Filling Service Technician Jobs Requires Equipment Dealers to Take Proactive Approach

With 13 locations in Illinois and Indiana, Birkey’s Farm Store, Inc., is always on the lookout for talented individuals to add to its staff. Like other equipment dealerships, recruiting qualified service technicians has become increasingly challenging due to high demand and a shrinking candidate pool.

Champaign, Illinois-based Birkey’s, as with many EDA members, uses a multi-pronged strategy to fill technical jobs, as well as its marketing and administrative positions. Included are online job sites, such as Indeed.com, Vets.gov, the Department of Employment Security, college boards, employee references and a partnership program with Parkland College also located in Champaign.

“This partnership program is set up to take 20 students each fall into a two-year program to learn specifically how to work on equipment from Case IH,” explained Curt Carter, Birkey’s human resources manager. “Each student in the program is required to have a dealership sponsor them. Those we sponsor potentially work in one of our stores for the summer following their first year of classes. Their final semester is completely in the dealership, working on equipment and teaming up with experienced technicians to prove what they have learned and gain additional knowledge they may have missed while in the classroom and lab settings.”

Following the final semester, if students have picked up the technical skills necessary for a diesel technician, and are still willing and able to continue learning, Birkey’s will potentially offer them a position with the company. “Typically, we have sponsored five to eight students each year,” Carter said.

He also noted that in recent years, when the industry was not as lean, Birkey’s placed interns in three or four of its stores annually. “Those usually are drawn from area high schools for students desiring to learn a little more about the ag business,” he said. “We have also interned college students in our ag or technical programs that might lead to developing a good recruit for our stores.”

Further supporting its recruiting efforts, Birkey’s maintains a robust career page on its website which includes a detailed list of employee benefits along with agricultural and construction job openings. Birkey’s career page says it seeks “talented, dedicated, and ambitious people who will do whatever it takes to create innovative solutions, and who want to build their career in an organization that continually strives to be a great place to work.”

Carter said there are a number of reasons that service technician jobs are the most difficult to fill. “There are simply not enough people with the required skills to meet the very high, competitive demand from equipment dealers, manufacturers and other industries,” he said. “A lot of older technicians are retiring and many of the younger workers with technical skills are going into computer-related professions.”

Carter said in the past, compensation was the most important factor to job seekers he interviewed. Now pay is #2, following employee benefits, because of the importance of health insurance. Other issues, such as job location, personal advancement opportunities and company culture, continue to be important considerations.

From a timing standpoint, Carter said on average it may take one to six months, and sometimes longer, to recruit and hire a qualified candidate, depending on the position. That’s why Birkey’s along with other proactive EDA members are always looking for qualified talent, not just when there is a job opening to fill.

Despite the challenges of recruiting, Carter cautions against rushing the process. “When you rush a hire, you usually end up not getting what you expected,” he said. “That will cost you more in the long run in terms of training and lost revenue resulting from things not being done properly.”

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