Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association held a Workforce Development Roundtable April 27 on Capitol Hill. In order to raise awareness of the workforce shortages, a panel of PHCC members from across the country shared the proactive solutions they have implemented to fill some of the many jobs and career opportunities available in the industry.
“This event provided an excellent platform for PHCC members to share successful recruitment programs and express their continued need for skilled and career-minded employees,” said PHCC — National Association President Charles “Chip” E. Greene, Greene & Associates, Macon, Georgia. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this special forum on Capitol Hill.”
The panel included: John Bain, vice president of internal operations and talent, R.T. Moore Co.; Brenda Dant, PHCC of Indiana executive director; Gordy Noe, president of Pioneer Heating and Air; Sam Dowdy, owner of S & D Plumbing; and roundtable facilitator Tom Applegate, executive director of the Ohio Association of Career-Technical Superintendents and member of the PHCC Educational Foundation Board of Directors.
House Career and Technical Education Caucus Co-Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., opened the discussion with the phrase “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”
“You guys are at the table and doing it right,” he said. “We need to get more people into this industry and home room solutions are the best solutions to bring to the table.
“The number one asset of any employer is a trained and qualified worker,” he continued. “If you can’t find the workforce, you won’t survive.”
But given current demographic trends, finding skilled workers is becoming increasingly more difficult in the phc industry. With an expected shortage of more than 138,000 employees by 2022, the industry faces a “workforce time bomb,” said Applegate.
“We should look at these demographics as an opportunity to be proactive,” he said. “The phc industry offers great jobs with great careers and great wages. Also, you can’t off-shore these jobs. We’ve heard the phrase ‘think globally, act locally’ and that is what these panelists have done.”
- Bain and Dant described how their chapter developed a website, thebestcareer4you.com, that reaches the 18- to 24-year-old market and promotes the “modern profession of plumbing.” According to Dant, the website matched 230 prospective employees to employers over a three-month period. “Attracting, training and retaining a qualified workforce are crucial for our company — and a challenge for us,” Bain said. “This PHCC chapter website helps build brand awareness of the opportunities in the skilled trades, and our company gets the advantage of leveraging the website to get qualified leads on new workers.”
- Noe talked about the success of the Ride and Decide program, which allows high school juniors and seniors in his area to try the trades and see if it’s a good fit. In its second year, the program has more than 50 students signed up to experience first-hand what the jobs entail — while getting paid — so they can make informed career decisions.
- Dowdy described the Plumbing Pipeline Program he established to increase high school students’ interest in PHC careers. Dowdy also participates in local Careers Days for kindergarten and elementary students, as well as several other recruiting programs.
“We’re making sure that students, parents, counselors and teachers know that there are opportunities for professionals in our industry,” he said.
Representatives of two PHCC Corporate Partners also attended the roundtable: Bruce Carnevale, Bradford White executive vice president and COO, Carl Pinto Bradford White director of marketing; and Joe Maiale InSinkErator vice president of sales – wholesale.
“This workforce challenge extends well beyond phc contractors,” said Pinto. “There is a ripple effect on the industry, including the manufacturers and wholesalers who support phc contractors.”
During a Q & A session, a variety of topics were discussed that keyed on the need for positive workforce development policy; outreach with teachers, counselors and workforce boards; soft skills training for technicians; increased CTE funding; and the inclusion of phc contractors and other industry representatives in discussions about future workforce initiatives.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., expressed his gratitude that PHC contractors came to Capitol Hill to offer their successful hiring strategies. As the owner of Mullin Plumbing, the Congressman knows first-hand the challenges of finding skilled workers.
“I appreciate what you are doing,” he said. “Stay involved. No one knows your story better than you do. If you’re not up here doing your thing, than you’re going to be overlooked. A lot of the stuff we do is vitally important, but at the same time it is a fight. Every day we get more and more regulations coming in on us and some of it is good, but a lot of it is bad. So make sure you stay involved.”
Two representatives of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry also attended. The UA has established a Veterans in Piping program that provides high-quality skills training and jobs in the pipe trades to active duty military personnel preparing to leave the service.
During the conclusion of the roundtable, Applegate encouraged those in the industry to continue their employee recruitment efforts and consider new strategies, as well. “The successful programs implemented by the contractors and associations here today can be replicated in other local areas,” he said.
For more information, visit PHCC’s online Workforce Development Center.