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How to REALLY Solve the Trade Labor Shortage

In Partnership with Moen

You’re only as good as the team you hire, especially when an angry customer needs a serious leak fixed ASAP. It can be increasingly difficult to find the right team, though. As a plumber, you know all about the skilled labor shortage that is plaguing the trade industry. You’re constantly overbooked, having to turn down jobs, or looking for an extra hand. Schools push college as the only option to make a living, and today’s young people look down on joining the trades. As a result, we’re seeing the plumbing population age faster than a copper pipe full of hard water. If only they knew that master plumbers can make six figures.

How bad is it?

Moen and SUPPLY.com are here to help! SUPPLY.com has grown exponentially over the past few years, so we got with our Recruiting Specialist, Will Dillard, for his pro tips on how to reach the people you need to hire.

recruiting talent skilled trades
SUPPLY.com Recruiting Specialist Will Dillard is here to help with tips on how to recruit top talent.

Sell Benefits of the Trade

You like your job, right? It’s hard work, and the daily grind can be grueling, but you sleep at night knowing that what you’re doing really matters and always pays the bills. Your potential employees don’t feel this way and don’t know what a great option plumbing is. They are out there struggling to pay for biology books they don’t want, thinking college is the only way to make money. Or they’re working paycheck to paycheck at Chili’s, hoping their weekend tips will give them just a bit of security money. You need to let them know what they’re missing out on – sell recruits on all the plumber’s perks that come with the job. Below we break down top reasons to be a plumber and how to communicate these benefits to potential employees.

Benefit: Major Savings

If someone is just starting out in their career, they can save by going to trade school instead of university and pay off their education three times as fast.This article from The Simple Dollar breaks down cost and salary of trade school and college, and highlights why trade school may be the best option (see graphic below). Instead of juggling a part-time job with classes and taking out gobs of student loans, a plumbing apprentice can get paid as they learn.

Hiring Tip: Show Them the Money

Mention the pay-off of plumbing in your recruiting material! An applicant may hear the initial annual rage and see it as average, not knowing how much seasoned plumbers make (remember that master plumber salary?) or thinking through the years worth of money they’re saving by entering a trade. Also mention that becoming a plumber is much less risky than paying for a Bachelor’s degree that may not even result in a relevant job.

Benefit: Something Different Everyday

Plumbing provides variety. You’re always on a new jobsite or at a new home, faced with a brand-new challenge. According to the Gallup report “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” the youngest (and largest) generation is the least engaged at work and wants a job that feels worthwhile. Plumbing is the key to the life they’re longing for.

Hiring Tip: Bring Them Along on a Job

Present plumbing as the adventure it is. Suggest meeting up in person with interested applicants and bring them with you on a job. This is a great way to show them the different tasks you’re working on and that there’s never a boring moment. If you don’t have any applicants ready to hop in your truck yet, make a fun video of your workday and share it with your job posting.

“Most industries try very hard to increase the variety of work that employees experience, as avoiding that drone-like lever-pulling sensation is key to retention. Plumbers and contractors are very lucky to be in a field where that sense of variety doesn’t need to be simulated within their workforce.” – Will Dillard

Benefit: No “9 to 5” Setting

Plumbing allows you to stay on your feet and move around throughout the day. Aside from the variety of settings and skills we already mentioned, you get to be physically active as a plumber. Physical activity makes people happier and healthier, something a generation addicted to computers is craving.

Hiring Tip: Work the Workout Angle

Advertise physical activity as one of the perks of the job. Office jobs often offer discounted gym memberships as a bonus (including SUPPLY.com!). Plumbers don’t need to pay for a gym or exercise after work, because they’re already active on the job. While there may be weekend or night hours depending on the company, plumbers needn’t worry about sitting in one place for eight hours a day.

“You don’t have to look very hard to find evidence of the harm that a sedentary work lifestyle can do you. Most plumbers would break a Fitbit with the amount of movement that they experience in a day, and tons of studies suggest that a day filled with movement and activity feels as if it goes by faster.” – Will Dillard

Recruiting Tactics

Now that you have all the benefits down, it’s time to talk strategy. It doesn’t matter how great the job is or how much you believe in the trade if you don’t reach the right people. You need to know where to look for recruits and how you’re going to sell them not only the trade, but on working for you.

Advertise Everywhere

If you’re looking to hire someone right now, you’re going to need to get aggressive in your recruiting strategies. Use as many mediums as possible – stop by supply counters, use social media, post on job forums, and pay for online advertising. Write captivating job descriptions that mention the benefits listed at the beginning of this article. We love the strategy behind this video from Bonfe, an exceptional HVAC company that services St. Paul and Minneapolis – they do a great job of selling their business as a place that anyone would want to work.

Bonfe, a Minnesota HVAC company, has an excellent recruiting strategy.

Build a Network

Present in schools, community colleges, and at local career fairs. Military & Veteran recruiting is another huge opportunity – many men and women need a new direction after leaving the service and look to the trades. Find where your potential employees are hanging out socially – the gym, the local diner – and visit those places.

As a whole, the industry needs more people fresh out of high school who want a long-term career in plumbing. But another important approach to consider is meeting those who are already licensed. A plumber who is unhappy with their current employment situation may leave the trade entirely – this is an opportunity for you to show them how great it is to work at your company.

“You’ve got to go where they are. We have a strategy session to determine the most effective area to attack for each position, and it’s critical to work your own network- chances are you’re not very far removed from someone who can do the job and do it well.” – Will Dillard

Show Off Your Company Perks

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of plumbing, but if you’re going to entice candidates, you will also need to show off the benefits of your own company. Practical benefits like health insurance are always going to draw employees, and in 2019 it’s becoming increasingly necessary to have “fun” perks (read: trips to Hawaii). Think ping pong tables, vacation time, social events – plumbing can get stressful, so letting recruits know that you care about your employees will put you above your competitors.

recruiting plumbers
We love to give recruits a tour of the office and show them our many perks in person.
Gatherings like game nights and happy hours are a big hit with everyone at SUPPLY.com!

“It’s not really real until they show up – until they’re able to see with their own eyes what you’ve told them about, and meet the people who are currently doing the job they’d be doing. Your best recruiting tool is the satisfied current employee, don’t be afraid to use them.”
Will Dillard

Why take our advice?

We may not be trade pros, but we’re definitely hiring pros. Check out a few quick stats below on how much we’ve grown our team at SUPPLY.com.

“The conversation around skilled trade professions needs to be reframed to highlight their strong income-earning potential and vast entrepreneurial opportunities. Skilled jobs can no longer be viewed as “back-up options.”

At Moen, we’re here to celebrate the Pro – honoring the heritage of the position and helping to build a promising future for current pros as well as the next generation.” – Tammy Howard, Moen Pro Channel Marketing Manager

Now that you have all the ammo you need, start hiring young folks before another older plumber hangs up his hard hat. You’re already working hard and putting in extra hours – it may be difficult to squeeze in time for recruiting, but it will absolutely pay off. If you can, consider hiring someone just for this purpose.  It’s crucial that young people see the light and start applying for skilled trade jobs again – technology may be more advanced than ever before, but until we have a full fleet of plumbing robots, we’ll always need our tradesmen and women!

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