Capital Region BOCES, industry leaders meet in roundtable to address dearth of heavy equipment technicians

ALBANY — Capital Region BOCES, area educators and industry leaders are digging into the mounting problem of a shortage of heavy equipment technicians and operators.

There will be as many as 73,500 vacant heavy equipment technician positions by 2025 nationally, according to an AED Foundation industry research report. The current job opening rate is three times greater than the national average across all industries, leading heavy equipment industry leaders clamoring for candidates who are trained and ready right out of school.

“The expectation is unrealistic for the education to be able to go through and develop a curriculum that meets every single person’s needs,” said Sean Fitzgerrel, Senior Director of Workforce and Industry Initiatives for the AED Foundation. “The role of education is to develop somebody that’s willing to work and to learn and to have a very basic knowledge and a foundation to move on to that next level.

Fitzgerrel facilitated a roundtable discussion between approximately 60 educators and industry leaders at the Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical Education Center – Albany Campus on Aug. 23. He travels the country to help pull schools and companies together. The focus of this gathering was to identify different opportunities for the heavy equipment/diesel industry to increase its workforce development activities in the state.

Two men, one in a red shirt and another in an off white shirt, speak at a roundtable discussion hosted by Capital Region BOCES.
Jerry Skiff, of Anderson Equipment, shared how his business will soon face a staffing shortage as a large number of his employees head towards retirement.

“We talked about all the different changes in equipment, the new technology that’s coming. And we heard today that the industry said, ‘Hey. What is education going to do about this?” Fitzgerrel said.

Presently, Capital Region BOCES offers two AEDF-accredited programs that prepare more than 100 high school students each year for work in the industry. The Diesel Technology and Heavy Equipment Operation, Maintenance & Repair programs earned the accreditations I 2020 in recognition of the programs’ “commitment to students and the development of the industry’s workforce.”

BOCES partners say the certification makes a big difference in terms of the education students receive.

“When hiring students that come from AED accredited programs, they generally bring a broader foundational knowledge related to our industry, and our prime candidates for hire,” said Jerry Skiff, director of service for Anderson Equipment Co. Anderson is a longtime supporter of BOCES and has worked with several current students and graduates.

Capital Region BOCES partners with more than 300 businesses, labor, education and professional organizations, such as Anderson Equipment, Abele Tractor & Equipment Co., SUNY Cobleskill and AEDF, to train students and prepare them for careers that exist now and those that will exist in the future.

The AEDF is the non-profit foundation for the Heavy Equipment industry and is the sister organization to Associated Equipment Distributors, the international trade association for equipment distributors, manufacturers, and service providers. The foundation also assists educational programs across the country with establishing industry-accredited curriculums, ensuring students enter the workforce with the right knowledge.

A bearded man in a grey polo speaks during a roundtable discussion hosted by Capital Region BOCES
Brian Pawelko, of Penske, was one of several partners who shared the various challenges faced by the heavy equipment industry, and how collaborations with educators could help.

Other ideas shared during the roundtable included invitations to “Career Days” that welcome employers into the schools to introduce students to those industries; offers to join a BOCES advisory board to inform educators of the latest trends and to offer advice; suggestions that companies offer scholarships and tuition reimbursement; and to consider formalizing an “Earn as you Learn” apprenticeship program.

Ryan Stewart, a 2018 graduate of BOCES and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, said he found his career path by attending the BOCES Automotive Services program. With the additional career fairs, he was able to narrow his choice down to Callanan Industries, Inc. in Albany.

“It really helped me to get into a trade because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in high school,” said Stewart. “I ended up picking auto trades because I was a big car kid, you know. And so I went to auto trades and it kind of just opened my eyes and broadened my horizons to actually getting into the industry.

“I’m happy with where I’m at,” he added. “I’m getting decent pay. I’m getting taken care of. I’m not really missing out, missing anything, so I’m happy.”

 Roundtable attendees said they appreciated the collaboration.

Brian Williams, Executive Director of the Capital Region Workforce Development Board and Board President of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP), said the event represented a perfect partnership of business and education stakeholders.

“The key to successful skills training programs is that they are built around the needs of business,” Williams said. “The roundtable Capital Region BOCES hosted for heavy-equipment operation and diesel mechanical skills brought together educators and industry leaders to build on training programs that ensure that individuals have the skills businesses need in today’s labor market.”

Nancy Liddle, BOCES Managing Program Coordinator – Business and Community Partnerships, said BOCES is proud to work with the AED Foundation and businesses to help them solve their workforce needs while helping students pursue their passion.

“We are committed to preparing students and enabling them to pursue their dreams into high demand, high reward positions while also meeting the needs of our business, education and labor partners,” she said.

For more information on business partnerships, visit

About Capital Region BOCES

The Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is the sixth-largest BOCES in New York state, and delivers more than 300 educational and administrative services to its 24 component school districts. Combined, these districts educate more than 80,000 students in the Albany, Schoharie, Schenectady and Saratoga counties of New York state. In addition, Capital Region BOCES provides several services to more than 150 school districts outside of the Capital Region. For more information, visit