What's the next generation of the heavy duty aftermarket industry saying?

Feb. 7, 2014
With the right training and employee recruitment, the next generation can make the heavy duty aftermarket survive, and even thrive.

When I was a sophomore in high school, some 15 years ago, I had met with a guidance counselor to discuss my career options after graduating. I wasn't asked what I wanted to be when I "grew up." I was asked: "Do you want to attend a college?" 

I was then encouraged to sign up for applicable courses that would beef up my resume to ensure acceptance into a four-year university. 

Already, my path was set -- regardless of knowing the options for career advancement, regardless of having a four-year degree. Who knows what other choices I may have had, given the opportunity to explore other options. 

While attending the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week '14 (HDAW) in Las Vegas last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the HDAW Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) networking and educational luncheon. This event focused on bringing together the younger generation in the heavy duty aftermarket industry, to discuss ideas on training, employee recruitment, and business management. 

Where's the next generation?

In particular, the discussion focused on finding younger talent in the industry, and ways to bring in and keep a newer generation of staff on board.

Many of the younger generation are in the business because they've been groomed and recruited into the family business at a young age. 

It's no secret that half of the industry will be at retirement age within the next decade. That means, this next generation has to step up and find ways to make the heavy duty (HD) aftermarket industry a viable career option for many of the next generation just beginning to enter the workforce. 

Some strategies

During the LOT luncheon, many attendees shared their strategies and ideas for how to improve the odds of attracting the younger talent into the heavy duty aftermarket industry. 

Nancy Ringel, CEO and co-owner of AA Wheel & Truck Supply, Inc., led the discussion among the group, encouraging responses from attendees. 

One general manager advised he visits local vocational schools and discusses potential career options with sophomores and juniors -- to reach them at an earlier stage in their potential career planning. He tries to make students see past the "requiring a college degree" mentality.

He explains the misconceptions in comparing blue collar versus white collar jobs, and getting past the idea that blue collar jobs are somehow inferior to desk jobs requiring a four-year degree.

The fact is, many of these blue collar positions allow employees to earn equal to, or more than, jobs requiring a college degree.

Another attendee of the luncheon provided a suggestion: recruit high school students to work part-time, so they can become familiar with the industry. Have them stock parts. Have them work the front counter. Let them get a taste for the potential in working in this field.


Lines of communication need to remain open between suppliers and distributors. Companies can utilize social media to communicate and educate. 

We need to embrace changes in technology, both with communicating and sharing information among one another, and to customers, as well as by taking advantage of training opportunities. 

One other suggestion mentioned: look at other industries that retain knowledge really well. What are they doing different, and better, to take their industries to the next level? 

What are you doing to make this industry succeed long-term? I'm interested in hearing your comments and suggestions.

Leave a comment below, or email me at [email protected]

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