Friday, February 21, 2014

Why can't I find young Technicians?

As I meet with clients I am hearing how hard it is to find young Technicians in plumbing, HVAC, or electrical service companies. Their advertising for new Technicians goes without much in the way of success. With unemployment high, especially for young adults, you would think there would be a significant number of applicants for entry level or helper type positions. It just does not seem to be. Let’s look at some of the reasons this is the case.

High School Counselors
Hiring Young Technicians for Plumbing, HVAC, and electrical
Without a lot of exposure to the opportunities for highly skilled service technicians, the long-term career opportunities, and the monetary rewards, many counselors are not showing students the careers available with firms that provide service in our fields. Successful students are pushed toward four year (or more) college degrees and jobs that relate to those degrees. Students often end up with a degree, no job, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt in their early twenties. Those students with little motivation or poor grades are directed to a whole variety of various trades and jobs. With the complexities in our industry today, we need successful students with great educational backgrounds.

Those Leaving the Military
Many younger Americans join the military when they graduate from high school. They mature
Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Electrical Service Companies
and gain training in the military that could be applicable to our businesses. They learn how to use tools, computers, understand technical manuals, and many other skills. They leave the military with their
GI education benefits but we have few opportunities for them to use them in our service industry. Instead, they are actively recruited into other skilled labor industries such as aircraft maintenance, automobile repair, and computer repair. There are schools specifically setup and operating to train young veterans in these fields. These fields also have a lot of pizazz which we lack or we lack conveying it to veterans.

Drugs, Driving Records, and Records
Bergstrom - Elder Consulting Group
My experience has been that a third to a half of those who apply for an entry level position cannot pass a pre-employment drug test.  Many young applicants have serious driving violations which are not acceptable to insurance companies. Since we work in customer’s homes or place of business and employees must be able to drive our vehicles, the legal liability is too great to for a business to take the risk and hire them. Lastly, some come in with criminal records. This can present business risk that most of us are unwilling to take on.

Weekends and Nights
Many young job candidates are not willing to do whatever it takes to continue in our field. They
want evening and weekends free for their own pursuits and not burdened with on call during these times. They will pursue jobs that don’t require interruption of their personal life.

Instant Gratification
Many young prospects are not willing to put in the years and the energy to gain the knowledge necessary to service the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or electrical in  homes and businesses. They can conquer the skills needed to flip burgers in a few hours. They can learn to do a lot of less skilled jobs in a few days or weeks.

No in house training or career plan
Bergstrom - Elder Consulting Group
Few contractors have developed any type of in house training program for the future of their business. They look for Technicians who already possess the technical and customer service skills necessary to meet customer needs. There is no career plan so a young prospect can see where they can advance and have a career not just an entry level job. All the young prospect can see is 20+ years doing exactly the same thing day in and day out. The old adage, "What's in it for me" still rings true in young people. 

We think of competition, we think of other businesses in our fields. Sure
they are some of your competitors for young workers but businesses outside of our field are much bigger competition. Young people with skills are being hired by school systems, maintenance companies, chain stores, building owners, manufacturing companies, and even unrelated services and products industries.

Stay Tuned

Stand tuned for the next article on some ideas to overcome some of the issues listed above.

Dan has been in the service industry for nearly 50 years. He has operated a large plumbing, heating and air conditioning service company and for the past 12 years has helped small companies in the service business to grow and prosper. Contact him at

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