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For years, the plumbing industry has been plagued by a labor shortage and a growing skills gap as the older generation retires and the profession struggles to attract young people into the workforce. However, the tides may be turning.

In last month’s column, I discussed how various media outlets have recently reported surges in vocational training programs backed by industry associations’ data on their own apprenticeship programs. This resurgence of interest in the skilled trades presents an opportunity for plumbing and HVAC contractors to grow their teams and strengthen their companies for the future.

Attracting the next generation is only half the battle, however. Once you have them on staff, you must keep them! Employee retention is just as important as recruitment. One of the most effective strategies to keep younger employees engaged and committed to the company is through recognition.

Recognition plays a crucial role in boosting employee morale. When young employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. A study by Gallup found that employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year. Regular acknowledgment of their efforts reinforces their value to the organization, leading to increased job satisfaction and loyalty.

A culture of recognition also promotes a supportive and inclusive workplace. Younger employees thrive in environments where they feel respected and part of a team. Public recognition, such as awards or shout-outs during meetings, not only boosts the recipient’s morale but also sets a standard for the entire organization, encouraging others to follow suit. Recognition can be a powerful tool for highlighting individual strengths and encouraging career development.

In 2022, BNP Media’s Plumbing Group, consisting of Plumbing & Mechanical, PM Engineer and Supply House Times, created a contest to recognize the outstanding work done by the industry’s young guns. After a warm industry reception, we decided to make this an annual contest to recognize 20 young guns within the plumbing industry. Check out last year’s Next Gen All Star Top 20 Under 40 contest winners. Nominations for our 2024 list of All Stars is now open and will remain open until June 28.

Who can be nominated?

Any professional working in any aspect of the plumbing industry, including plumbers and pipefitters, contracting business owners, professional engineers and plumbing designers, wholesalers, manufacturers and manufacturers reps.

How to nominate a Next Gen All Star:

Please fill out our nomination form at All winners will be profiled in upcoming editions of Plumbing & Mechanical, PM Engineer and Supply House Times. The deadline to submit nominations is June 28.

Questions? Please contact me at