Promoting the Rewarding Career Path of Plumbing and Drain Cleaning

Valu-Rooter's Josh Halstead knows that the solution to chronic employee hiring and retention problems is to show younger generations how satisfying a trades career can be, but the execution of that isn't easy

Promoting the Rewarding Career Path of Plumbing and Drain Cleaning

Josh Halstead

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

Finding and retaining employees is the biggest challenge facing U.S. trades. Josh Halstead has no secret formula for resolving the dilemma. But the field supervisor of Valu-Rooter, a plumbing and drain cleaning company in Elyria, Ohio, knows this much: A company can’t fix it alone.

Valu-Rooter is 24 years old and no one aside from company founder Russell Halstead has exceedingly long tenure. Two current employees did leave and then return, which surely says something good about the company. But two other technicians joined the firm recently enough that they are still in training. Becoming fully trained might take a little longer at Valu-Rooter than at some firms because the techs are all cross-trained for plumbing, drain cleaning, operating a mini-excavator, installing a new water heater, working on natural gas lines and so on. There’s lots to learn. It’s the long-term hiring and retention of employees that concerns Josh Halstead.

“Right now, it’s hard to find anybody to work here. We’ve been trying to get more tech trainees, but it’s hard,” he says.

The company is nonunion and he tells of a “union guy who came up to me and wanted me to jump over to his company. Well, I didn’t, and I’m not going to turn away a qualified person who’s looking to work here, but if everyone does that, it’s not helping.”

Halstead recites statistics that tell the story: In Ohio, for every two plumbers or drain cleaners who retire, only one is coming into the industry. That’s not a sustainable formula if the trade is to meet the needs of customers in future years. Instead of new blood entering the trade, Halstead says, experienced hands are moving from place to place within it.

“Everyone is trying to talk to my tech or plumber or somebody’s else’s tech or plumber and persuade him to come to work for them. That’s not helping. We are only redistributing the help,” Halstead says.

He knows of one Cleveland-area plumbing house that is working with a local high school to encourage teens to enter the trade. He says he’s thinking about reaching out to local vocational schools to develop a similar pipeline for young men and women.

“We need to come together as an industry and try hard to persuade the upcoming generation that working in a trade is a great option for them. It is not just a job. It can be a very rewarding career.”

Read more about Valu-Rooter in the January 2022 issue of Cleaner magazine.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.