What It Takes to Entice the Next Generation to the Trades

Showing potential hires how their talents and abilities will be respected and rewarded in the plumbing and drain cleaning industry can go a long way in both hiring and retention

What It Takes to Entice the Next Generation to the Trades

Tim Kopp

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As companies struggle to stay fully staffed with tradespeople, recruiting is essential. The challenge lies in persuading the next generation of workers by showcasing the benefits of entering the trades, and then the specific advantages of working for your company.

All of the skilled trades, including plumbing and drain cleaning, have gone through many cycles over the years in terms of desirability as a profession. At the turn of the 20th century, plumbers were viewed as the keepers of health and prosperity for communities. They built the infrastructure for new cities and towns. They helped people add new and premium features to their homes. Over time, this attitude shifted, and joining any of the skilled trades was viewed as less desirable than a white-collar career. Students were told a college degree was necessary for success.

This led to an enormous tradesperson shortage that we are continuing to work hard at overcoming. Thankfully, we’ve seen the attitude evolve some over the last five to 10 years. Plumbing is once again earning the recognition it deserves as a profession that provides an invaluable service for our communities — and a high quality of life for those who enter the trade. 

How do we share these benefits with those entering the workforce? Some of today’s plumbing and drain cleaning business owners might have gotten their first job through “Help Wanted” ads in the newspaper. Of course, that’s a much more rare recruiting option these days. The next wave of workers isn’t reading newspapers; they’re online and on their phones. They are not necessarily looking for a new job or career, but they are watching videos, sharing memes with friends, and scanning their favorite websites. They are not often watching 60-minute television shows or reading in-depth articles either. They are looking for content to fill a few minutes of their time. It’s important to promote the idea of “plumber as everyday hero” on channels like these.

For example, the “American Plumber Stories” docuseries created by Pfister is a great example of easily shareable content that can connect with the next generation. Launched in 2021 to highlight the work of plumbers nationwide, its episodes promote plumbing and workforce development by highlighting the success stories of plumbers, showing them not only at work but living their lives to the fullest thanks to their trades career. RIDGID recently partnered on Season 2 of the docuseries, which wrapped up at the end of March. 

Once someone decides to become a plumber, recruiting moves from the profession to individual companies. Potential employees want not only a competitive salary and benefits, but also to feel like an employer is invested in them. Showing potential hires how their talents and abilities will be respected and rewarded can go a long way in both hiring and retention. 

It is also important for business owners to consider the career path of their new hires. How will they develop and work with these young people so that they can one day own or operate their own company? 

Plumbers also need to know their worth and recognize that they are invaluable. Plumbing installation and repairs cannot be outsourced; this field is hands-on and that won’t change. It is also still vital for our infrastructure. Whether someone is looking to enter the industry or considering a job with your company, communicating the vital role plumbers play in our communities can go a long way in elevating the profession and filling the talent pipeline.

About the Author

Tim Kopp is the education and training manager for RIDGID, a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at RIDGID.com


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