MRO Magazine

Need for training among industrial distributors surveyed by PTDA

Chicago, IL-- Industrial distributors agree there is a critical need for affordable, qualified, entry-level employe...

Human Resources

April 29, 2005
By MRO Magazine

Chicago, IL– Industrial distributors agree there is a critical need for affordable, qualified, entry-level employees, based on responses to a survey recently conducted by the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA) Foundation.

Of the 416 companies who responded to the Industrial Distribution Salesperson Survey, over three-quarters reported that finding qualified inside sales/customer service employees is an issue.

Respondents included distributors of electrical; gases and welding supplies; HVAC; hydraulics; industrial automation; maintenance and janitorial supplies; mill supplies; pipes, valves and fittings; plastics; pneumatics; power transmission/motion control; safety and security equipment; and other products.

Survey highlights included:


– 78% of all respondents report that finding qualified inside sales/customer service personnel is a challenge.

– Nearly 75% of all companies responded that they would recruit new employees from an industrial distribution program at the community college or technical school level.

– Over 65% said they would use such a program for current employee development.

– 62% of respondents indicted they did not have a defined career path for their inside sales/customer service representatives.

“As clearly demonstrated in the survey responses, all types of industrial distributors face the critical challenge of finding qualified, affordable, entry-level employees, said Mary Sue Lyon, executive vice-president of the PTDA Foundation.

Survey results validate the PTDA Foundation’s ongoing workforce development initiative. The Foundation has partnered with 18 associations that serve the distribution channel and one regional development organization to create the Industrial Careers Pathway (ICP) program.

Recognizing that most companies hire locally and that ensuring an ongoing supply of talented candidates requires local workforce development, the Foundation is working with community colleges, vocational and technical schools across the United States and Canada to teach the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in industrial distribution to potential and current employees.

With salaries for college graduates skyrocketing beyond the budgets of many companies, these educational institutions are an increasingly important source for new employees and a resource to provide low-cost continuing education for current employees.

The Foundation and its partners are working with school administrators and local employer Advisory Committees at community colleges in Cleveland, Ohio; Dearborn, Mich., and Omaha, Neb., to recruit students into recently developed programs. In 2005, the ICP also is working to establish five new collaboration sites in Philadelphia, Orlando and the Twin Cities, Minn., as well as Canadian sites near Toronto and Vancouver.

“The mandate of community colleges is to provide education and training needed by local employers to improve the economic development of the area the school serves,” said J. Craig McAtee, executive director, manufacturing and applied technologies at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. The ICP initiative helps meet an industry need and offers our students good career opportunities for the future.”

“Finding qualified candidates with the skills and knowledge our company needs has become increasingly difficult for us. Given the high degree of overlap in the required core knowledge and skills from one commodity specialization to another, [all distributors] will benefit from this initiative,” said Mark Steele, director of organizational development for Laird Plastics, and a member of the ICP Advisory Committee in Orlando.

The ICP curriculum directly addresses skill and training needs identified by survey respondents:

– When asked about desirable skills/knowledge for inside sales/customer service new hires, popular responses included customer service skills (99%); computer skills (96%); basic math (92%); product technology fundamentals (77%); and distribution operations basics (67%).

– 93% of distributors said that customer service skills are desired skills for outside sales/field sales new hires. Other commonly desired skills for the positions include product technology fundamentals (90%); phone skills (86%); basic math (85%); computer skills (85%); business writing (77%); and marketing principles (77%).

– 70% of respondents said that current inside sales/customer service employees would benefit from additional training in customer service skills. Sixty-five% indicated training would be beneficial in product technology fundamentals; computer skills (59%), phone skills (56%); distribution operations basics (52%); and marketing principles (51%).

– 69% of distributors said current outside sales/field sales employees would benefit from additional training in computer skills. 66% indicated training would be beneficial in marketing principles; business writing (61%); product technology fundamentals (56%); customer service skills (49%); and distribution operations basics (45%).

The PTDA Foundation, whose work is funded solely by donations, was founded in 1982 to enhance knowledge, education, professionalism and productivity within the power transmission/motion control (PT/MC) industry.

The Foundation’s core initiative, the Industrial Careers Pathway, is designed to recruit entry-level employees to the industrial distribution channel; develop programs to teach business, technical and distribution basics; and create affordable resources for current employee development.

The Foundation is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporation whose operations are funded entirely by tax-deductible contributions. Contributions are tax deductible to the full amount allowed by law.

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