Workforce development — It’s a big deal

By Todd Davis
NTEA President, Phenix Truck Bodies & Van Equipment, Pomona, California

This article was published in the July 2018 edition of NTEA News.

I think most will agree workforce development is one of the biggest challenges for organizations today, and the commercial vehicle industry is no exception. In fact, NTEA’s recent member survey identified hiring skilled employees as, by far, our industry’s primary hurdle. Survey data indicates member companies are most concerned about finding and retaining qualified employees. Because staffing is a critical problem for our industry (I can validate it is for Phenix Truck Bodies & Van Equipment), it makes sense for all of us to be proactively seeking and implementing solutions.   

You may be wondering, “How did we get here?” Baby boomers are a major contributing factor to current workforce dynamics. As this generation transitions into retirement, younger, less experienced workers are left to fill the void with many in need of training to master essential skillsets and bridge the knowledge gap. In April 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported college enrollment for high school graduates is at its lowest rate in four years. With a record low unemployment rate, the labor market recovery has affected young, inexperienced workers, with more finding employment opportunities and choosing to go to work rather than college. How do we locate, recruit and train these potential employees to become contributing members within our industry?

Several years ago, NTEA recognized the growing workforce development challenges we’re now facing. Given the Association’s passion for staying relevant and its mission of furthering industry knowledge, growth and profitability, NTEA created a dedicated taskforce to identify challenges and global trends related to recruitment and retention of qualified candidates. Pulling together a working group of industry stakeholders (seasoned business owners and executives) to consistently revisit and address this issue was just the starting point. 

The taskforce has already made a huge difference, raising awareness, delivering strategies and providing a suite of practical resources. Allow me to outline just a few ways our company has benefited from NTEA offerings.

Developing an effective team starts with who you hire. NTEA’s JobLink ( connects individuals seeking employment in the work truck industry with companies in need of personnel. This service is no charge to members as part of the Association’s commitment to provide resources to improve your business. I know the recruiting process is a costly endeavor, so you should consider making the most of this free service.

Ongoing education
My team at Phenix has gained industry expertise by regularly attending NTEA events held throughout the year. Work Truck Show and Truck Product Conference are prime examples of the robust educational content easily accessible that can be utilized as another level of training for new employees. 

Targeted training provides options to prioritize professional growth. On-site education covers truck specification and design; proposal creation; and productivity enhancements. Online education includes truck equipment basics (Truck Equipment 101 spans all aspects of work trucks and the industry — from chassis and powertrains to bodies and cab styles, and weight distribution and truck frame fundamentals).

NTEA offers members the opportunity to participate in complimentary monthly webinars on targeted industry topics. These 45-minute sessions provide expert insights on technical issues, economic forecasting, sales and marketing strategies, and regulatory developments. We have even had a recent workforce development series addressing specific aspects of the recruitment-retention issue.

Announced in November 2017, NTEA is now accredited by International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue IACET Continuing Education Units. Keep this perk in mind as your staff engages Association resources.

NTEA offers professional development options and information to enhance retention efforts through employee enrichment. There’s an arsenal of content-rich presentations and articles available to you and your team. Encourage all your employees, especially those new to our industry, to use this material for their benefit.

Additionally, Generation Next, open to employees of NTEA member companies with less than 10 years of industry experience, is a great way to help your team develop leadership skills and find fresh training opportunities.

Ultimately, you have to figure out what workforce development initiatives mesh with your organization. One thing I’ve learned over the years: there’s simply not a one-size-fits-all solution. Connect with local high schools and clubs to introduce and promote our industry as a viable career path with competitive wages. Leverage veteran job placement programs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 370,000 unemployed veterans (59 percent are 25–54 years old). I recommend you consider these ideas, combine them with NTEA’s valuable tools and determine what makes sense to add to your company’s mix. The Association is always coming out with new content and ideas, so be sure to visit on a regular basis.

If you have any questions on what I’ve discussed, please contact NTEA’s team at 800-441-6832 or