and 70s - which are, of course, hopelessly out of date and not remotely relevant to today’s medium and heavy trucks and engines. It is necessary to focus on forcing such trainers out of their comfort zone and pushing them to train on modern technology which will be relevant to current equipment in-use.
5. Empower service reps
Kenneth also realizes how much good service managers and technicians can do in the realm of outreach to education. It is imperative to make sure these representatives are well-informed about overall corporate goals and service offerings and empowers them to speak on the company's behalf when it comes to making commitments of industry support to the schools.
If you - like many in manufacturing and industry - are struggling to maintain a high level of technical staff, there are so many more great ideas to be found in our webinar. Click here to view the replay!