Republic Services aims to strengthen pipeline of diesel technicians, with an eye on EV training

Dive brief:

  • Republic Services has launched its own technical institute to train and retain diesel technicians as a strategy to address large staff shortages in the solid waste industry. The institute includes a 12-week Dallas-based program that covers expenses and accommodations for out-of-region participants and compensates them for their time before transferring them to employment. with the company.
  • Republic recruits both within its existing employee base and externally; of some nine people in the program’s pilot class in July, seven were already working for Republic, said institute director Misty Ross. A 13-person class is currently underway, Ross said, and the institute intends to have eight classes in 2022, accommodating up to 108 people.
  • The program was developed in conjunction with the US Department of Labor and the Lincoln Tech School of Business. While the institute’s immediate focus is the Dallas program, it plans to provide advanced training and retraining opportunities nationwide for existing technicians in the Republic.

Dive overview:

Republic employs more than 2,000 technicians for its transport vehicles nationwide and is trying to solve its retention issue just like any other business, said Ross, who previously worked with diesel and auto companies during a tenure with the for-profit technical college system. Universal Technical Institute. The way Republic has set up their onsite program, “it removes a lot of those barriers for people who want to get into this industry who, maybe they can’t afford tools, can afford to buy tools. -being that they have a family and that they cannot go to school at the same time, ”she says.

Ross said the company throws a “great network” among anyone eligible to work in the United States and that no previous training or experience is required. The Republic’s announcement specifically names ex-combatants, recent high school graduates and “people from underserved areas” among potential candidates it targets.

Women make up just 4% of all diesel technicians in all industries, according to a survey by the Women In Trucking Association and Freightwaves. Association President and CEO Ellen Voie said in an email that the cost of training and materials can be a barrier to entry, but a bigger problem may be that women don’t realize they are capable of being diesel technicians.

“As long as [employers] encouraging and supporting women in these roles, they can fill a need with an untapped demographic, ”Voie said.

The Technical Institute of Republic Services intends to extend its scope of training to existing technicians at different levels. “Whether they need to retrain, or if they need to go back and refresh themselves in any area, that can be determined largely by performance, as we do a lot of checks and balances. quality behind their repairs, ”Ross said. “So if we identify areas that they maybe need to fill a gap, we’ll train them to upgrade them as needed. And then the goal would be to continue advancing their knowledge throughout their career. Ross said the institute will look to expand these plans and curriculum over the next two years.

Part of this growth plan includes training technicians to work on electric trucks. Republic is one of the leading public waste management companies that has been more enthusiastic about testing electric garbage trucks in the short term and adopting them in the long term. Ross said the institute is designed in such a way that participants receive basic electrical training initially, and then can learn more advanced skills in the future. Beyond the Dallas-based apprenticeship program, the institute aims to “provide [ongoing training] for every technician who currently works for us, whatever their level, leading to electrification. “

Travis Büholtz, technical advisor to the Electrification Coalition, described a “chicken or egg” situation for companies in sectors considering electrification: they must think about training people to maintain electric vehicles as they seek to increase their fleet. “If there aren’t people deploying these vehicles, do we need technicians? But the flip side is if there are no technicians then I don’t want to buy these vehicles. “

“There is a lot of momentum towards electrification,” said Buholtz. “And I think the training of these technicians on both [diesel and electric] will attract more deployment of electric trucks because there will be a level of comfort knowing that these vehicles are going to be serviced. And then the two systems feed off of each other. “