IFPE show floor

Equipment Distributors See Worker Shortage, Skills Gap

March 11, 2020
Donation to AED Foundation to fund scholarships and promote industry jobs.

A study commissioned by the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) found widespread worker shortage and skills gap in the heavy equipment industry.

In releasing its report on March 11 at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas, the AED Foundation also received a $300,000 donation from the Caterpillar Foundation to offer scholarships and raise awareness around these issues.

The report compiled by the College of William & Mary entitled “The Equipment Industry Technician Shortage: Reassessing Causes, Impacts and Policy Recommendation,” found a need to attract more skilled workers to the industry in the future, but also found there were numerous job openings today well above the national unemployment rate.

Among the report’s findings:

  • There is a need to fill up to 73,500 heavy equipment technicians over the next five years
  • The equipment industry has a job opening rate three times higher than the national average
  • Almost 90% of AED member dealerships have a job opening rate above the national average
  • Among AED member respondents, 95% agree there is a skills gap in the industry and 89% report a shortage of workers in their company

“While this report highlights the challenges we face, it also presents recommendations to help us overcome those challenges, including strengthening our recruitment strategy, furthering educational development initiatives, maximizing data collection, and increasing recruiting effectiveness and creating roles for older workers to leverage valuable knowledge,” said AED Foundation chairman Jeffrey Scott, president of Intermountain Bobcat. “These recommendations dovetail nicely with The AED Foundation’s Vision 2024, which seeks to have 100 accredited college programs, 50 recognized high school programs and 10,000 skilled technicians entering the workforce by 2024.”

The Caterpillar Foundation’s $300,000 grant to The AED Foundation will fund scholarships to high schools interested in promoting a curriculum that leads to a career in the heavy equipment industry.

“With this partnership, we are taking a step forward to close the skills gap directly and educate the next generation of skilled technicians for our industry,” said AED president and CEO Brian P. McGuire. “We are honored to have the Caterpillar Foundation as a partner in this endeavor, and their assistance will go a long way toward addressing the realities detailed in the report we released today.”

 “The Caterpillar Foundation wants to build resilient communities that thrive in a rapidly changing world. As part of this focus, we are investing in programs that empower the workforce of the 21st Century,” said Caterpillar Foundation President Asha Varghese. “We are proud to partner with The AED Foundation to help high schools build a diverse pipeline of candidates for career and technical college programs and, ultimately, help address the manufacturing skills gap we are facing globally.”

About the Author

Bob Vavra | Senior Content Director, Power & Motion and Machine Design

Bob Vavra is the Senior Content Director of Power & Motion and its sister publication Machine Design. Vavra has had a long career in publishing, media and events. He has covered all aspects of manufacturing for the past 20 years and is a regular attendee at events such as IMTS and Hannover Messe. Vavra is also a sought-after webcast moderator and event emcee, and has presided over events in the U.S., Germany and China. 

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