The solution to the nationwide skills shortage in the trades
Grow your own.
When speaking with Nexstar members about their recruiting challenges, I advise them to play the long game. This means two things:
- Always be recruiting, even when you’re not hiring; and
- Recruit apprentices and teach them the trades.
Playing the long game has many advantages.
When you’re always recruiting, you’re creating a network of candidates to hire anytime you need to. This allows you to be picky with your hiring decisions. You won’t be hiring people simply because they can turn a wrench, you’ll be hiring people who can turn a wrench and fit your culture. These employees are likely to stay at your company longer. Higher employee retention means you won’t have to hire and train as often. See how this works?
Hiring apprentices benefits you in two ways. First, they’re more likely to stay with you because you’re taking a chance on them and investing in them by teaching them both a trade and your system for serving customers. Second, your recruiting will get easier because you’re hiring for just one role. You’re looking for personality here, which can’t be trained. Job training will follow.
A story and a lesson
Here’s a personal story to illustrate:
Toward the end of my time in college, I decided I wanted to get into the HR/recruiting profession. After graduation, I began actively searching for a full-time HR job and networking for contacts. I had no prior experience and had only a few naive ideas on a theoretical level what the HR profession is.
I soon landed an interview with a small candle manufacturing/wholesale company for their vacant HR role. I wore my best suit and turned on the charm. I nailed the interview and, despite my lack of experience, was offered the job. Was I in over my head? You bet I was. I was the sole HR person for a 200-plus employee organization.
The managers who hired me saw my potential and believed I could grow into the position and develop beyond it. I had a challenging start to say the least because there was no onboarding or training to ease me into the job. I was thrown into the deep end and wasn’t sure I could swim. But I figured it out.
Fourteen years later, with a successful HR career under my belt, here I am, the recruiting and retention coach at Nexstar Network. That small manufacturing company took a chance. They opened the door for me to launch my career and I took full advantage of it. I will always be grateful to them for that opportunity.
I share this story to illuminate the point that the quickest and most effective way to eliminate the industry skills shortage is to take a chance and hire entry-level people with the potential to be successful. In other words, hire for potential and character, then teach the rest.
Here’s what to do
First, post an apprentice job description on job boards and on the careers page on your website. (You do have a career page, right? If not, let’s fix that right away). Because this is a “no experience necessary” kind of job, you’ll likely receive a lot of applications, which is great.
Invite those applicants to your shop to attend a morning meeting with all your technicians. Do this regardless of whether you’re officially hiring or not. You’ll quickly find out who’s genuinely interested. They’re the ones that will show up for this meeting. Take this opportunity to make a lasting first impression as a great place to work. Take them on a tour and spend some time briefly interviewing them. These potential employees should come away so impressed with you that they’ll refer others. What a great way to create a pool of candidates! It’s a win/win.
Host these events on a consistent basis. If you meet someone who has the potential you’re looking for, continue with the interview process. Those you hire should be given a thoughtful and complete onboarding experience. Effectively onboarding and training apprentices is crucial to success. In fact, studies show that effective employee onboarding and training positively affects employee retention and productivity.
The onboarding period must be viewed as an opportunity to provide the new employee with a roadmap to success in your organization. Introduce them to other members of the team. Spend time sharing your company history, mission and values, and how their success will contribute to the success of the business. Then close that loop by explaining how the more successful your company is, the more they’ll benefit.
Share the expectations of the job and make sure they understand them. Take them to lunch with a few other employees to ensure they feel welcome. Then comes the formal training process. For example, send them on ride-alongs and begin teaching them basic principles.
The solution to the skills shortage lies with us. Never stop recruiting, and acknowledge and take responsibility for your recruiting efforts by hiring and training people who have the potential to be successful. There’s a talented pool of people out there; they just need to be given the opportunity to prove themselves. Like me, they’ll be grateful you took a chance on them by facilitating the start of an awesome career. RJ 2.0