Alex Roloff was stocking shelves at a grocery store near Milwaukee when a friend approached him to say a local plumbing shop had a pre-apprenticeship job open.
“I said, ‘OK, but I don’t know anything about plumbing,’” Roloff said, relating the tale that took place a few years ago.
Roloff had dropped out of college after one year and had never held a plumbing tool in his life, but Jessie Cannizzaro, owner of Milestone Plumbing, saw something she liked and offered him the job.
Roloff spent a year in the support role, then worked through his apprenticeship. A few years later, buoyed by Cannizzaro’s constant support and the team and culture at Milestone, Roloff bought his first car and condominium and is on his way to his plumbing license.
“Before I heard about Milestone Plumbing the only thing I thought of plumbing was using the sink," Roloff said. "(Cannizzaro) took a leap of faith. It’s crazy how my world has been opened up.”
His story is instructional. In a time when it seems harder to find new hires and young workers in the plumbing industry, Roloff proves they are out there to be found. That recognizing talent and ability and want-to is as important as recognizing a plumber, and that a company’s culture and system go a long way toward creating opportunity in recruiting plumbers.
The way companies go about recruiting to find plumbers looking for work has taken on added importance. And while there may be no single magic solution, there are many ideas.
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Josh Smith, Vice President of Internet Marketing at Scorpion.co, stresses a recruiting strategy that includes multiple digital platforms (Google, Bing, Facebook and YouTube) beyond Indeed, Craigslist, LinkedIn and other job sites. Pay-per-click ads or even self-created videos on YouTube go beyond the traditional job posting and could help find the best candidates, Smith writes.
Some strategies for recruiting plumbers are common sense, including helping candidates relax during interviews and increasing your company’s brand image.
The latter is vital, because the first step in hiring plumbers begins at home: Being part of the solution means taking care of your own business first. Appealing to new hires means building an appealing place to work, one that fosters collaboration, ingenuity, and initiative, and develops an environment that fosters growth and development.
The culture of a company—be it for plumbing, HVAC or electricians—represents that company, to customers and to the community. That culture will spread the word about the company, which helps fill open positions.
“Your culture is a magnet,” said Chris Hunter, ServiceTitan's Director of Customer Relations. “People want to work for winners.”
Another key step is to recognize what plumbing offers to job seekers.
Plumbers practice a craft. They are essential. They do jobs others won’t. They also provide a skill in new construction and renovations. Their best work is behind walls and ceilings. No home or business can function without plumbing done right. Like any craft, the work should be admired and respected.
The job is open to anyone who can handle the physical requirements—at age 20, 30 or 40.
Apprenticeships typically last three to five years, but they provide on-the-job training as well as steady income en route to being a journeyman and master plumber—without hefty accruing student loan debts. There are stories of people who made the career switch at age 40 and were happy they did it.
“The trades offer an opportunity that is tremendous,” Cannizzaro said.
These job opportunities also are financially rewarding.
A ServiceTitan study of salaries showed that the median salary for a senior experienced plumber in the United States is $60,700 per year. An entry-level plumber makes $46,400. In the 10th percentile, where 90 percent of plumbers make more and 10 percent less, a senior plumber makes $48,100. Financial reward and job stability alone should increase the number of plumbers seeking employment.
How that truth gets to the general public may take time and patience, but the more young men and women understand the opportunities a career—emphasis on career—in plumbing provides, the more they will look at it as a favorable option.
Another step companies can take in plumber hiring and the recruitment process is to take care of their work environment. Make it welcoming and fun. Be serious when it’s time to be serious, be fair to employees, treat them like family and welcome diversity.
ServiceTitan’s entire eight-part Growth Series in 2021 was, at its essence, about treating people well and building and maintaining a strong culture.
“You can’t always work in your business, but you can work on your business,” Cannizzaro said.
Eddie McFarlane, Vice President of Learning and Development at Haller Enterprises, said complaining does not address the challenge.
“What separates great organizations,” he said, “is working on the problem.”
Jeff Akhoian of Rooter Hero Plumbing, which has locations in California and Arizona, stresses establishing five core values: Faith, integrity, respect, service and teamwork. Those values sell the company and attract employees with like-minded approaches.
“When I’m interviewing somebody, I introduce the values early on,” he said. “One of the questions I like is, ‘What do you like most about your current job? What’s your favorite value there, and tell me why?’ And we talk about it.
“It just gives me a good perspective of where they’re coming from. We don’t look at the values as a deal breaker...we try to bring people in and see if we can instill those values to help people better their lives.”
He doesn’t play God, mind you; the atmosphere and attitude he fosters just inherently develop the values. That helps him find the right candidates among the qualified plumbers.
Building that strong company foundation can help keep good people. Retention of good people matters. Make the company such a good and nurturing environment that it’s hard to leave. If someone does depart, that foundation will attract a suitable person to hire.
The foundation sustains you. Like any building or belief, the foundation provides the basis for upward growth.
Other tips for recruiting and recruiters include:
Sell the pay.
Sell the career. Yes, the financial incentives are real, but so is the opportunity.
Talk about the career path when recruiting and hiring. Show a prospective employee ways he or she can grow in your company. A single-page bullet-point list shows much.
Make the social media presence a positive one that engages with the community.
Make yourself reachable. Make it easy for potential applicants to find job openings and job listings, to apply online and to connect. The job description can be more than a list of duties and instead can sell your values and culture.
Think outside the box during the hiring process. Tell the prospective employee about your culture, perhaps invite his or her partner to join you and the applicant out to dinner just to engage. Learn about the person, not just the worker.
Don’t be afraid to see employee growth at your plumbing company. Just as we want the best for ourselves, we want the best for them.
Be open-minded. A woman in the home might be more comfortable with a knowledgeable and talented female plumber. Don’t stereotype people into typecast roles.
Develop the culture you want from Day 1. Foster it, strengthen it and support it.
Community involvement sells your workplace to others with similar values and interests. “People want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Angie Snow of Western Heating and Air in Utah said.
Recruit. Always. We never know where the next Alex Roloff is waiting.
ServiceTitan Plumbing Software
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