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How Military Veterans Bring Valuable Skills to Fleet Technician Roles

10/23/2023 19:12

The military is known for instilling discipline, dedication, and a strong work ethic in its service members. These qualities, along with technical and mechanical expertise, make military veterans highly sought after for various job roles, including fleet technicians.

A fleet technician is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and servicing vehicles and equipment used by organizations, such as transportation companies, government agencies, and corporations.

With their extensive training and experience in the military, veterans possess valuable skills that are essential for success in this role.

In this article, we will explore how military veterans bring a unique set of skills to fleet technician roles and why organizations should consider hiring them for these critical positions.

From their ability to adapt to new environments to their attention to detail and problem-solving skills, we will delve into the specific skills and qualities that make military veterans an asset to any fleet technician team. Let us take a closer look at how these individuals excel in this challenging and essential job role.

Shortage of Technicians as Well as Drivers Persists

The shortage of qualified diesel technicians has become a pressing issue for many fleets, similar to the ongoing driver shortage in the trucking industry. This shortage can be attributed to the retiring baby boomer generation and a decline in trade school attendance. To address this issue, some fleets have turned to veterans as a potential solution.

According to the latest Census data, there are over 18.5 million veterans in the United States, making up 7% of the population. However, veterans only represent 5.6% of the workforce as of 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Last year alone, more than 164,000 veterans transitioned from military service to civilian life. Recognizing the potential in this labor pool, many fleets are actively seeking to hire veterans for these crucial positions.

Ryder System Inc., a Miami-based company known for being "Military Friendly," employs 48,000 individuals, including 5,000 trained technicians. Ryder acknowledges that the military instills qualities such as leadership, teamwork, and a strong work ethic, which are highly valued in their employees. In 2016, Ryder launched the Pathway Home program, a 12-week apprenticeship training program for soldiers completing their last 180 days in the military.

This program provides hands-on training and online classroom instruction, ultimately leading to employment opportunities with Ryder. Approved by the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs, Pathway Home apprentices can also access their VA monthly housing allowance to supplement their income while working towards becoming a master technician.

A Passion for Fixing Vehicles

Ryan Georgia, a former U.S. Army Stryker systems maintainer, found his passion for fixing vehicles at a young age. Through the Pathway Home program, Georgia was able to receive diesel technician training while still serving in the Army, which eventually led to a job with Ryder. Starting as a T2 technician, Georgia's leadership skills and ability to effectively manage the shop propelled him to his current role as technician-in-charge at Ryder.

Ryder has actively hired veterans since 2011, with over 14,000 veterans joining their ranks. Over 350 enlisted individuals have completed the Pathway Home program and found employment with Ryder. The company has also seen a 32% increase in female veteran employees since 2021, a significant development considering the low representation of female technicians in the industry.

Veteran Recruits

Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, with a workforce of 4,200 diesel technicians/mechanics, also values the leadership skills and team-oriented mindset that veterans bring to the table. Love's actively recruits veterans and partners with RecruitMilitary, a company that helps veterans find meaningful employment. Love's offers a certified SkillBridge program that assists diesel technicians in transitioning from active military service to the truck care industry. They also launched the Love's Truck Care Academy, a paid accelerated program that provides hands-on training and classroom instruction in 11 heavy-duty systems.

RecruitMilitary supports veterans in their job search through various tools such as job boards, career fairs, headhunting, and interview preparation. They have hosted 50 veteran career fairs and provided access to 37,000 veterans for 2,800 organizations in the first half of 2023.

Overall, investing in veterans as commercial technicians has become a targeted goal for many fleets. Veterans bring valuable skills, experience, and a strong work ethic to these essential jobs, making them an ideal solution to the shortage of qualified diesel technicians.

RecruitMilitary offers assistance to veterans in finding employment across various industries. Henderson, who served as a motor transport operator, pointed out that a significant number of veterans are inclined towards pursuing a career as a diesel technician, especially those who have experience as maintainers, such as Georgia.

Henderson emphasized that working as a diesel technician is an incredibly fulfilling profession, as they witness the tangible impact of their work when they see vehicles on the road, knowing that they played a crucial role in ensuring their maintenance and functionality.

Transferable Skills

The wealth of practical skills gained by veterans during their service can be directly applied to working with trucks. According to Henderson, those who worked as diesel mechanics on vehicles like Humvees and 5-ton trucks can easily transition to working on OTR trucks. Additionally, there are construction divisions in the military that use equipment such as bobcats and forklifts, further expanding the skill set of veterans in this field.

Lawson emphasizes that veterans with mechanical-related experience are particularly well-suited for positions at Ryder, as their skills easily translate to the job requirements. He sees this group as a valuable resource due to their ability to seamlessly adapt their skills to the auto technology industry.

Luiszer from Love's agrees, highlighting that veterans possess qualities such as leadership, self-motivation, and technician skills that directly align with a career in auto technology. This makes them highly compatible with the demands of the field.

For Ryder's Georgia, his military job smoothly transitioned to his current role, and he credits this to having a career path already established. The clarity and structure of his military experience greatly facilitated his transition to civilian life, as he had a clear understanding of his daily responsibilities.

Overall, veterans bring a wealth of practical skills, leadership qualities, and self-motivation to the trucking industry, making them ideal candidates for careers in auto technology. Their experience and preparation greatly ease the transition to civilian life and contribute to their success in this field.

RecruitMilitary’s Henderson points out a disconnect in corporate America's comprehension of hiring former military personnel. One of his responsibilities involves bridging this gap by effectively translating the unique skills obtained in the military for corporations. This ensures that job descriptions accurately reflect the specific military experience required for a particular role.

Luiszer acknowledges the difficulty in interpreting military resumes and aligning those skills with a technician career at Love's. To overcome this challenge, their recruiting team, which includes three veterans, conducts trainings to help decipher military jargon and extract crucial information from resumes.

In cases where a fleet lacks a dedicated program for recruiting veterans, Henderson recommends attending veteran-related events to engage with them directly and gain insight into their skillsets acquired through military service. Armed with this knowledge, organizations can tailor job descriptions to effectively target military communities.

Retention Strategies

The technician field has been experiencing a consistently high turnover rate, which poses a significant challenge when it comes to retaining employees, particularly those transitioning from military to civilian life.

To address this issue, Ryder has implemented a veteran buddy program. This involves identifying current employees at Ryder who are veterans and assigning them to assist and support their fellow veterans in adjusting to civilian life. These veteran mentors have already gone through the same transition and can provide valuable resources and guidance.

Leaving the military often means losing the strong bond of trust that exists between leaders and subordinates, as well as the camaraderie among peers. According to Henderson, the key to retaining veteran talent is to genuinely care about their well-being. He emphasizes that investing in veterans and demonstrating a commitment to their success will foster loyalty to the company and its mission.

To keep employees engaged and nurture their competitive spirit, Ryder hosts an annual Top Tech championship. This event allows participants to showcase their technical skills, with the winner receiving a substantial cash prize of $50,000, while the other nine competitors receive $10,000 each.

Lawson, of Ryder, believes that programs like the Top Tech championship not only keep employees excited about their work but also contribute to the retention of both veterans and civilian technicians.

Similarly, Love's offers growth opportunities for its diesel technicians. Through its SkillBridge program, individuals have started as diesel technicians and have advanced to become leaders within the company. This emphasis on career advancement and professional development further encourages employee retention.

Impact of Hiring Veterans

Luiszer emphasizes the invaluable contribution of veterans to the staffing of technical positions, despite the limited availability of talented individuals from this pool. According to Lawson, the strategic decision to hire military members for technical roles in fleets is a sound business move.

She explains that targeting these individuals while they are still in service provides a significant advantage. Once veterans transition to civilian life, they are presented with numerous employment opportunities. By increasing efforts to recruit veterans, fleets could potentially alleviate the shortage of skilled technicians.

Henderson acknowledges that while hiring veterans can contribute to fleets' recruitment and retention objectives, it is not a comprehensive solution to the shortage. However, the current job market conditions are favorable for veterans, as the demand for their skills far exceeds the supply.

Consequently, compensation for these roles has significantly increased compared to five years ago, making it an attractive career path for veterans.

In Conclusion

Military veterans bring a unique set of skills and experiences to fleet technician roles. Their training in attention to detail, problem-solving, and teamwork make them well-equipped to handle the daily demands of maintaining a fleet of vehicles. Additionally, their discipline and dedication to excellence make them valuable assets to any company looking to improve their fleet operations.

By recognizing and utilizing the talents of military veterans, we can not only support our veterans but also improve the efficiency and productivity of our fleet management.

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