Overcome the Maintenance Technician Shortage with 3 Tips

By: on February 14, 2020

A mechanic shortage, caused by older workers retiring, leaves many companies struggling to find qualified techs. The automotive technician shortage is capturing the headlines, but any type of skilled maintenance worker—for facilities, manufacturing, healthcare, and more—is in demand.

But you’re not helpless. Maintenance managers should reinvest in updated technical training, partner with local technical schools for internship opportunities and create a knowledge transfer program.

We’ll dive into these three tips and offer actionable next steps so you can boost the skills of your existing technicians and inspire a new generation of modern maintenance professionals.

Why is there a shortage of technicians?

The growing demand for mechanics and technicians can be attributed to several economic and social factors, but industry experts agree on three key points:

The 2008 economic downturn left many techs without jobs, and they didn’t return after the economy recovered.

The societal push toward a 4-year college degree means many students avoid trade or technical training because it’s falsely viewed as less lucrative or unstable.

A majority of existing skilled workers are reaching retirement age and leaving the industry without quality replacements.

We can’t go back and reverse these massive industry shifts, but we can use them to strategize how to win back skilled technicians. Here are the most efficient methods:

Tip #1: Reinvest in modern technical training and certifications

If your current technician training methods haven’t been updated recently, now is the time.

Training should be continuous because machinery, vehicles, and other assets evolve and require additional technical instruction to keep up. Several organizations offer onsite training or consulting to help you modernize your ongoing program, following lean, total productive maintenance, and other asset and maintenance management philosophies.

And facility, maintenance and reliability, or automotive certifications are available to round out training for any type of technician you employ. Certifications not only make your workers more productive, but also keeps your organization competitive and creates an attractive workplace for new technicians.

Common Certifications Available to Technicians

Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician (CMRT) The CRMT, awarded by the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals, is one of the most popular and comprehensive certifications for general maintenance management, covering maintenance practices, preventative and predictive maintenance, troubleshooting and analysis, and corrective maintenance.
Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) The CMRP, also from SMRP, is the only exam accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and covers topics like business and management, equipment reliability, manufacturing process reliability, organization and leadership, and work management.
Certified Facility Manager (CFM) This certification from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) trains workers on the technical specifics of facility maintenance, but also leadership and operational concepts.
Certified Plant Engineer (CPE) The Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE) provides training and certification for facility maintenance and includes instructions for electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering, OSHA safety and energy management.
Take action: Review modern maintenance training courses that match your technical needs, then emulate or integrate one into your training. For a lower cost, you can designate a knowledge leader who can attend courses and share new techniques that improve the skills of all techs.

Tip #2: Partner with local technical schools for internship opportunities

Tech schools commonly partner with local businesses to give students a more convenient way to learn skills in a real-world setting that could lead to a permanent position.

The most publicized talent shortage affects the vehicle maintenance industry, and the NADA Foundation has taken the first brand-neutral step to revitalize the technician career path with new marketing campaigns, partnerships with training providers and a consumer-facing website that will help students find training centers and scholarships in their area.

The NADA Workforce site gives interested students easily accessible resources for nearby training and facts about the benefits of a maintenance career.

Other impacted industries have launched similar initiatives as well, although none as substantial or widespread. Companies that require new maintenance workers to grow will need to establish or join an organized group committed to boosting interest in the career.

Take action: Identify training offered at area technical schools and colleges, then reach out to their program managers for details about apprenticeships and internships. If you’re in need of new technicians, interns or apprentices can be trained in your facility to bridge the skills gap—and often become valuable additions to your company.

Tip #3: Capture knowledge and create a transfer program

As you improve your training and establish new relationships with technical schools, you still need to capture knowledge your veteran workers have gained in their career.

Before they retire, interview them and collect the best practices they’ve developed, carefully vet their knowledge, then document it for the next generation of technicians. You can use our Job Transition template to record this information, which includes:

  • Summary of Role and Responsibilities
  • Regular and Recurring Duties
  • Existing Projects and Deadlines
  • Key People and Important Documents

You can link to process documents here that include best practices developed by past technicians

You can also smoothly transfer projects from retiring workers to new ones

Take action: Identify your knowledge leaders, and interview them as they retire—they can be reluctant to share information if they believe it makes them valuable. Let them know you want to use their experience to improve maintenance across the organization, then scrutinize the information for unsafe practices before documenting it for the next technician.

How to hire technicians (and support the ones you have)

The best way to hire technicians during a shortage is to create an environment where they can apply and improve their skills. Commit to this three-part strategy to find success:

  1. Modernize your maintenance training programs to attract new graduates and improve the skills of your current techs.
  2. Develop relationships with local schools for technical internships and apprenticeships that can lead to valuable permanent positions.
  3. Promote continuous improvement to maintenance efficiency by capturing and implementing institutional knowledge from your most seasoned technicians.

Training, certifications and improved practices are best kept within a maintenance management system (CMMS), where you can update technician profiles, get reminders for upcoming compliance events and store accurate processes that workers can access from mobile devices.

If you’re unsure what kind of modern CMMS you need to enable this strategy, reach out to our maintenance software advisors at (844) 689-4876 for a free consultation to narrow down the options based on your actual needs.

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