Mar 13, 2024 - News

Why the construction industry is short 40,000 technicians

A technician works on construction equipment

The world needs a lot more people who can competently do this. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Caterpillar, the Irving-based construction equipment manufacturer, wants its dealers to hire 40,000 new technicians in two years to stem a global shortage.

Why it matters: The dearth of technicians is an outgrowth of the widening skills gap in the American labor market, a result of more people attending four-year colleges instead of trade schools.

  • Even before the pandemic, 70% of employers reported having trouble filling roles requiring skilled labor, per Bloomberg.

State of play: Not only are manufacturing giants like Caterpillar having trouble finding the workers to build this equipment, dealers are struggling to hire people to maintain and repair that equipment, Griffin Reome, the company's manager of workforce development, tells Axios.

  • A lot of the technician workforce is also starting to retire, and the company is scrambling to transfer that institutional knowledge to a new generation.

Flashback: Caterpillar has watched this problem evolve over decades.

  • "We have articles within the Caterpillar organization that date back to the 1960s, talking about the skills gap and how people are being pushed into the post-secondary college route versus going into the workforce," Reome says.

What they're doing: The company created a development program that pays people to train and targets a wide range of potential workers, from recent high school graduates to military veterans to mothers who've been out of the workforce for years.

  • The company is also leaning into recruiting events — often alongside its biggest competitors like Komatsu and John Deere, who are having the same issues, Reome says.
  • "This is certainly an all-hands-on-deck issue."

Plus: They're working to hire women, who account for a mere 3% of the technician workforce in the U.S.

  • Technology shifts have made the job less labor-intensive and more accessible.
  • "You don't have to be a 200-pound male," Reome says. "And you won't need a shoulder replacement when you're 40."

What they're saying: "Women can easily do the job as efficiently as their male counterparts," he says.

  • "Some would even say they can do it better because of the attention to detail and the ability to multitask."

By the numbers: Though the company won't release its pay scale, Reome says Caterpillar technicians make "20% over the median household income within the U.S.," which amounts to a salary of about $90,000 a year.

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