Chapter Corner

Use Non-Traditional Sources for Developing Your Labor Force

Posted in: Features, July 2013

Insights_ElecWkr.gifMuch 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.

  1. Your employees act as a cost effective quality check.
  2. Your employees choose people whom they feel they can work with.
  3. Your employees know the job requirements.
  4. 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.

Additionally, testimonials can be one of the most effective tools. Show potential employees the winners of the IEC National Apprentice Short Story Contest. This is a beautiful example of drawing an honest response from someone who never considered joining the trades.

Take the restrictor plates off and let your imagination fly. The sooner you admit that not everyone is going to be like you, the sooner your recruiting efforts will prosper as you fill the people needs of your company.

Ok, so you have a few non-traditional sources to pursue. You did not break the bank with an expensive mailing program nor did you blow your limited resources on a few TV or cable programs. The money you saved can be put to good use in your employee referral program or a scholarship for needy students.

Here’s the trick. You have to let everyone know what good things you are doing to make this a better world. Otherwise, all your efforts to stir up the pot go for naught. Meet with the other trades you are familiar with. For example, team up with the HVAC contractor, the plumber, the roofing contractor, and anyone else who calls on the same type of customers you deal with.

Develop a newsletter highlighting the trades and their capabilities. Sponsor soccer teams, people like their neighbors to be a part of their community. Make your company a positive presence in the area.

And finally, without blowing your horn, let the public know there are some high paying, career advancing well positioned jobs available that do not need a college degree. The more you spread the word, the stronger your workforce will be.

Jim Booth has written and published a business management tool for hiring employees called, “The Art Of Recruiting, Interviewing, Hiring and Keeping Key Employees”. This 130 page book is written for anyone who has the job of Human Resource Manager. You can reach Jim at (800) 243-6919 or email him at