Chapter Corner

How to Recruit the Next Generation

Posted in: Features, January/February 2018

Insights_recruitment 18.jpgMany companies are having difficulties recruiting and hiring skilled tradespeople in today’s market. Much of this is due to the “skills gap,” the gap between candidates’ skills/training and the requirements for certain jobs. Unfortunately, it’s a serious problem that shows few signs of improving. According to SkillsUSA, a national organization that provides career and technical education to more than 360,000 high school and college students, there are 5.6 million unfilled skilled jobs today. Of those jobs, 75 percent don’t require a four-year degree. That’s more than 4 million open U.S. jobs that do not require a traditional college education!
Even with SkillsUSA and other programs addressing the skills gap, America needs to work on changing the perception of the skilled trades. As a country, we’re discouraging younger generations from considering careers in the trades. Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors are urging students to take the traditional, four year degree path and failing to provide information on careers in the trades.
This decades-old guidance has left many industries unable to find qualified individuals, and the problem continues to grow. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reports that nearly 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs likely will be created over the next decade, 2 million of which are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap. At the same time, demand for housing construction and other industries also will continue to increase. If we cannot fill these positions with skilled workers now, businesses and homeowners will see more delayed projects and higher home prices.
To avoid serious consequences, businesses affected by the skills gap must step up and help recruit the next generation into the skilled trades. Attention-grabbing job descriptions, campaigns, internships, and apprentice programs will help us to encourage younger generations to experience the job flexibility, potentially high wages, and the opportunity for creativity and pride of ownership that comes with a career in the trades.

Businesses that provide skilled jobs need to adjust their strategies to connect better with Millennials and Generation Z, while emphasizing how successful a job in the trades can be. With social media still driving much of the news and other information that younger generations see, it’s a natural platform to run campaigns that introduce young minds to the trades. The breadth of what companies can share on social media, from industry articles to real-life stories of employees’ experiences and job postings, can inspire the next wave of skilled workers in any market. Not only does the information reach a large audience, but it also targets the right audience – your potential recruits.
In 2017, Klein Tools developed a successful video campaign that recognized tradespeople throughout the country who transform America’s most iconic places and events into something exciting and magical. The “Tools that Power America’s Passion” video series went behind the scenes to show the world the hard work that electricians do to create unforgettable experiences for the masses, like rocking out to a favorite live band, cheering on a high school football team under the Friday night lights, or watching the parade of lights on Bourbon Street. By highlighting the critical ways that electricians and other tradespeople contribute to unique events around the country, we were able to create a new appreciation for the careers, skills, and tools that power America’s passions. 
Klein Tools isn’t stopping there, however. This year, we are helping to promote the skilled trades from a different angle by featuring our own machinists and other skilled tradespeople in our U.S. facilities on social media. We’ll learn about why our team members chose a career in the trades and what they love most about their jobs. This will showcase real tradespeople who are succeeding in the American manufacturing industry and enjoying their careers. Sharing this information on social media will allow Millennials and Generation Z to discover relatable stories about the benefits of a career in the trades.

Studies show that technical and vocational programs in schools increase student engagement and keep students interested in school. Unfortunately, many schools have eliminated vocational education programs, so it’s up to businesses to partner with local high schools, trade schools, or workforces to allow students to explore careers in the trades. Internships, apprentice programs, summer jobs, and co-op study opportunities provide students and the next generation with real world, on-the-job experiences so they can experience the trades firsthand.
Through these education programs, businesses are able to recruit talent and find future tradespeople who have a passion for the industry, but may lack the honed skills required for the trade. By providing on-the-job training for recruits, businesses can offer all the necessary skills the student will need for a successful career. The necessary skills still require the necessary tools, however. That’s why Klein Tools is a Platinum Partner with Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) to provide tool endowments and ensure students and apprentices receive the tools they need when learning their trade. In the big-box channel, Klein Tools also has an exclusive relationship with The Home Depot, IEC’s official retailer of electrical tools and supplies.
Recruiting through educational experiences happens often at Klein Tools and allows us to find associates who are not only passionate about their work, but also appreciate the company’s values on a fundamental level. All businesses can offer these experiences to this tenacious group of students and recruit young talent that are a perfect fit for the industry and the company.
Dylan Deen, of Mansfield, TX, now a L3 machinist at Klein Tools, is a perfect example of how valuable internships are to recruiting a new generation. Dylan interned at Klein Tools through a partnership with his high school and the local workforce center, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, TX. Through the Career Technical program at Dylan’s high school, Mansfield High School, which allows students to complete core coursework at the beginning of the day and intern at various companies in the afternoon, Dylan was able to learn a skilled
trade and find his passion for machining.
“I learned the most during my internship with Klein Tools,” said Dylan. “Everyone was so friendly and helpful.”
Because of his internship experience, Dylan applied for a job at Klein Tools after he graduated, and he has now been with our company for over two and a half years. His goal is to continue to move up within Klein Tools and learn how to run more machines while learning more about the industry.

Understanding how to change the perception of the trades is just one battle businesses need to fight. As we continue to change decades-old traditions, we also need to reach out to the next generations and show how fulfilling and lucrative a career in the trades can be. Social media campaigns, education, and on-the-job training all can help businesses employ the most passionate tradespeople, who have a love for the industry and the company that provided them with the skills and training they needed to be successful.
Mark Klein is co-president of Klein Tools and oversees the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, customer service and new product development. He also leads strategic sales in the U.S. and Canada, as well as leading Klein Tools’ UK and European businesses. Mark has played a significant role in six consecutive years of record growth, bringing to market new sales channels and never before seen tool innovations. Mark is passionate about advancing the electrical industry and attracting new people to the field. Through his leadership, Klein Tools has created programs like the annual State of the Industry survey and the Electrician of the Year award.