Finding employees is a common challenge for many companies, especially for companies in the industry. Naples-based company Pro-Tec Plumbing has chosen to proactively address the problem by launching its technician training program.
“The plumbing workforce is pretty shallow,” says Brian Finger, general manager of Pro-Tec Plumbing. “There just aren’t a lot of plumbers out there. We have come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to do this is to grow our own workforce. To do this, we really needed a comprehensive and comprehensive program. “
Pro-Tec currently has three trainees who are about to start the program. No plumbing skills are required, but candidates must have a high school degree or GED, basic math skills, and the ability to handle the physical demands of the job. Several organizations in the region, from community foundations to Chamber of Commerce groups, offer staff training and education programs. Some do this in conjunction with companies, especially when creating a curriculum. Few companies have put together a comprehensive program as Pro-Tec has done independently of other organizations. (Pro-Tec uses an online training program for the educational portion of the program available through the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.)
“You can do any job you want, but if you don’t have the people to please, your reputation will go down because you will make a mistake.” Brian Finger, Pro-Tec plumbing
Candidates selected for the Pro-Tec apprenticeship training program work during the day as paid employees on site under the guidance of a plumber at journeyman level – a trained plumber who has completed an apprenticeship with a master plumber. The trainees then take part in online courses in the evenings or on weekends. The traditional apprenticeship program lasts four years, but there is also an accelerated option that lasts approximately 18 months. If trainees complete one of the two programs, they are recognized nationally as journeyman plumbers.
These efforts to grow its own workforce cost Pro-Tec $ 1,700 per trainee for the traditional program and a total of $ 2,400 per trainee for the accelerated program. Pro-Tec pays up front for tuition and then withholds a small portion of the apprentice’s paycheck each week. As soon as they have reached certain milestones in the program, the trainee receives the money back.
It’s a price that Finger thinks is worth it. The program not only gives Pro-Tec access to talent, but also enables new employees to be trained in the company’s standards and procedures right from the start. With high retention rates in retail, this is a key factor.
“Typically, when you reprogram someone who works in another company, you have to reprogram their culture because plumbing is plumbing,” says Finger, 51. “So we teach them how to do things from the start. ”
According to Finger, the company could have seven to ten trainees in the program at any time. It all depends on how many journeyman plumbers Pro-Tec has employees offering this on-site training and how much work is available for these training opportunities.
The training program is not the only way that Pro-Tec attracts and retains employees. The company, of roughly 45 employees, recently created a career progression plan that outlines the steps and skills required to allow employees to move from entry-level roles to positions where they work alone and maintain their own truck.
“We’re trying to offer opportunities for advancement. Hopefully they don’t see plumbing as a dead end,” says Finger. “Plumbing is a lot of routine. If you can give them some things to look forward to and aspire to, they will stay loyal, keen, and want more. “
The company recently took a step to guarantee its employees 40 hours a week at their respective hourly rates (which vary based on experience level), even if they didn’t get 40 hours of scheduled work in a given week. This removes some of the financial uncertainties that technicians face with fluctuating workloads.
Everything is interrelated in order to build loyalty and longevity in the company. Pro-Tec must be able to keep pace with the demands of its industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbing, plumbing, and steam installer employment is expected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029. However, factors such as the emphasis on four-year college at the high school level mean that not enough young adults are entering areas such as plumbing to fill those available spots.
“We reject the work,” says Finger. “You can take any job you want, but if you don’t have the people to please your reputation because you will make a mistake. We could double up [our workload] Make three calls tomorrow when we’ve had enough plumbers and infrastructure. We’re asked, but we can’t just say yes to everyone. … If we upgrade our workforce and have a more robust crew of technicians, we can get more people to agree. “