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Why workforce matters for industries that rely on heavy equipment

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Heavy equipment operators, whether they are involved in construction or agriculture, are always looking at increasing productivity. More productivity means more jobs, which ideally means better profits.

However, there’s a major issue getting in the way of productivity in our industry – a workforce shortage. This shortage is in some way affecting just about every industry that utilizes heavy equipment.

Many contractors and employers are looking at training and education solutions to solve this productivity issue, but let’s take a look at some of the deeper issues causing this shortage – and some advice on how to address the issues.

The construction and similar industries face a labor shortage

Workforce is a hot topic in the construction industry – and similar industries – because there is a very real shortage of qualified, skilled labor available for employers. This shortage can be traced back to the recession in 2008. According to Forbes, that’s when about 600,000 construction workers left their jobs and never returned to their industry.

Today, construction and other industries that rely on operating heavy equipment are still struggling to figure out how exactly to bring people back and fill jobs that are needed to complete projects.

People entering the workforce today largely have been told that the path to success is a four-year college degree. Some head toward retail and transportation, as Forbes points out. These people, some of whom may be able to fill construction jobs, view the industry as dangerous, difficult and dirty.

The impact has been widely felt across the trades industries. In the US, construction employers have a hard time filling hundreds of thousands of jobs. This shortage not only affects construction and heavy equipment operator companies day-to-day, decreasing productivity and the ability to tackle projects as quickly as they would prefer, but it also affects them at the end of the year when they are reviewing their bottom lines.

How to change the negative perception

People in these industries have been trying to figure out the best ways to combat those negative perceptions that would-be employees have about heavy equipment and construction labor gigs.

Even celebrity Mike Rowe, of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs TV show and the Mike Row Works Foundation, has chimed in on the issue. In the magazine Equipment World, Rowe says: “Contractors have to be more persuasive and do a better job of debunking the stereotypes and misconceptions around the skilled trades.”

And that comment from Row cuts right to it: It’s on employers and the contractors themselves who face these labor issues to change the negative perception that their industry has. As Equipment World notes, even if some of the negative stereotypes are unfair or outright false, it’s up to those in the industry to change this perception.

They can do that by emphasizing the professionalism and specialized skills – many of which are, in fact, as complicated and worthy of just as much respect as any skill a number-cruncher buried in a cubicle might use at their job.

How can people in the industry create a more positive perception? Well, there are a lot of ideas out there, but as argued by Unearth, the key really is to convince job-seekers and others that construction is vital to everyone’s economic success. The industry builds communities and helps them improve themselves and see real progress.

One easy way for any construction firm manager or contractor to improve their image is to become more a part of and more active in their communities. It’s good ol’ guerrilla advertising. Visit neighborhoods where you are working, get involved in other volunteer projects, visit schools and participate in job fairs. While doing these things, let people know what you do and how it helps the community as a whole.

That’s just one of many ideas you can use to improve the perception of the industry.

Why training matters for your crew and equipment operators

Let’s not focus only on new or would-be members of the workforce, though. All managers must be aware of the need to take care of and invest in current employees and operators.

This brings us to training, another way to boost productivity.

When your crew and operators are better trained and feel that you have made necessary investments in their success on the job, they are more likely to work harder and boost overall productivity.

Employers who treat their employees as what they are – the most valuable asset – will see this productivity increase. But it does require a commitment to investing in training. Offering some form of training program gives employees more knowledge about the work that they do, hopefully better at that work and makes them more valuable to your company.

Training is not just a one-time event, or even something that happens only sometime. Worksite managers and equipment owners need to make sure they continue to provide updated training opportunities for their employees. Heavy equipment technology is always changing, so your training should be seen more as an ongoing, continual investment.

Current requirements for most heavy equipment operator jobs

But what about training for new hires? People wanting to start a career in heavy equipment operation, whether that’s on the construction site or in an agricultural setting, should know where to start.

For most positions in the industry, a high school diploma is required. There could be some other licenses or certifications if the job-seeker wants to operate specific types of equipment, such as cranes, loaders and bulldozers.

Training for these types of jobs normally comes in the form of apprenticeships or on-the-job training. It’s also common to complete training at technical schools and even some colleges.

Certifications and other licenses are required by some states to prove that the operator is qualified to actually do the job. These certifications are usually from a national organization.

Some employers may also require their crew members to obtain a commercial driver’s license, or CDL. This allows these crew members to drive the truck and trailers necessary to transport equipment to and from the job work site or farm field.

Take care of your employees and equipment

Investing in employees is a key component for success in industries that use heavy equipment every day. But don’t forget about investing in proper maintenance and care for the equipment, either.

You can learn more about how best to maintain your fleet by reading our blog.

A great post to start with is one that describes our Filter Blaster, a tool used for cleaning heavy diesel engine air filters, and how it can keep your diesel engines running more productively and burning less fuel.

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