On a recent episode of Diesel Stories, Jacob and Chris sat down with Jennifer Maher, CEO of TechForce Foundation, to talk about the tech shortage and what her organization is doing to combat it.
TechForce has been working hard to bring people into the industry over the last several years, and Jennifer got right down to business with the guys. While she didn’t grow up in a diesel or automotive environment, she says, “My passion is around workforce development for this industry.”
She came to TechForce after several decades in senior leadership at national nonprofits, many of which you’ve likely heard of. She got the job when one of her former clients from Make-A-Wish—who happened to be with the NASCAR Foundation—said, “You really need to go talk to this group.”
Once she was there, she threw herself into the work.
We’ve talked and written extensively about the tech shortage, but Jennifer boiled it down in about the best way we’ve ever heard: “It took us about 30 years to create this problem in America, and it’s going to take us a while to get out of it. For 30 years we’ve been telling people, ‘Everybody has to go to a four-year university; don’t be a grease monkey; the skilled trades are a less than option.’
“We’ve drank this Kool-Aid,” she adds, “and now we’re paying for it.”
The conversation then turned to the many ways—some blatant, others subtle—we’ve dissuaded people from going into the technician fields over the years, as well as how we can lure them back. Some of the conversation covered:
- The huge, multi-decade push to get people into four-year colleges…and the fallout from that
- Treating diesel and other technician jobs as “new collar”
- How the industry can “find” its ideal students — and how TechForce is trying to address that
- What to do about anti-diesel sentiments coming from within the industry
- How rebranding can go a long way
If you’re curious about what caused the tech shortage and how we can start correcting it, this podcast is for you! Listen to the entire show over here, and remember to stop by the TechForce website to learn more!