Finding workers with the right skillsets for today’s technology is a major challenge


When we ask our customers what their biggest business concerns and challenges are, we get the answers one would expect, including: economic volatility, interest rates, government regulations, rising insurance and equipment costs, and technological advances. One additional challenge is the difficulty in finding and retaining qualified and high-quality employees, especially those with the right job skills. Job opportunities abound but filling them with the right job seekers has become increasingly problematic.

In the trucking industry, we have been dealing with a shortage of qualified truck drivers and diesel technicians for years, so for companies with fleets there is this additional burden of dealing with this specific shortage. Regardless of the situation, companies have to ensure that their overall existing workforce, as well as their future workforce, has the necessary skills.

PwC in their Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 noted that “the workforce is the number one risk to growth – and also the principal means by which companies can execute growth-driven strategies.” A Deloitte article notes that their 2021 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey found that workforce and talent transformation is a major concern for CEOs. “When asked about the biggest challenge they face today, CEOs named one above all others: talent, in nearly every form. Attracting, hiring, retaining, developing, growing, and engaging talent; succession planning; the war for talent; and more constituted one out of every four responses.”

And if you’re still not sure how important workers with the right skillsets are, a LinkedIn article cited the PwC CEO survey that identified “skills as a top three concern alongside cybersecurity and climate change. Seventy-four percent of CEOs believe skill issues are a threat to sales and revenue growth while 64% view it as a challenge to their ability to attract and retain staff.”

For fleets, COVID was only one of the challenges that disrupted business.

Although COVID has subsided as a major concern for businesses, the onset of the pandemic made it clear how vital the trucking industry is to this country as well as globally. Trucks were delivering essential goods as consumers scrambled to buy necessities and hospitals struggled to stock their essential inventory.

Along with the pandemic were technology disruptors: digital transformation, advanced truck technology, and alternative-powered vehicles, especially battery-powered electric trucks. So, even if the pandemic had not occurred, the advances in new technologies would have created a need for a workforce that has been “transformed,” possessing the skills necessary to be successful in a digitized business environment.

You can’t read a trade publication today without seeing at least one article on electric vehicles (EVs). The industry is aware of the CARB existing and impending regulations and emissions mandates, leading most OEMs to look to electric vehicles vs. diesel as the likely future of the industry. That’s why manufacturers are building electric trucks in every class. That change would come even faster except for a number of factors: the ongoing supply chain backups of necessary battery components and the lack of a national infrastructure to power those EVs once they are on the road. An additional issue: finding the diesel technicians and drivers with the skills and knowledge to work on and operate EVs and other alternative-powered vehicles.

In many ways, this issue of the skills gap predates the EV concerns. Telematics, collision avoidance systems, and other truck technology has totally transformed the job of a diesel tech. Right now, a laptop is one of the most important tools a technician would have as part of his toolbox. Some older drivers may not be as comfortable with ELDs and other telematics (although, we have found when older drivers avail themselves of this technology, they come to truly appreciate it).

However, don’t just look to “update” the skills of your drivers and technicians.

Technology is transforming every aspect of a business from the C-suite to the back office, creating new jobs that require new skills. For instance, in the global supply chain, logistics plays an increasingly important role, ensuring that raw materials and finished product get to their destination in the timeliest and most efficient way possible. That requires real-time visibility into where every asset is at any given time, increasing efficiency and reducing operational costs. Digital transformation and data analytics are playing key roles in the financial area of accounts payable and accounts receivable. Automation and digitization of these functions will also reduce costs, provide visibility, and increase efficiencies, meaning companies will be better able to manage cash flow and working capital. But for that, you need employees with the right digital skills.

So, how do you get this skilled workforce?

From the retirement of highly skilled Boomers to the different values of younger generations, employers have quite the challenge. But there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this challenge…and retain the workers you already have.

  • Take a skills-based rather than a degree-based approach – You wouldn’t want to go to a doctor who didn’t have a medical degree or entrust your legal interests to someone without a law degree. However, there are a great many jobs that don’t necessarily need a college degree. McKinsey & Company published an article about taking a skill-based approach to hiring, suggesting that companies might want to move “beyond degrees and job titles to focus more on the skills a job requires and that a candidate possesses.” The article goes on to note that even large companies like Boeing, Walmart, and IBM are intent on implementing skills-based practices. “Companies have recognized that skills-based practices are a powerful solution to challenges that have intensified since the pandemic. Employers have struggled to find the right candidates for important open positions and then keep the talent they hire.” Don’t let the level of education, or lack thereof, eliminate potential employees with the right skills.
  • Professional development for every employee in your workforce – Businesses need to remember, skills can be taught; so, if you have existing good, reliable, and trustworthy employees, offer them the training and professional development that ends up helping you and the employee. Although Millennials and Gen Z are totally familiar and comfortable with today’s technology, that doesn’t mean your older workers wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to learn and move beyond their current job. These workers are usually very loyal. In January, Forbes posted an article, Older Workers Might Save Your Business, which illustrates how people are living longer, allowing them to continue contributing to the company.

    For many employees, of all ages, having an achievable career path is an important part of a recruitment and retention practice. Develop training programs that focus on job training and skills training. It’s a lot less expensive to have ongoing training for existing employees than it is to hire new talent. According to benchmark data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “the average cost per hire was nearly $4,700. But many employers estimate the total cost to hire a new employee can be three to four times the position’s salary.”

  • For fleets, younger workers are absolutely essential – Regardless of how much reskilling and retraining you do with existing employees, the trucking industry is losing drivers and technicians at an alarming rate. According to a Heavy Duty Trucking article, “Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for 2020-2030, demand for diesel technicians will continue to rise…this growth will generate a need for 25,000 new diesel positions by 2030.” That may not sound like a disaster but add in the fact that over 160,000 current technicians will “age out “ around the same time, choosing retirement, you can see how dangerous this situation is.

    The obvious choice is to bring in new, younger workers, but where do you find them? The industry has long battled an outdated image of driver and diesel tech jobs; an image that is unlikely to attract a generation bred on technology and social media. Since so many younger workers are looking for jobs that involve computer electronics, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics, the trucking industry provides a sweet spot, with telematics and other truck technology now dominating the industry, not to mention EVs right on the horizon.

    The time to change minds and attract workers should start in high school. Having a good working relationship with the school guidance counselor would help as would having a robust and relevant social media presence. Fleets should also look to trade schools and community colleges to educate and recruit younger workers. One caveat: Make sure the school you align with is up to date on what the industry offers. This is, unfortunately, not the case for all educational systems so you need to do your homework. Offering internships and apprenticeships are also good ways of finding younger workers and seeing if they are the right fit for the job and your company. Once you recruit these younger workers, establishing mentoring programs is a great way to retain them.

  • Money still matters…so do benefits – Although younger workers put a higher value on things like company culture, work/life balance, diversity, and advancement, they are still looking for good pay, good healthcare, and better benefits. It’s important to ensure you are competitive when it comes to wages and benefits in order to bring good people in and then keep them with you. Remember, your competitors are looking for skilled workers as well so keep tabs on what the industry averages are.

What is clear is that every single facet and function of your business needs to find the right people with the right skills to optimize today’s technology. Fleets and businesses in general need to take the long view, whether that means choosing work experience over a college degree, offering ongoing training and retraining programs to keep the good people you have, developing relationships with people and organizations that younger people trust, or a combination of these. Your future growth depends on it.

See how Corcentric can help your fleet build success.