Should you hire apprentices instead of journeymen and master plumbers? Some contractors are finding more long-term success by building their team from the ground up. Here are four reasons why you should consider hiring apprentices with no experience and training them.

1. You are not hiring another company’s bad habits

When you hire someone who has worked for another plumbing company, he knows their way of doing things, which may not be yours. If that is the case, you must break him from his bad habits before he learns the right way to do things. In short, the training period is lengthened because you must first un-train.

A bad habit is often a shortcut. You are asking people to do the right thing, not the easy thing. Once a person becomes accustomed to a shortcut, the right path becomes harder. In some cases, reform will be impossible and you either accept the bad habits or dismiss the plumber. If you accept the bad habits, sooner or later he will teach the bad habits to others in your company. If that happens, your training becomes that much harder and longer.

2. Apprentices learn your approach

An inexperienced apprentice is like a clean sheet of paper. You can write whatever you want on it. When you teach him your way to do things, that will be all he knows. Your way becomes the way. As you train more and more apprentices, and they advance to earning their own trucks, your training, your approach becomes reinforced by the team you have grown.

3. You can create a sales culture

Some plumbers have an aversion to selling. They see selling as something you do to people, not something you do for people. When you bring on an apprentice, there are no preconceived notions. They are open to offering choices and options. It becomes something you should do. They cannot imagine any other way.

This is selling in its simplest form. Some consumers will choose the lowest cost solutions and reject all options, but many will not. It doesn’t take many to choose to replace or upgrade rather than repair or many to select options to make a huge difference on the bottom line.

4. Apprentices can extend the career of senior plumbers

As plumbers age, the physical requirements of the job become more demanding. Many are unable to continue working in the field, which is a shame. Their knowledge is valuable. By assigning them an apprentice, you can extend their careers and continue to tap into their knowledge, which they are passing along to the apprentice.

An inexperienced apprentice is like a clean sheet of paper. You can write whatever you want on it. When you teach him your way to do things, that will be all he knows.

Hire for attitude

Three characteristics of people are “can do,” “how to,” and “want to.” It is critical for a plumber to have the “can do.” Can he do the work? Can he troubleshoot? Is he mechanically inclined? Does he have the aptitude necessary? You can identify aptitude from testing, but not everyone tests well. Because you can never be sure about “can do” until you see him with the tools, every apprentice hired is a crap shoot. Fortunately, those completely lacking in “can do” are unlikely to seek an apprentice position in the first place.

Most apprentices start with very little in the way of “how to.” This is the knowledge needed to do the job. It is your responsibility to teach the apprentice the “how to.” Pair him with the right plumber who will teach him on the job. Send him to manufacturer, distributor, and third-party training classes.

The “want to” represents desire. It is attitude. It cannot be trained. It cannot be imposed. It comes from within. Anyone with “want to” and “can do” can learn “how to.” Of the three, the most important variable is “want to.” Hire for “want to.” Hire for attitude.