Steve Zannos, Sr. Director, Customer Care - Electrolux, and member of the current #FSN20 collection of the most innovative and influential leaders in the global field service community, offers three key ways in which field service organisations can successfully tap into the next generation of field service engineers...
Whenever I meet up with a group of my service colleagues, no matter what the industry or the venue, one topic always seems to come up…Where can we find new Technicians? We have all seen what has been happening in many industries, the workforce is getting older and there are not many new young faces coming into service. I have sat through many meetings about this topic and I think it comes down to three key areas that we as a Service Industry need to address.
Making Field Service an Attractive Choice...
If you have a son or daughter in High School, you have probably noticed Wood Shop and Auto Shop programs are going the way of the Dodo bird…extinct. After doing a little research, I found there still are some programs, but they have clearly been on the decline over the past 10+ years. With these programs going away, High School students are less informed about a career in service / trades as a viable option and are being pushed towards college.
Now, let me jump in and say that going to college is clearly a good option for many students, but it is not the best choice for all students. According to Robert Reich, Economist, “46% of recent college graduates were in jobs that don’t even require a college degree.” The nation’s student loan debt is over
$1 trillion dollars and many students will have this burden over their heads for decades. But with all the local government and school budget issues, what can we do?
As manufacturers, dealers, retailers and service providers, we need to reach out to our local schools and governments to ensure that we are presenting our High School students with all the options.
We need to communicate the value of joining the service industry or pursuing a job in the trades. This is a great career choice (yes, career, not just a job) for many people. We just need to make sure that it is presented as a viable option. Which bring me to the second key area where we need to drive change…
Accurately Portray the Realities of a Career in Field Service or the Trade
I’m going to dive into appliance repair here, but I think there are opportunities across many other industries. If you go to the Department of Labor / US Bureau of Labor Statistics website and look up Home Appliance Repairers, the reported mean hourly wage is $19.72 and the median salary is $39,270.
But, if you do a quick search for appliance repair jobs you will see things like…earn $60k plus a $3k sign on bonus, compensation $40,000 - $65,000 per year, $60,000 - $80,000 a year and $20 - $26 an hour. So, rather than being the “average” the information on the DoL / BoLS site seems to be more the entry- level for a Major Appliance Repair Technician. Why are these data points off?
Is the DoL / BoLS looking at the “Home Appliance Repairers” too broadly? Is the data old?
The industry has changed and there is more demand for good Technicians. I’m not sure that we know the answers, but we as a Major Appliance industry need to reach out to the Government and discuss how we can make these numbers more representative of our current environment.
This data does matter and I’m sure there are other industry examples where this data is not accurate. Many of the Vo-Tech Schools and Community Colleges use this data in their decision making process to determine which programs should garner the most attention and support. Another key factor is the placement percentage for the program. Which leads us to the third and final area…
Supporting Vo-Tech Schools, Community Colleges and Other Field Service Engineer Training Programs
Depending on your industry, there are a varying number of Vo-Tech Schools, Community Colleges and other programs that are designed to train Technicians, Engineers and anyone interested in getting into a skilled Trade.
All programs are looking for support in several key areas – product, tools, curriculum, materials and most importantly jobs for their graduating students. If you are a manufacturer, work with as many of these programs as you can to provide them with product and information.
Or better yet, partner with other manufacturers or service organizations in your industry to provide even more support. If you are a service provider, work with your local program to hire their graduates. I have found that building a relationship with Teachers of these programs will help you quickly identify the best students and you can get in touch with them before they enter the job market.
This is a win-win scenario where you will get great employees and the program will have great placement results. Both of you will be able to grow your business, which is what we are all trying to do.
Some industries do a better job than others in this area. The automotive industry over the years has built a strong network of schools, great training programs and universal certification. There are also some companies (Lowe’s has a Generation T program), organisations (Skills USA’s local and national competition) and associations (USA/ASTI in the major appliance industry) that are working hard to drive more young people into service and trade industries. But we all need to take an active role in this effort!
What will you do?
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