A Future Focus

By Mike Bates, CEM, 2008–2009 AEMP National President | September 28, 2010

The skill set, productivity and reliability of the modern equipment technician is truly amazing. In fleets maintained by skilled technicians, breakdowns are the exception rather than the rule.

Manufacturers have evolved their products to the point an equipment manager can locate his machine; track utilization, fuel consumption, and loaded condition; and plan maintenance while never having to leave the comfort of his or her office. The field of heavy equipment is changing, and so are the skills needed to maintain the equipment. The modern technician not only has to possess a mechanical aptitude, but also a desire for lifelong learning in advanced computer technology, electronics, safety, pollution reduction, fuel economy and communication systems.

The technician behind the machine is truly the key to reaping the benefits of today's accommodating technology. And as access to a wide variety of machines has increased, the availability of skilled technicians continues to dwindle.

Here's an impressive statistic: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for technicians will grow 11 percent over the next 10 years. Yet during that same time, a large portion of current technicians will begin to retire, making the demand for skilled diesel technicians even more urgent.

The Association of Equipment Management Professionals has a vested interest to encourage and aid the technicians of tomorrow. The AEMP Education Foundation was created by the membership for this purpose. To address the impending shortage of technicians, the Foundation is increasing its efforts to aid students interested in heavy equipment technology. In 2009 alone, the Foundation awarded 15 scholarships: nearly double the amount of scholarships awarded in 2008. Last year, the Foundation received a record-breaking number of applications. I am encouraged to see so much interest in a career that has served not only myself, but many others well over the years.

Diesel engines are the workhorses of our nation. Without the skilled technicians who keep this equipment operational, many industries — mining, construction, infrastructure — would cripple. As for me, I am proud to have built a career around something I love and something that makes such an impact on America. I actively encourage young people to consider the career path I chose. The numbers are daunting, but with raised awareness, financial aid and peer encouragement, I know our industry will rise to the challenge.