Hitting the recruiting trail: The search for quality employees

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Updated Jan 16, 2015

College graduates today are finding out there’s a bigger challenge than earning a four-year degree. Earning a paycheck.

According to a 2014 report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 8.5 percent of college graduates ages 21 to 24 are unemployed, and 16.8 percent of all college graduates, are underemployed.

That means 1 in 6 college-educated adults are overqualified for their current position.

With numbers that staggering, it’s hard to believe any professional industry could be suffering from an employee shortage. Yet in trucking, employee shortages not only exist — they are widespread.

The industry’s driver and technician shortages have received most of the headlines, but industry members say those jobs aren’t the only open positions.

This perceived blue-collar industry has a lot of white-collar openings.

“I don’t think most people have any idea about the size and scope of this industry,” says Northwood University’s Brian Cruickshank, director of the school’s University of the Aftermarket program. “I think people just don’t think of the other opportunities [that exist]. They might think about working on a car or truck, but a lot more goes into it.”

It’s with that in mind that businesses throughout the commercial vehicle industry are beginning to actively recruit new talent. If college graduates aren’t going to turn to the industry on their own, the industry has to go to them.

“Our [open] positions are not going to fill themselves,” says Dave Willis, president of CRW Parts and the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN). “We have to be more proactive as companies — not just from the OE side but also the aftermarket standpoint — in getting our message out there.”

One way industry members are fighting the industry’s image problem is through educational outreach programs.

High school career days, collegiate job fairs and corporate literature allow businesses to showcase the industry’s various opportunities to young people. Misconceptions about career advancement and salaries are quickly put to rest, giving interested young adults a clearer picture about the industry.

Trucking is more than just shifting gears and turning wrenches. It’s an industry that can offer entry-level salaries typically higher and more flexible than some of America’s most sought after professional fields.

“If you can get in front of students coming out of school and show them ‘you can make a nice living do this. You’ll have a good livelihood,’ that’s a great start,” says Willis.

“There is definitely an image issue for the heavy-duty parts and service provider,” adds Dave Scheer, president and CEO at Inland Truck Parts. “You can have a really good career and make a great salary working in the [industry]. There are a lot of good places to work; and students need to know that.”

Job fairs also give companies a chance to show how a student’s interests and talents relate to its open positions. They let students see where they fit, says Marlin Smith, director of human resources, truck commercial vehicle systems at Hendrickson.

“There have been some career fairs we’ve attended where we’d have a truck and trailer on a poster and students would just walk by thinking we were recruiting truck drivers,” he says. “We had to tell them ‘Oh no, we’re looking for research and development, engineers, accountants … We’re looking for career professionals.’”

“People’s image of this industry is that it’s not a high-tech one but that’s not true,” says Cruickshank. “It’s a high-tech industry and requires a lot of really smart people in those high-tech areas.”

Willis says this can be just as valuable for high school and technical/vocational students because it gives them insight on a career path, and how they can ascend.

“It helps to advertise to students who have a desire in pursuing the industry,” adds Shona Mack, human resources generalist at Accuride.

Good recruiting can entice other students as well — students who otherwise may have no interest in trucking.

Smith says Hendrickson has updated its recruiting signage to better showcase the breadth of its positions, and appeal to a broader selection of students.

Trucking is a large industry. Every employee doesn’t have to love trucks. Communicating that message to young people opens the ears of previously uninterested talent.

“Recruiting is all about selling. You’re trying to sell candidates the rewards of working at your company,” says Teresa Sato, director of human resources at Peterbilt.

She adds, “We have many long-service employees at Peterbilt who joined the company not originally seeking work with commercial vehicles. But once they get here and learn about the industry and opportunities Peterbilt offers, they value our focus on quality, innovation, integrity and business results.”

And with so many students and graduates clawing for jobs, just knowing positions are available can open other students’ eyes to trucking.

“A company as large as ours has job openings all the time,” says Brian Thomas, marketing communications manager at Alcoa. “We’re always looking for people, and we want [students] to know that.”

Another great way industry operations are fighting the employee shortage is through internship programs. To read more about internship and apprenticeship programs, click here.

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