It’s no secret that companies in the drilling, water delivery and wastewater sectors are facing a challenge when it comes to finding, recruiting and providing continuing education for their skilled labor workforce. The skills gap is expected to not only continue but also worsen, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which anticipates about 51,000 job openings for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters each year over the next decade. The reason isn’t so much related to industry growth – which is only expected to be at about 5% – but instead due to worker retirement and the loss of talent to different occupations. According to a skilled trades research study sponsored by Angi, the skilled trades share a median age of 43 – which is about 10% older than the general population. While companies can’t turn back the clock on retirees, they can do a lot to retain the workers they have and recruit new ones into the field. This whitepaper takes a closer look at the role training plays in worker development and how new and more multifaceted training programs can help employers implement and encourage training – and enhance personal skill development.
The newest generation entering the workforce, Gen Z, is often unaware of the importance of the water industry. In the 1920s, advertisements touted plumbers as the protectors of the country’s health and wellness. Today, water drillers and other water professionals don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Add in misperceptions related to income potential for a skilled trades career, and many younger employees wind up seeking jobs elsewhere.
Yet, water systems are a true sign of the advancement of society, and water professionals are starting to get the recognition they deserve. They’re highly paid, and their pay is expected to increase given the growing demand for these professionals. There is the potential to start earning more right out of college versus waiting to finish a degree: research shows that a young person who attends trade school and starts working will be $140,000 ahead than a student who enrolls in a four-year college first. Also consider the progress that has been made across the industry, including more cutting-edge technology and more high-tech equipment. When people have to go without water, they know the value a water professional provides.
Educating the next generation on their worth as a tradesperson is important, and showing them the potential for growth and learning can help enhance the appeal of these careers. In fact, according to employment solutions provider Glint, having opportunities to learn and grow is now the number one factor that people say defines an exceptional work environment. When done right, organizations can reap the benefits of learning and development, with some studies reporting that 76% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. Job satisfaction with the skilled trades also remains high; according to the Angi study, 83% of tradespeople report being either somewhat or extremely satisfied in their choice of work.
While it may seem smart to provide training “on-the-job” since many water industry roles are hands-on, it can be counter intuitive. On-the-job training tends to reduce efficiencies and increase the risk for error on a job site – meaning jobs can take longer, cost more, or be done incorrectly and require a costly callback. Instead it pays to train your team before hitting the job site with base-level knowledge on products, installation, troubleshooting and selling before speaking to a customer. This will allow your company to install and troubleshoot more effectively, equipping your team to do more in less time and succeed in their roles. Developing people in this way will also reduce their time to productivity and help them get up to speed in a shorter amount of time. Let your potential employees know that you provide upfront training that is beneficial to succeeding in their job role.
Adaptable training is accessible training. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses across various industries switched to online methods for training, and they experienced surprising results in saving both time and money. From training classes and podcasts to webinars and online certification courses, online training tools allow you to onboard new employees quicker and make it easier for them to stay up to date on new products and techniques. As a bonus, these interactive and digital tools are custom-made for a new generation of professionals who likely learned using online tools when completing their traditional schooling. Digital training programs are also highly customizable to each employee since there are so many options to choose from compared to “one-size-fits-all” classroom training. When considering how to identify the best courses for each individual employee, get their input. What are their aspirations, and how can you help them succeed in their career?
Did you know that it takes, on average, about one to two years for a new hire to become fully productive? This is why continuous training programs are so important – they help you retain that employee that you’ve invested years in and who is likely more productive than any new hire would be. Offering continuous training – onsite, online and in a classroom – can all continue to feed a worker’s desire to grow into what’s next.
You likely know what physical labor your employees need to tackle in the field, but what about the other skills they need to have: talking to customers, communicating with the team on the job site, and even organizing their day. Training for these “soft skills” can not only help employees grow and learn but also help your business in front of your customers.
Investing in your workforce doesn’t have to necessarily come with a high price tag. In fact, the industry recognizes the need to support training efforts and many manufacturers and industry organizations offer low- to no-cost options for training. These organizations do the heavy lifting – curating resources, developing training programs and coordinating trainers. They invest time and money to support water professionals and their businesses. Many of these companies and organizations may also offer scholarships towards professional training and development.
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