The lingering technician employment issue was among the many topics tackled head on during task force meetings at ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting Monday in Atlanta.
Within the Council’s Education Committee, a task force was held to address the organization’s continued effort to develop curriculum guidelines the trucking industry can provide to schools currently offering or intending to offer diesel education courses. Led by Erin Brennan, industry relations manager, Cengage, the task force is attempting to compile a list of component categories and common maintenance and repair services it would like to see students be informed on before entering the marketplace.
Attendees in Monday’s task force meeting say all too often diesel tech programs focus on powertrain service (engines and transmissions) and are not offering students enough guidance on how to perform PMs, electrical, brake and wheel end, driveline, trailer and other system work. Those in attendance note engine training is incredibly valuable for technicians who go from a tech program to a career at an engine dealer, like Cummins or Detroit Diesel, but is significantly less useful for someone who steps into an entry-level job at a fleet, dealer or independent shop. Those technicians are likely to start their careers on common repairs and maintenance and should be educated as such.
And not just from a skill perspective, the task force notes. Tech students also should be informed that working as a diesel tech is more than engine or transmission rebuilding. Attendees believe that’s one of many reasons so many young people enter and then exit the diesel tech industry. What they are taught does not match up with what they are hired to do.
That messaging was mentioned again in a task force discussion on educator involvement led by George Arrants with the ASE Education Foundation. Arrants chaired the TMC SuperTech Committee for many years and spends a lot of time interacting with vocational school administrators and young technicians. He says the trucking industry doesn’t have a technician shortage, it has a “qualified technician shortage.” He says too many schools are teaching their students the wrong things.
He says the industry itself needs to correct that. The ASE Education Foundation facilitates relationships between education and industry. Arrants says most school administrators he works with are open to suggestions from industry representatives when their vocational curricula require change. But they require insights from the experts, he says. They aren’t going to change things on a whim.
Arrants says trucking needs to tell its educational pipeline exactly what it needs. If not, he says tech students and graduates will continue to question their career plans when the jobs they receive don’t match with the vision of the career they expect.
“If you are not involved in your local school you are part of the problem,” Arrants says. “You have to help yourself.”