Understanding the Technician Shortage – and the Necessary Means to Overcome this Challenge

William Barkawi 24 Jul 2024 10 mins read

Table of Contents

Technician Shortage

The lack of skilled technicians is probably the most daunting problem every dealer must face nowadays. It has been a problem for many years, not only to find technicians, but also to find workers that have the necessary skills for new advanced machines. Even with all advanced technology, technicians are still essential for businesses. Moreover, as machines become more advanced, the skill set required is more complicated and harder to find. 

While skilled technicians become increasingly scarce, consumer expectations for products and services continue to rise. In fact, they have never been higher and expect to continue this path due to the advancements of information technology. In this era of significant globalization and effortless global access to products, delivering superior services stands out as a crucial differentiator from the competition. 

What is Technician Shortage?

The term ‘technician’ refers to skilled professionals with specialized training and education that hold technician occupations. These workers are typically in charge of maintaining, repairing, and diagnosing machinery, equipment, and systems. They frequently must carry out difficult duties and “troubleshoot” complicated problems. 

Therefore, the shortage of technicians is a phenomenon where the supply of skilled technical workers does not adequately meet the demand.  It means that yearly it becomes harder to attract and retain trained workers, and that has many consequences for dealers and ultimately, the machine owners. More often than ever before, tractors, cars, excavators and trucks are standing still. 

Current Situation and its Evolution

Most dealerships have plenty of work but not enough capacity to satisfy their clients’ requests. To give you an example of how compelling the problem is: the number of auto technicians employed is on the rise, according to the 2022 TechForce Foundation Technician Supply and Demand report. Nevertheless, that is still over 613,000 fewer than the total number of technicians that TechForce projects will be required by the end of 2024. 

Even though parts availability plays a key role in the business, technician shortage has been the larger contributor to service delays. Which in today’s fast and globalized world is the main reason for end customers to switch to another cheaper and faster seller.

Keeping Up with the Advancements in Technology

In general, as technology is advancing, as for examples are AI applications for Aftersales, there is more need for workers trained for specific tasks requiring specific skills. Some of these skills are logical and critical thinking, coding and writing the right prompt to AI assistants. 

In the machinery and automotive industries in the last years, we’ve seen fundamental changes such as IoT, automation and electric vehicles. This new era of building machines implies the necessity of new techniques and processes for equipment management. In other words, while the technicians need to learn how to repair modern automated machines, the companies need to develop processes to make sure the necessary spare parts are available as well as the right technicians, when they are needed. 

In USA and in Germany

If current trends continue, the United States would experience a 642,000 technician shortfall by 2024, according to a recent TechForce Foundation research. Though the lack of skilled workers is a phenomenon that is happening in almost every country of the world, in Germany the situation is particularly critical.  

The numbers have been slightly improving in the last couple of years. Expert Klaus Wohlrabe at Ifo argues that while the need for qualified labor is temporarily declining due to the deteriorating economy, the underlying issue is here to stay. As per the Ifo Industry survey, the percentage of companies facing a scarcity of skilled personnel has decreased to 36.3% from 38.7% in October 2023. A year earlier, it was 43.6%.  

But things are likely to worsen soon, as the economy will start growing again as the changes in demographics are here to stay. According to the study, service providers are particularly hit by the consequences of the phenomenon. As consumers’ standards for delivery time of service are getting high, so is the difficulty in offering high quality service in a short period of time if the right workforce is not there. 

technician shortage germany

Understanding the Problem: The Causes

Unfortunately, as deep as we can dive into the problem, we will never find an easy answer to the question: how did we get there? Rather, technician shortage is a complicated phenomenon that has been developing over decades and has multi-factors causing it. 

Negative Industry Perception

Many people still associate the term “mechanic” with outdated stereotypes, picturing someone with unclean fingernails and a rough demeanor. However, this perception no longer reflects the reality in many modern service departments, where technicians are skilled professionals working in clean and organized environments.  

For the same reason and most likely because of historical gender role differences, women are underrepresented among technicians. Research shows that women make up fewer than 1.5% of technicians. 

Aging Workforce

An estimated 9% of the workforce, which is primarily composed of baby boomers, is retiring each year, contributing to the aging of the technician workforce. For example, in the aviation industry an experienced aviation technician’s average age was 57 years old before the COVID outbreak. For this reason, there is the need now to increase the turnover to replace the currently ageing workforce. 

Furthermore, research shows that compared to baby boomers, millennials are three times more likely to change employment, and by the time they are 24 years old, they typically have worked at least four jobs. That easiness of changing employment makes the issue even more complex and compelling. 

Evolving Technological Requirements

As everyone knows, cars and most other machines are getting more sophisticated and constructed more like computers nowadays. The knowledge of technicians must go far beyond the mechanical and electrical engineer work.  

Of course, there will always be the traditional tasks of repairing machines parts in a manual way. However, technology has advanced to the point where you now need to be able to understand complex code and take on more significant problems. 

Competitive Alternative Career Options

Students are no longer enthusiastic about or interested in becoming technicians since fewer educators and counselors discuss the benefits of a career in technology. The societal discussion tends to favor fewer manual jobs and so do the aspirations of young people. If they have the opportunity, they tend to choose different career paths that have been romanticized and that are associated with higher status. 

Not only that, but the compensation is usually more rewarding for other professions where higher degrees are required. Along with higher compensation usually come perks such as flexible hours, career advancement opportunities and modern work environments that attract more people. 

Company culture and work environment

Work environment and company culture are increasingly important in job selection. New generations seek workplaces where they feel like part of a family or something special. Technicians want to love their job, feeling excited and appreciated each day. Ensuring that technicians feel valued and recognized for their good work is crucial to their job satisfaction and retention. 

School curriculum

Schools must update their curriculum to reflect the evolving technology in the industry. New technicians often find that their school-acquired skills don’t match industry needs, which is a failure on the part of educational institutions. While no one expects new graduates to be experts, it’s crucial that they meet basic shop expectations. Dealerships, understanding the necessary skills, must communicate these needs to schools. 

Technician shortage

The Impact that Dealers Have to Face

The technician shortage has significant consequences for dealerships. Now, every minute that is not spent on repairing machines is a lost minute and releasing technicians from administrative tasks is more compelling than ever before. These administrative hours are not billable to customers, as only the time spent on actual repairs is considered billable, leading to lost revenue. Additionally, the shortage results in increased operational costs and extended service times, further straining resources. This often diminishes customer satisfaction, potentially affecting future sales. The overall inability to deliver timely, high-quality service can undermine long-term customer loyalty and profitability. 

How to Overcome the Challenge

The automotive and machinery manufacturing industries are grappling with a significant technician shortage driven by an aging workforce, evolving technological requirements, and competitive alternative career options. This shortage impacts dealerships by increasing operational costs, extending service times, and potentially diminishing customer satisfaction. To combat these challenges, dealers can adopt strategies such as enhancing recruitment initiatives, improving workplace conditions, and leveraging advanced technology to increase workforce efficiency. 

Scarce resources? Change your mindset and make better use of what you have.

The demand for superior services, coupled with the scarcity of technicians, presents a significant challenge. The solution? Repair more machines in less time. This seemingly simple goal requires a fundamental rethink of technicians’ daily workflows, the tools they use (or lack thereof), and the collaboration between OEMs and dealers. Effective information exchange is crucial to shift from a reactive to a proactive service model, addressing issues before they escalate into major problems. 

Streamlining Dealer Operations: Overcoming System Overload with Integrated Field Service Management

Dealers are often overwhelmed by the multitude of systems they must navigate, including those for orders, warranties, IoT, and service manuals from various OEMs. This complexity forces dealers and their employees to spend excessive time managing different platforms, leading to fatigue and resistance to adopting new systems, such as field service management software.

However, specialized field service management solutions, like those from ClearOps, offer comprehensive workshop and technician management functionalities. Moreover, these solutions integrate seamlessly with existing OEM systems, reducing the need for double entries and minimizing additional workload. This integration can significantly ease the burden on dealers, making their operations more efficient and streamlined.

technician shortage

Actionable Advice on how to Ensure the Best Possible Service Even in Times of Mechanists’ Shortage

The technician shortage is not an issue that can be resolved overnight. While we hope for a resurgence of interest in technician careers, it is crucial to address the factors negatively impacting the industry and work collectively towards solutions. The industry holds immense value and opportunities, and it’s time for people to recognize and appreciate its potential. 

Here’s some directions to follow: 

  • Investing in education: Training programs at schools, on-going education and updates, create chances to stay current with emerging technologies. This can happen with the involvement of OEMs, to be ready to face all the challenges of the daily job and make sure that the skills needed are there, as well as the spare parts required to execute the job right away. 
  • Focusing on company culture: making the technician career more appealing starts from the work environment and valuing the employees and their contributions. 
  • Resource Management: rethinking service management. Sharing and exchange of information in the whole supply chain is essential. Again, that means collaboration between OEMs and dealers. With all the information always available the time to execute repairs will diminish drastically. 
  • Exploit the power of data: implementing an automation software is the solution that can really harness the power of the data that machines and people produce every day. Automation and intuitive interfaces will do the rest. Fragmented information structures represent a waste of time for technicians that often times are obliged to lose time in administrative tasks rather than doing their job. 
  • Change the perception: Changing the perception of technician roles is crucial in today’s technologically advanced landscape. It’s important to communicate how these jobs have evolved due to technological advancements. Modern technicians’ daily tasks are now infused with digitization and automation, making their work less manual and physically demanding. This shift not only enhances efficiency but also makes the role more attractive to a new generation of workers. 

Looking at the Future

Some trends are simply unstoppable as they are natural consequences of the changing times, together with the culture and the habits of society. Rather than keeping outdated structures, business should evolve together with the society they operate in. Technology advancements can be an opportunity masked as a threat: if faced in the right way they can lead to sustainable competitive advantage. 

Some key takeaways from this article: 

  • The shortage of skilled technicians is a complex issue driven by multiple factors, including aging workforce, evolving technology, and competitive alternative career options. 
  • The shortage leads to increased operational costs, extended service times, and decreased customer satisfaction, ultimately affecting long-term profitability. 
  • Schools need to update curricula to match industry needs, and dealerships should collaborate with educational institutions to ensure relevant training. 
  • Creating a positive work environment and valuing employees’ contributions are crucial for attracting and retaining skilled technicians. 
  • Proactive Service Model is key: effective collaboration between OEMs and dealers, along with the adoption of advanced tools and processes, is essential for shifting from reactive to proactive service models. 
  • Resource Management has never been more crucial. Better use of resources and efficient information exchange within the supply chain can significantly improve service delivery. 
  • It’s time to embrace technology: leveraging automation and data analytics can streamline workflows, reduce administrative burdens, and enhance overall service efficiency. 

Adapting to societal changes and technological advancements can turn potential threats into opportunities, leading to sustainable competitive advantages.

ClearOps empowers businesses to elevate their aftersales operations, by keeping the world of machinery moving. Our platform frees technicians from administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on repairing machines and maximizing uptime. Discover how we can transform your aftersales processes on our website. 

FAQs 

The shortage of skilled technicians is a complex issue driven by multiple factors, including aging workforce, evolving technology, negative industy perception and competitive alternative career options.

The number of technicians is on the rise at the moment. Nevertheless, that is still over 613,000 fewer than the total number of technicians that TechForce projects will be required by the end of 2024.

The issue of aging workforce in the machinery industry is one of the causes. But also, the societal career aspirations tend to not contemplate manual jobs and favour the development of different skills, leading to less and less mechanics to join the workforce.

UK is one of the main countries impacted by the phenomenon. The shrinking skills pool has also been identified by a new report from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) which said the continuing challenge of filling vacancies – the highest vacancy rate in 21 years – was only set to increase due an aging workforce and retirements, salary dissatisfaction and post-COVID job.

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