This New Year’s, resolve to share the satisfaction of working in this industry to those around you.

Most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten before the end of January, but this one should last all year. Our skilled labor shortage is already critical, but getting worse, as our baby boomers begin reaching retirement age. Fortunately, we have millions of capable craftsmen who are unaware of their God-given abilities or the proud future you could offer them.

Make this your New Year’s resolution: “I will share pride of a craftsman with as many candidates as I can possibly reach.” Hasn’t “pride of a job well-done” kept us in this industry for all of these years? God provided his only Son with this pride by giving Him an earthly father, a builder, who could give him the opportunity to relish that ability. In addition to your own children, you could open doors for those near you who are willing and able.

None of you has any doubts regarding how much you could gain, so we can concentrate on how little effort you have to give.

Bringing Up Apprentices

Let’s begin with the eager and willing employees on your payroll who have not yet achieved that coveted pride of a craftsman.

1. You may have registered indentured apprentices serving four- or five-year apprenticeships, earning only a percentage of what your craftsmen are earning.
  • These percentages are only the minimum that you are required to pay. You need to keep score and pay them a “bragging wage” for doing a true craftsman’s work. You can use a database skills inventory to verify what your apprentices have learned, and either piecework or our 6-8-10 daily ratings with monthly pay reviews to encourage productivity by rewarding them based on their scores.

  • You should call your apprentices interns and treat them as interns rather than indentured apprentices. An intern does professional work under the guidance of a true professional. Far too many apprentices are required to do grunt work for the craftsman to which they are assigned.

  • An apprentice should be assigned to only one craftsman or master, one who is willing and able to pass on his or her knowledge and skills. A monthly review of your apprentices’ database skills inventory will confirm their efforts. Sadly, too many apprentices are sent to whatever jobsite needs an untrained helper, rather than accompanying a committed master to perform a skilled task.

  • You should maintain a company-owned “loaner” toolbox to ensure that each apprentice will have the proper tool for whatever task needs to be performed without borrowing from his or her master’s personal toolbox.

  • Your apprentice should be pretrained and certified in your database skills inventory before he or she is assigned to perform a critical jobsite task. This can be done after hours on a jobsite or in your fab shop.

  • Your master should always review each day’s work with the apprentice to assure productivity and quality. That is what creates the coveted “pride of a craftsman” and envy instead of pity from apprentices’ peers.

Consider how little this requires you to give and how much you and your apprentice will gain. All who have served an apprenticeship can appreciate how much pride is involved.

2. Many contractors employ helpers who are not registered apprentices, but often do the same work. You need to provide the opportunity to become a skilled craftsman and a choice for them to become skilled laborers.

All of those who are willing and able to become proud craftsmen should be addressed and treated as interns. You also may have a need for skilled laborers to perform material handling, cutting and patching, digging and backfilling, etc. Your foreman should always review each day’s work to assure quality, productivity, a fair wage and pride of a job well-done.

3. Contractors who do service work, in addition to new construction, have a unique situation determining which craftsmen are willing and able to become service techs. You should provide that opportunity to every skilled craftsman and also your interns.

They simply need to accompany your service tech on actual service calls where the tech becomes the observing helper and the intern performs the service. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results!

Recruiting Options

Depending on your company’s size and market area, you may need to recruit potential craftsmen. I can assure you that your present staff will be proud to recruit their friends.

Let’s look at some of your feasible recruiting options:

1. The cheapest and most effective advertising for help is a “career opportunity” sign on your trucks, on your jobsite sign and trailer, and in front of your office.

2. You can use temporary manpower agencies to solve immediate jobsite needs. They can provide common labor, semi-skilled and skilled craftsmen. Treat these temporary workers as proud company employees and make arrangements with the rental agency to hire the willing and able.

3. Many “born-to-build” craftsmen have little or no exposure to our construction opportunities as teenagers. They enroll in a college course to prepare them for a lifelong career, but they aren’t really sure of what career they want. Our flex-time schedules, plus students’ freedom to schedule classes at their convenience, makes this a great opportunity to earn much-needed money, along with learning a proud trade.

You can recruit these students to work after school hours or between their scheduled classes. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many will make the decision to join our construction industry.

4. Our flex-time schedules also provide a recruiting potential for moonlighters. America has millions of employees who do not make enough money in their present jobs and look for second after-hour jobs to supplement their income.

Utilize these moonlighters on your jobsites as well as in your fab shop. Again, treat them as interns and enjoy the recruiting results.

5. You also have great opportunities to help these born-to-build individuals identify their “pride of a craftsman” with volunteer charity building and disaster repair programs. You can volunteer or sponsor Habitat for Humanity, needy neighbors, Heats On, and many church-sponsored charitable building trips both in and out of the United States. Many of these volunteers discover their born-to-build ability and enjoy helping the needy. As you observe their delight, you can discuss the possibilities of them working with your company.

6. Possibly the biggest step to uncovering born-to-build ability ever since the Great Depression is the “do-it-yourself” retail building supply stores. Most Americans found out what they could do during those years, and what they can do during recession years, that is not affordable to them otherwise.

Today, people are enjoying the availability of tools, hardware and knowledgeable advice for building and repairing their own projects. You should adopt a variation of their catchy sales slogan - “You can do it. We can help.”

You can walk through the aisles and listen to these do-it-yourselfers discuss possibilities of employment. Give them that opportunity to relish that pride of a craftsman.

In addition to instilling this pride into new candidates, you should also recruit retired and semi-retired craftsmen as mentors. They would be proud to share their knowledge and experiences. This is their opportunity to give something back to our great industry.

I could only wish you a Merry Christmas last month; now I can guarantee you a happy and prosperous New Year!