In an effort to continue to build momentum for TechForce Foundation’s FutureTech Success campaign, 30 industry leaders gathered on Jan. 30-31 in Phoenix for the inaugural, annual summit of the FutureTech Success National Leadership Cabinet. Participants ranged from the heads of national associations such as ASE and SkillsUSA, to corporate chief marketing officers and HR/technical recruiting executives, as well as upper-level executives from Nissan North America, Interstate Batteries, Universal Technical Institute and Manheim/Cox Automotive.
“Our campaign is laser-focused on increasing the number of qualified technicians in North America, but we need the buy-in of the entire industry to be successful,” said Jennifer Maher, CEO and executive director of TechForce. “And that is exactly what we have received and continue to receive from some of the industry’s strongest advocates and highest profile leaders.
“No one entity can fix the qualified technician shortage problem. We all must row in the same direction. We’re so grateful to have the support, engagement and enthusiasm of leaders throughout the industry,” she added.
To that end, Maher said, the Cabinet spent one and a half days exploring ways to implement and activate the campaign within their own companies and associations, and brainstorming collaborative ideas around which the whole industry can unite.
“We must beat one, collective drum,” said Maher, “that we are one of America’s largest industries and we need a strong, trained, viable workforce. For decades, students have been told there’s only one road to success, and that’s through a four-year degree. They’ve been led to believe that working with your hands and using one’s natural tactile intelligence is a ‘less-than-desirable pathway.’ But it’s simply not true, and America needs its skilled technicians to keep it rolling. Today’s vehicle technician jobs are in high demand and provide a solid middle-class career path. It’s time we stand up and rally together for our own talent pool.”
Demonstrating the collective power of this initiative, competitors Shell Lubricants and Valvoline, Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone, Nissan and General Motors left their business cards at the door, pledging instead to unite behind the FutureTech Success initiative, aimed at helping to motivate, train and develop technicians.
“It’s important for each company to have our peers involved with this initiative because every one of us rely and depend on qualified technicians,” said Chris Blanchette, director, operations (Technical and Innovation), Bridgestone Retail Operations and member of the TechForce board of directors. “We’ll either all rise together or fall together in this quest to invest in the best and brightest of our technician workforce.”
During the summit, TechForce unveiled its revamped website, designed, built and managed by Autoshop Solutions. The new site includes the FutureTech Resource Hub, a one-stop-shop portal through which parents and future technicians can find after-school programs, clubs, events, technical schools, scholarships and trainings that help develop their skills and pathway to the technician profession. In addition, the site includes the new Industry Hub (I-Hub) through which industry recruiters, managers, working technicians and educators can find helpful resources to support and connect with future technicians.
“Anyone — from interested students to companies wanting to recruit the best technicians — can find what they need on the website,” said Maher. “Students and their parents can explore what the technician career is all about through our collection of videos, while companies can access and share the best practices to attract, develop, train, hire, recruit and retain technicians.”
To kick off the summit, a joint luncheon was held for the members of the National Leadership Cabinet and members of the Arizona FutureTech Workforce Development Council. Having national leaders joined by their local counterparts raises the bar for technical education in Arizona. Together, the organizations ensure that middle- and high-school students create opportunities to connect STEM subjects to automotive and diesel technology; provide national resources, training aids and donations to programs and students in need; and ensure that industry is part of the solution in developing tomorrow’s workforce of vehicle technicians.
Driving home the point was a “Connecting the Dots” theme emphasized by two of the Summit’s kickoff luncheon speakers who are both recipients of TechForce and FutureTech Success campaign efforts. Tony Camp, principal of Trevor Browne High School in Phoenix, said his school has benefitted from an auto shop makeover with the help of TechForce. Crist Morillon, an entry-level Telsa technician, shared her personal journey to becoming a technician, pinpointing the continuous support available to her, beginning with SkillsUSA, Phoenix’s Metrotech High School, Universal Technical Institute, and now, Tesla.
Both Camp and Morillon said TechForce is a bridge for the resources available throughout the industry in a way future technicians, parents, schools and employers can all find each other.