Career tech: Career Advancement in the Skilled Trades
Nobody likes being stuck in the mud — especially when it comes to their career
Last month I began a short series that may help younger or newer workers in the plumbing industry realize a pathway for career advancement does exist. I shared with you a strategy for success that works at my company, Plumbing Doctor, specifically how we promote the ditch-digger who is stuck in the mud. Let’s continue the journey of our humble but invested digger.
The process starts out as a single seed that is planted. The seed of hope. I hope I can get out of the mud. Remember; the first step in the process is to advance from the mud to truck. The prospect does this by using his or her free time to ride along with our experienced technicians and learn from the best. They are becoming a plumber’s helper.
The next step for the “helper” is to advance from riding shotgun to driving the truck. This is a giant step. It means he or she knows how to talk the talk and walk the walk. There is much more to making this move than simply possessing the technical or mechanical know-how. Spinning the wrench in the right (or left) direction is the easy part of the process and it’s not even the most important thing.
The most important part of the candidates’ education is learning how to provide best practices to my client. In other words, a study in proper customer service skills. This process is time-consuming and requires an investment by both the company and the candidate.
In order for this strategy to work, it takes the investment of two parties, the candidate and the owner. It’s my observation that most owners will not make this investment. One possible reason is that they don’t know how to provide a career path; they’re too absorbed in the day-to-day operation of spinning the wrench themselves. This obstacle can and should be overcome by the wise entrepreneur. Today, I’m only going to address this issue and provide a solution.
As I stated last month, these deserving helper candidates are ambitious and see themselves working toward having a better future. Many employers overlook the visions and aspirations of their beginning and entry-level employees. I understand their vision. I was not always the company founder, writing columns for Reeves Journal — I started in the ditch with a vision.
Rather than suppressing good, hard working diggers, I encourage them to see a future within themselves and make an investment in themselves.
There have been many candidates who desired to advance from the shovel to the truck, but weren’t willing to invest their own time to make this happen. The expectation some had is, “the company should pay me for advancing,” paramount to the individual paying for their career education. I have had some guys expect me to pay them for this education, suggesting these studies be done while on the clock and not as homework. I have to decline and many get discouraged at this point, and that’s OK. Those candidates are either long gone or are still stuck in the mud.
Not only have I developed a hands-on the tools training system, but I have also developed a written curriculum. In order to provide the best pathway for a laborer to advance, things such as code compliance, proper terminology, safety and best practices in the field need to be taught. As an employer I am willing to invest in an individual who is willing to invest in themselves.
I have had guys successfully complete the curriculum and ride along program and gone on to enter the world of the service technician. One of them has since become our No. 1 technician, the top producer in the company and he has now set his sights on becoming a franchise owner. Another gentleman, part of our administrative staff who had no experience working in the trades, saw the advantages of being a technician and applied himself to our advancement program. He is now well on his way out of the office, into a truck and has a dream of someday owning his own Plumbing Doctor business, too.
I want to be clear, this doesn’t happen overnight. Our office help-turned-technician devoted himself to many hours of volunteer work in order to better his career position. This is not a quick fix or an entitlement program. It is a method of helping those who help themselves.
The reality is that it is very difficult for one to work themselves up in our industry. Therefore, we feel the draft of a revolving door. Someone coming into the trade as another is leaving.
When I am looking for the next owner of a franchise I choose not to look for established business people looking for a side project, I look within. My employees are not just technicians; they are potential business owners with limitless potential.
Not only will I train and provide a career path; I have offered to finance the schooling and prepare my guys to take their contractors license exam. Why would I do this?
I do this because I understand the principle of sowing and reaping. If I plant the seeds to grow a super plumber, my expectation is that when the seed matures, I will harvest a super plumber. As a franchisor I am proud and pleased to say that I’ve awarded a Plumbing Doctor franchise twice now, to former employees.
My many years in this industry have taught me that the most successful service technicians are the ones who are home grown.
Take a second look, whether you are in the mud or looking down at it, what do you see at the bottom of the hole? It’s probably a seed.
The Doctor Is Out.