Steve Johnson, VP of the AED Foundation, addresses a group of New Jersey dealers at the 2016 AED Summit.
New Jersey heavy equipment dealers turned out in force March 1 to show their support for a potential Diesel/Equipment Technology program at Union Community College (UCC) in Cranford, N.J.
Approximately 90 percent of the state's equipment dealers attended the event, which was intended as a discussion to gauge interest from local businesses in hiring graduates from such a program. Interest in doing so proved resoundingly high.
The industry's widespread technician shortage is well known and deeply felt throughout the country and potential programs such as this at UCC and other community colleges could address some of this pervasive and vital need. So much so that during the event many dealers were saying they need to hire technicians right now but cannot find enough.
But they weren't the only group represented at the meeting.
At the AED Summit in 2015, John Graham, CEO of Fairview Insurance, based in Verona, N.J., listened intently at an AED Foundation event detailing the technical workforce shortage and decided to do something. He reached out to New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker, whom he's worked with in the past, and outlined the problem that was impacting heavy equipment dealerships.
"Many of these dealers are our customers, and if this issue negatively impacts them then it's worth addressing," said Graham.
Graham helped connect Booker's office with Steve Johnson, vice president of the AED Foundation. Johnson is the resident expert when it comes to curricula and standards for technical programs serving the industry and would help establish the requirements needed to make this program one that truly serves the needs of heavy equipment dealers, i.e. hydraulics, diesel and electrical components.
Dealership technical experts will design program curriculum in conjunction with UCC that will satisfy AED's national technical standards. The program's successful implementation would create thousands of jobs by providing New Jersey residents with the requisite skills to maintain and repair complex new machinery that is quickly becoming the norm within the diesel-equipment industry.
"There are no public heavy equipment technical programs in New Jersey, despite the fact there is a tremendous need for one," said Johnson. "It's not necessarily easy to start a program like this from scratch, there are some serious obstacles, cost being the biggest. But if dealers get involved, OEM's lend their support, and the state of New Jersey does its part, then we are heading in the right direction."
Next, Sivaraman Anbarasan, executive director of the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce & Economic Development, was brought into subsequent discussions. Anbar, as he's referred to, will help identify the New Jersey Community College best suited for this program and will play a key role in getting it instituted.
To gauge their interest and potential support, AED reached out to New Jersey dealers to determine their current technician needs as well as a five-year projection. Unsurprisingly, the results supported the case for a New Jersey based technical program. Several of these dealers met for a briefing at the AED Summit, last January in National Harbor, Md., where Johnson gave an update on the program and fielded questions. The general consensus matched the survey results; dealer interest is high across the board.
"These vital job creation skills are a critical need throughout New Jersey. Technical training programs prepare our workforce for the billions of dollars in infrastructure expenditures currently being allocated for economic stimulus," said Graham. "This program is a national proto-type that can be emulated throughout the region."
Ben Yates, AED east region manager, said the meeting concluded with a commitment from the college to start the grant process and begin building the curriculum.
"A project like this takes significant commitment and efforts from everyone, and does not happen overnight. However, the reward will be entry level technicians graduating from a top-flight technical college program designed to meet industry expressed needs," he said.
A task force will be formed to develop an action plan and work with the college.
"Steve [Johnson] and I will be available to help facilitate, but strong local leadership is vital to create, implement and manage that plan.
"Additionally, we will form a subcommittee of dealership technical experts that can work with and advise UCC as the curriculum is developed to fully reflect AED's national technical standards. This group will also assist in identifying teaching equipment, materials and resources needed for the program," Yates said.
To learn more about AED Accredited Technical Programs and how you can get involved, contact Steve Johnson at [email protected] or 630/468-5134.
N.J. Dealers Discuss New Technical Program
Representatives of the following New Jersey dealers met to discuss starting a new, heavy equipment focused technical program.
• Binder Machinery Company
• Company Wrench
• Construction Crane & Tractor
• Foley Inc.
• Garden State Bobcat Inc.
• Groff Tractor & Equipment Inc.
• Harter Equipment Inc.
• Hoffman Equipment
• JESCO Inc.
• Modern Group
• Norris Sales Company Inc.
• Bobcat of North Jersey
• Penn Jersey Machinery
• Ransome CAT
• Stewart & Stevenson Power Products LLC –ADDA Division
• Vermeer North Atlantic
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