Our critical craft shortage is growing worse every day. In addition to normal attrition, we have skilled craftsmen leaving for better working conditions and more pay. But today's panic situation is our shortage of new help. We are not attracting potential young craftsmen and are not retaining those who are willing to try. Here is a short list of our problems:
- Jobsite foremen who were never taught leadership skills.
- Lack of respect, discipline in public, breaking chain of command.
- Negative peer pressure, brown-nosing, company man, etc.
- Lack of proper tools and training.
- Common labor and grunt work.
- Low starting wages without merit increases.
Fortunately each and every contractor has access to a no-cost winning solution that we call the Green & Gold Program. America and Canada have millions of gold, retired, semi-retired and injured light-duty craftsmen who would be very appreciative for an opportunity to give something back to this great industry, where they earned a proud and respectful living.
Both nations also have millions of willing and capable green help who desperately need and want that invaluable wisdom and experience. How could anything this good not work? I would like to think that the only contractors who do not have a mentoring program are not reading my articles.
This is where I need your help. Rather than simply reading my generic advice, perhaps other contractors would be more likely to read your successful mentoring story and put it to work in their companies.
Keep in mind that you can also use any of your present employees to mentor a new employee or an employee being promoted or transferred to another position or responsibility. My Pap did this for me as well as our other employees, and naturally I continued the practice throughout my career. Back in those “good old days” we affectionately referred to our mentor as a Godfather or Dutch Uncle and called the program our buddy-up system. Both the mentor and the intern remained close friends for their entire lives.
As the family atmosphere almost disappeared in most construction companies during the 60s and 70s, I initiated my Green & Gold 90-day mentoring program with written goals and monitored results. This is a total win-win-win-win-win situation. Nobody loses!
1. The intern is the biggest winner, gaining all of that invaluable wisdom and experience on a fast-track schedule.
2. The mentor is proud and appreciative of the opportunity to give something back to this great industry.
3. Your customer wins by having skilled workmen doing his or her installations.
4. Our industry regains a proud and professional image that will attract all of our born-to-build craftsmen.
5. Can you even imagine how proud any contractor would be to brag about their mentors and interns?
- Company name, years in business, type of work, number of employees, your name.
- Mentor's name, age, experience, education, present status (retired, etc.).
2. Hours of involvement, compensation, cell phone.
3. Written goals, monitor sequence, time period.
1. Job scope, proper tools, transportation.
2. Hiring rate, sequence of raises.
3. After-hours training and education.
Both your mentor and intern will feel honored to help others establish a mentoring program.
My S.O.S./Mayday/dial 911 plea for help also goes out to any contractor who initiated a mentoring program that is not functioning properly or has failed. Any problem with your program has a very negative effect on the mentor, the intern, your company and especially on future recruiting. Your frustrations will discourage other contractors from providing this invaluable assistance for their green help.
Program Problems & SolutionsLet's look at some of the “rocks on the road” problems that my clients have encountered along with solutions we used to salvage their programs.
Problem No. 1: Recruiting retired and semi-retired mentors.
Solution: Always begin with former employees from your own company. This is critical for them, but also the best choice for you. Next you need to put a “payroll stuffer” note in all of your payroll checks to recruit employees' families and acquaintances.
The best place to recruit strangers is at any restaurant in your area that serves early morning breakfast. If they are not there, the owner or other patrons will tell you where to find them. Or, attend any little league-type sporting games in your area and casually talk with parents and grandparents about your Green & Gold mentoring opportunities.
Check with the plumbing sales clerk at your local DIY retail outlet. They might be interested for themselves and definitely know which of their customers are capable. Likewise with your local supply houses that dealt with these potential mentors before they retired.
Do not limit your search to one specific trade. Back in the good old days our craftsmen performed all skills at work and at home.
Retired union craftsmen should volunteer to mentor union apprentices to maintain harmony with work rules and their own pension status.
Problem No. 2: Lack of interest and effort from the intern. These retired craftsmen will not help someone who will not help himself or herself by missing work, coming late and not attending classes.
Solution: You need a set of ground rules that are written and clearly explained to each intern. You must keep score to let the mentor as well as the intern realize how they are progressing, You definitely need our database skill inventory with monthly audits to monitor their progress.
You can use piecework or our daily 6-8-10 productivity scoring system to emphasize the-more-you-do-the-more-you-make concept. In addition to motivating your intern, their bragging wages will entice other recruits into your program.
You can furnish, lend or help finance good tools that your mentor will show the interns how to use, sharpen and maintain. Proud craftsmen have good tools!
Hire common laborers or temporary manpower to perform menial tasks and grunt work. Webster's dictionary defines an intern as: “An advanced student in a professional field gaining supervised practical experience, (as in a hospital).” Keep this in mind and treat your interns as skilled craftsmen instead of helpers.
If you suspect a personality clash, you should re-assign both individuals as soon as possible.
When these solutions do not work, you need to give your intern a first and second notice and a chance to improve before you let him go.
Please help me help our great industry. Send me your stories so we can entice more contractors to go for the Green & Gold.