A Flip Side Of The Skilled Labor Shortage

In these blogs, I frequently detail the nationwide shortage of skilled trade workers. However, I ought to make it clear that not every trade employer faces that dilemma. I’ve spoken to quite a few trade employers who tell me they have no trouble filling their jobs and are happy with the people they hire.

Who are these people and why do they avoid the problems that plague so many others when it comes to recruiting and hiring skilled trade workers? A few common themes emerge.

First, most of these successful trade employers operate service businesses rather than construction companies. The type of people they hire must have pleasant personalities along with technical skills. In fact, many of them are on the lookout for service workers from other industries, like restaurant servers or retail salespeople. A refrain I hear time after time is that as long as a recruit has good mechanical aptitude, that person can be trained to be a plumber/HVAC technician/electrician in a reasonable time frame. But employers can’t perform a personality transplant.

A second common theme of successful trade employers is they prefer to train skilled trade workers from the ground up. Often when they hire someone with years of experience, that person is set in his/her ways and cannot adapt to modern methods. A typical example: some trade workers only like to install products they’ve worked with for years and are familiar with, even though newer products offer more features and benefits. Training a raw novice means an employer doesn’t have to “untrain” a bunch of bad habits.

Another characteristic of successful trade employers is that they are ALWAYS recruiting. Rather than wait until someone leaves, they nurture new talent along in a way that increases business in the long run. A trainee may ride along with an experienced technician for a certain amount of time, but eventually that person will be assigned his/her own service vehicle and thereby expand the area covered and company revenues.

Finally, and this is obvious, employers who have no trouble hiring and retaining top-notch people must be willing to offer top-notch pay and benefits. Many skilled trade workers change jobs at a dizzy pace for an extra buck an hour. Many top employers offer what’s referred to as “performance pay,” i.e., the more revenue you bring in for the business, the more you get to keep for yourself.

To summarize, as you explore the trades don’t look for run-of-the-mill companies to work for. As the saying goes, it’s hard to soar with eagles when you flock with turkeys.