As fleets and shops lament the lack of available skilled labor, help appears to be pouring out from Laramie, Wyoming, where automotive, diesel, and collision trade school WyoTech, is based. The school recently disclosed that demand has never been higher for their students’ skills.
“We have employers from across the country visiting Laramie, Wyoming to hire our graduates,” noted Jim Mathis, CEO and president, WyoTech. “Many graduates receive multiple job offers before graduation with incredible incentives and benefits. For our students, there hasn’t been a better time since I have been in the industry to finding a great job in the trades.”
This was not long after 70 potential employers trekked out to southern Wyoming to vet potential techs. With the way things are, they may have even journeyed to Nepal to recruit employees.
According to Fullbay's 2022 State of Heavy-Duty Industry Report, 65% of the fleets and shops surveyed said that their top challenge was finding and hiring qualified technicians. Despite this, 2023’s report found that of the survey’s respondents, only 21% of current technicians had attended a trade school—however, this number could be changing due to increased demand.Read more: Addressing top technician frustrations, according to WrenchWay
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 28,000 jobs will be needed for diesel service technicians and mechanics over the next 10 years. WyoTech's recent growth in its automotive and diesel collision trade school is impacting the auto and truck industries by training an expanded pool of experienced and skilled workforce in need of employees.
"We don't have an abundance of new trucks that our fleets can purchase and just get rid of their old equipment," said John Alexopoulos of transportation service and solution provider W.W. Williams. "The old ones need to be fixed. So, the need for diesel technicians that are trained and able to jump right in is at its all-time high, and I only see it getting higher."
In response, technician pay has increased throughout 2022, sometimes by as much as $8.20 per hour for the largest shops, stated the 2023 State of Heavy-Duty Repair report.
"In the agricultural industry, the demand has definitely increased for knowledgeable technicians or technicians that are willing to learn," said Nate Balstad of C&B Operations. "With the dollar value that agriculturalists are paying per hour for technician labor on a job and their margins being thinner and smaller all the time, there's not a lot of room for error. So, the demand for a well-qualified, young, energetic technician who is willing to learn and be a part of a team definitely continues to grow."
But this demand is quickly outpacing supply, especially at vocational schools like WyoTech. The institution recently hosted a career fair in Laramie, Wyoming, on Feb. 15-16, with 96 companies conducting 907 interviews. If most of these interviews, if not all, led to a hire, that career fair alone would nearly clean out a graduating class of WyoTech, even as the school is expanding to a student population of 1,200.
So, how can shops capitalize on this fresh talent before it’s swiftly snapped up?
For one, the career fair for technicians takes place every three months, giving students an important opportunity to display their skills and connect with potential employers. Additionally, Mathis reported that the school has regular advisory meetings with those in the industry to ensure their curriculum stays relevant.
“Connect with our career services and industry relations at WyoTech,” Mathis urged. “There are plenty of opportunities to engage in student events, host dinners or events, and attend our career fairs. I will say the best way shops can support students after graduation is to offer continued mentorship and training opportunities.”