Getting involved with SkillsUSA is a great way to attract some of the best future mechanics. The organization hosts competitions (like the one shown above) where contestants show off their knowledge and skills. Photo: SkillsUSA

Studies prove that recognition is more important than pay in creating job satisfaction. Recognition based on competition and achievement is quite effective. Technician competitions are growing in popularity, as witnessed by the increases in entrants in the Technology and Maintenance Council's (TMC) annual Super-Tech skills and knowledge competition (

TMC has more than a dozen public works departments as members, from cities to state highway departments.

Qualification for SuperTech starts with a written test. Those who qualify to move on compete at 14 hands-on workstations during the two-day contest. Entrants may be selected through state trucking associations or large fleet competitions, but public works departments may enter employees directly through TMC. Entrants must be TMC members, but there are technician memberships available for as little as $100.

For the past few years, I've been privileged to be a juror for the Technician of the Year award, presented at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week and sponsored by Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC, Dayton Parts LLC, Haldex, Mahle GmbH, and SKF. To enter, a supervisor must fill out an extensive nomination form describing the contestant's work history, training, and contributions to his or her operation and community.

Not all recognition needs be on a national scale. You can create department wide competitions to motivate and recognize outstanding achievers. The best programs recognize everyone who participates, and award improvement as well as achievement.

By establishing recruiting, recognition, and motivation programs, you'll ensure that your equipment is properly maintained — and remains that way when other operations are scrambling to staff their shops.

— Paul Abelson ( is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association, a board member of Truck Writers of North America, and active in the Society of Automotive Engineers.