"Technicians are special people and Snap-on celebrates the dignity of that work," said Nicholas T. Pinchuk, chairman and CEO of Snap-on, a leading global innovator, manufacturer and marketer of tools, equipment, diagnostics, repair information and systems solutions for professional users performing critical tasks.
"Technicians mean so much to America," he added. "They are critically important. They keep trucks running. If they don't operate, America stops."
Pinchuk made these remarks in a keynote address to the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) 2013 Fall Meeting and National Technician Skills Competition (TMCSuperTech) that was held last week in Pittsburgh, PA.
TMC is North America's premier technical society for truck equipment technology and maintenance professionals. It works to improve transport equipment, its maintenance and maintenance management.
To highlight some of the consequences of American's trucks not operating, he said that after 24 hours, supermarkets would run out of fresh foods and assembly plants would have to halt production. After 72 hours, people start hoarding food and gas stations run out of fuel.
These are the facts that the public does not know, he said.
Growing technician shortage
Despite the critical importance of the vehicle technician to the U.S., there is a critical shortage of them, and that situation is getting worse, observed Pinchuk. "Four times as many technicians are retiring as are coming into the industry within the next 5 to 10 years," he noted.
He believes that growing vehicle technicians for the future "must be a national calling." America needs a technician workforce in order for it to maintain its ability to manufacture, transport and repair its own technology, something that has enabled the nation to become what it is today, he said.
"There is no path to a prosperous future without this," emphasized Pinchuk. "This is an issue we all need to embrace. We have to recognize the challenge, plus develop ways to manage this challenge."
Pinchuk outlined a three-step plan for accomplishing this.
One step is to gain the competition for today's youths by getting them to consider technical jobs.
The industry has a PR problem about what a technician does, he said. It is not well understood how much electronics and computers are used in vehicle repair and maintenance.
There are more computers and electronics in today's vehicle than there was in the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed the first humans on the Moon in 1969, he pointed out
Moreover, these days, going to technical or trade schools is viewed as a "consolation prize" versus going to a 4-year school, he added. Yet, studies show that a person with a two-year associate degree in technical education makes around $10,000 more than someone graduating from a four-year school, and "a career in technical fields can be every bit as rewarding and stable."
Another step is to make technician careers a national calling, said Pinchuk.
This is what President Kennedy did in 1961 when told the nation that America is going to the moon and is going to do it by the end of the decade, Pinchuk recalled. Many young people began entering science and engineering because they felt it was a national calling.
Furthermore, Pinchuk said businesses, education and government need to join together to make technical careers a priority, but more importantly, to take action to get things accomplished.
"Without trucks freedom doesn't ring," he concluded. "We have to have a robust truck repair industry or there is no future for America."