Over the last several years I’ve written on many topics related to the technician shortage. We’ve discussed ideas focused on solving that issue, and have illustrated some successes in the field that should encourage you all to believe there is a solution long term. Part of our discussion has been focused on finding the right people that fit our industry; the tactile learner or the youngster who took things apart and put them back together again like we did when we were young. The person who is inquisitive by nature. Some have sought the new generation of young hot rodders who are modifying their Asian and European sports cars producing results that are simply amazing. Others have looked to upgrade the existing vocational education programs in their area in hopes of attracting more young talent to our bays. If you visit the large for-profit institutions, you’ll see race cars everywhere in an attempt to entice youngsters with the allure of motorsports and perhaps the dream of working for a professional team. All of these efforts are worthy and have varying levels of success, but I question if we are looking at the problem through the correct lens.
As I’ve written many times, I’m influenced by the British-American leadership author, Simon Sinek. Two years ago, I heard a profound statement from him that has changed the way I think about our industry and young people in general. He said that the youth of our world that we typically see as lazy, uninspired, lacking direction, un-committed etc., really know what they want in life. It’s as if they are standing at the base of a mountain and can see their dreams and goals at the top of the mountain. However, they can’t see the mountain. When I heard Sinek say this, it was like a sledge hammer had hit me up the side of my head. Society and technology have enabled our youth to get what they want when they want it to the point if they don’t get it instantly or in the time that is acceptable to them, they go another direction.
I immediately thought the answer is simple; we need to describe the way up the mountain! Surely then, as they take the path we describe and enable them to pursue, they’ll find their dream. Or, perhaps they’ll find a scenic overlook on the way up the mountain that excites them even more than their original dream and they’ll pursue that path. No matter, this had to be the answer to the question of how do we attract young talent to our industry. But is it? I still believe it is a key element to what we as an industry must do by defining the career paths for those entering our industry and for those in our industry currently. It is foundational, it is essential, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. My goal in this discussion is to make us consider for a minute that maybe we are describing the way up the wrong mountain.
I think we all agree the type of talent we need to attract are those that have a desire to solve problems and work in a high-tech industry. With the unstoppable onslaught of technology coming into our bays, we need technicians who have an insatiable thirst for understanding, analyzing and solving problems with these technologies. I have news for you all; those kids aren’t entering our industry because we don’t look like that. Sure, we see ourselves as high-tech and try to put our best foot forward with facilities and benefits and working conditions to attract the best, but at the end of the day our industry is selling something the talent doesn’t want. We are selling the wrong mountain!