Using temp agencies as a labor resource.

Although it may be quite painful and frustrating, you should keep a realistic scorecard on your out-of-pocket costs related to our skilled craft shortage. We all have seen the false shortage rip-offs that suppliers are using this year to double their prices on materials, metal studs, drywall, concrete, etc. As soon as they get the prices up, those shortages will seem to disappear. Our skilled labor shortage is not fictitious, but it is definitely resolvable.

Unfortunately, our contractors are not as well organized to take advantage of our skilled labor shortage and double their wages. Maybe this will happen before we solve this labor crisis. In any case, you will need to raise your wages enough for every employee to retain the pride, prestige and respect that is so critical to a craftsman.

Regardless of your size or the type of work you perform, you should consider how much money each of these critical items is costing:

    1. Recruiting - Valuable employee time and company money spent looking for skilled craftsmen, as well as willing learners.

    2. Training - On-the-job and after-hour training expenses.

    3. Lack of production - Not meeting critical schedules or critical labor budgets.

    4. Poor quality workmanship.

    5. Turnover - Losing good craftsmen is very costly, but losing your skilled foremen and supervisors is horrendous.

You certainly should analyze these costs and make every attempt to plug the holes.

All of this takes time and many of you are desperately looking for enough help right now to keep your jobs on schedule. Fortunately, there is a viable, realistic and quick solution, if you're willing to get involved in team building, in the people business.

Interns Vs. Apprentices: We are presently working with temporary employment agencies to supply you with certified and skilled techs that will produce quality workmanship and keep your projects ahead of critical path schedules - and under tight labor budgets.

We call this our Volunteer Intern Partnering program for several reasons. VIP is a catchy acronym that most people use for "Very Important Person." I'm sure you agree that every individual involved in our great construction industry is very important and deserves to be treated and respected as such.

Volunteer means giving something above and beyond the call of duty. Our volunteers include: temporary employment agencies and their employees; contractors and their employees; retired, semi-retired and light-duty craftsmen willing to give something back; tool and equipment rental agencies; manufacturers and suppliers; and DIY retail outlets.

Possibly the most critical word in this entire program is intern. An internship is a very professional portion of a doctor's training where the intern is actually practicing medicine and completing doctor's duties. Interns are not helpers and do not do grunt labor or menial tasks, unlike our traditional so-called "indentured apprentices."

Webster's dictionary defines partner as one that shares; one associated with another in an action. That is exactly what this program needs to be successful for everyone involved.

This is not a miracle cure, but we need that willing cooperative effort by these VIPs:

  • The temporary employment agency must provide reliable employees who want to learn and advance to eliminate that negative "rent-a-bum" stigma.

  • The agency employee must be on-time, every time with a positive attitude and work ethic.

  • The contractor must cooperate by sharing job schedules to provide ample lead time for training and certification, as well as sharing jobsite and prefab training facilities.

  • The contractor's employee must accept this "intern training" concept to bypass the traditional on-the-job-training helper and grunt duties. Each employee will present a "Q" card for their jobsite supervisor to keep score on both quality and quantity produced each day. This performance record will be available to that employee as well as to the employers.

  • We need a combined all-out effort to recruit retired, semi-retired and light-duty skilled craftsmen as mentors. Both the United States and Canada have thousands of these talented individuals who would be flattered to have the opportunity to give something back to our great industry. As you know, we also have far more thousands of ambitious employees who desperately need and want that invaluable wisdom and know-how.

  • Most manufacturers and suppliers are very willing to help train your employees to properly and efficiently use or install their products at your site and also on their premises. Most likely they also can provide you with how-to videos or DVDs for ongoing training at your facilities or at the employee's home.

    Remember To Keep Score

    Of course, this entire VIP concept requires the continual, data-based scorekeeping documentation of each employee's progress with your database skills inventory. You must emphasize his or her accomplishment of individual tasks rather than using those traditional frustrating and all-encompassing trade classifications, such as carpenter, plumber, pipefitter, bricklayer, electrician, etc.

    America has millions of willing and able potential employees who have performed specific skilled tasks that should be recognized and recorded: volunteers who build Habitat for Humanity-type homes; Amish barn-building (helping friends); moonlighters who work after hours for extra income; and do-it-yourselfers who are taught by the staff at retail DIY outlets.

    These individuals should never be classified as semi-skilled but identified as skilled technicians for specific tasks.

    Identifying and recognizing the pride and prestige of each VIPs Certified Tech classification also wipes out the frustrating "years of experience" qualification. If your VIP can perform that single task to your expectations, he or she will also be able to learn and accomplish other tasks as needed.

    Above all else, this VIP concept is not just for resolving our critical skilled craft crisis. This should be your ongoing skilled labor resource. Temporary employment agencies are in the recruiting business and have a continual supply of willing workers. This allows you to add necessary manpower for emergency situations without worrying about keeping them employed. And the typical temporary employment agency pays a much smaller premium for worker's comp and fringe benefits.

    This entire concept coincides with our "Make More in '04 - Keep Score" theme.