- Features | August 7, 2013
Use Non-Traditional Sources for Developing Your Labor Force
Much has been written about the potential shortage of skilled electricians, HVAC technicians, and plumbers. How did this happen? It is not like the service trades have not been doing their best to build a system that will turn out skilled employees; a visit to any IEC chapter will illustrate this statement. There you will find quality training programs in place, the latest equipment for training and a knowledgeable staff to support the apprentice throughout the program.
There are a multitude of reasons for this possible shortage. Strong economies throughout the 20th and 21st centuries have demanded more skilled labor to handle all the technological advances being made. In the past, we were told that the new inventions would take away the need for a human being to work on the machine, the worker would be obsolete – Just the opposite has occurred.
As an example, look at the many jobs that have sprung out of the digital revolution. Before the Space Age was a reality, you did not find cellular phones, iPads, and other marvelous inventions at affordable prices. You could purchase a new calculator for hundreds of dollars. Today you can get a variation of that calculator in your box of cereal.
Another reason for the shortage has to do with marketing a product. The product is the college degree and how it has been drummed into our heads that unless you have a college education, you were not going to make as much money as the man or woman studying for four to five years after graduating from high school.
College administrators may have things going their way right now, but I firmly believe more high school graduates will turn to the trades in the near future for employment opportunities because of the potential for higher wages and educational opportunities. An electrician earning $25 an hour can earn $52,000 a year. Add benefits, training allowances, bonuses, health insurance, stock options and the potential to grow make it hard to turn down a job.
The third and fourth reasons for a shortage of skilled labor deal with marketing principles. The trades have not done a very good job of informing the public about the many job offerings in the typical contractor's business. I don't see the trades advertising for the industry like they do for an individual company. This needs to be a joint effort on everyone's part.
Let’s eliminate a few traditional sources of advertising for a career in the trades.
- Newspaper ads
- State employment agencies
- Supply House Boards
- Recruiting agencies and ‘head hunters’
- Radio and television
- Layoffs and plant closings
- Job lead organizations
- Alumni associations
Every marketing tool you use should advertise a company’s workers to promote a career in the trades. This includes everything from business cards, invoices, proposal forms, and referral cards to your service vans.
Employee Referral Plans encourage employees to identify friends who could fit into the company. There are at least four advantages to offering this plan to your employees.
- Your employees act as a cost effective quality check.
- Your employees choose people whom they feel they can work with.
- Your employees know the job requirements.
- The employees have a financial incentive to make the new hire work for all parties.
Listen for stories of “Great Customer Service.” You are looking for the person who genuinely likes people and who enjoy their job. Aptitude can be learned while attitude is something with which you are born.
Military Employment Programs provide a person who is trained, disciplined and has been screened for drugs, alcohol, and criminal background.
A good way to attract people to the industry is to host an industry networking session. Here you can distribute a “Corporate Recruiting Brochure” which describes your company and the many benefits available. This brochure also describes what is expected from the employee.