The annual shortage of technicians in the construction equipment industry could be virtually cut in half in a short time if less than one percent of the 2.8 million students graduating from American high schools this year were directed into that high-tech
Looking at the shortage as a whole across the 50 states, The AED Foundation is convinced that, with a little more push from industry, high schools could produce enough students to repair and maintain construction machinery in the years ahead.
In fact, just .075 percent, or 2,100 of this year’s high school graduates, would make a huge dent in the technician shortage if that group received basic technical training, followed by post-secondary education in any of 200 plus institutions in the United States that offer equipment technology programs. The AED Foundation reports that the equipment distribution industry currently faces an annual shortage of about 4,000 technicians who are skilled in engine, electronic, power train technology and hydraulics.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, based in Washington, D.C., says the total number of high school graduates will grow to 3.1 million by 2010.
What can be accomplished is becoming apparent at The AED Foundation’s Equipment & Technology Institute at Gage Park High School in Chicago. Launched in 1997, the institute introduces sophomores through seniors to careers in the construction equipment distribution industry, combining rigorous academic standards in math, science, language and the humanities with technical courses and work-based learning activities.
The foundation’s leadership believes that high school is the place to start promoting technical careers, and Gage Park and the Chicago Public School system are pleased with the results after the first five years.
Last month 27 seniors from the inner-city school not only graduated but also earned the highest level of achievement offered by the institute. All maintained a 2.5 grade point average, completed 100 hours of community service and, in a particularly innovative feature, earned at least 26 hours of transferable college credit while in high school. The college coursework, completed at a nearby community college, took the students’ basic high school technical training to a higher level.
Frank Giannelli is director of Workforce Development for The AED Foundation, which provides education programs for the construction equipment industry. He said the program was started because high school students, parents, teachers and counselors, typically know little about careers offered by the construction equipment industry.
But instead of blaming the schools for this deficiency, the industry itself took action, not only developing the program, but working with students, parents and teachers to showcase careers and describe the educational requirements necessary to land the high paying jobs the industry offers.
"The institute was designed to prepare students to enter post-secondary training programs in equipment technology," Giannelli said, adding that part of the process was informing school personnel about the availability of post-secondary technical programs in the Chicago area.
The rewards are starting to show. This year six of the students have applied to Universal Technical Institute in suburban Chicago with designs on becoming equipment technicians.
In May, two of the students from graduating class of 2000 earned degrees in equipment technology. One performed near the top of his class and was hired in a heartbeat by a Chicago area equipment distributorship.
Giannelli says building awareness of the industry among students at the high school level is the key. Distributors in Texas, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina are on the same track, devoting more time to visiting schools, talking to students, teachers and counselors, and familiarizing them with post-secondary training programs they will need to work on today’s increasingly sophisticated machinery.
"Solving the shortage of technicians is doable because the numbers, when you break them down to local levels, are within reach," Giannelli said. "If equipment distributors in every part of the country could form partnerships with one or more local high schools, I think we could put our shortage to an end."
To learn more about The AED Foundation’s workforce development initiatives, log on to http://www.aednet.org/aed_foundation/index.cfm
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