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Technician Shortage: The More Things Change...

October 29, 2007
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Butch Welsch

It’s interesting in our industry that no matter how much change there is, some things seem to stay the same. At contractor meetings five and even 10 years ago, if memory serves, the major topic on everyone’s mind was “where are the technicians of tomorrow going to come from?”

Fast forward to 2007 and get a group of contractor’s together and surprise - the main topic still is where are we going to get the technicians of the future. Do I feel the prognosticators were wrong 10 years ago? No. Nor do I feel that the contractors with those concerns today are wrong in having those concerns.

I believe I see a common element in the conversations that were held 10 years ago and the conversations held today. For the most part, it isn’t the successful contractors who are complaining or are overly concerned about a shortage of technicians in the future. It is the less successful contractors who are experiencing this problem. It was those contractors 10 years ago as well, but many of them are no longer contractors.

The problem has certainly not gone away. In fact, it really is becoming more serious. A simple study of the demographics shows that the type of individual who has been the traditional worker in our industry for decades is no longer the type of individual who is going to be available to our industry. As a result, we must be able to adapt our thinking to allow us to employ those individuals that will be the technicians of the future.

NOT A PROBLEM FOR SOME

An important question to ask is why is the technician shortage not as big of a problem for the successful contractors? The reason is that they have learned the things that they must do to preserve one of their most valuable resources, which are their technicians. These contractors are doing many things to obtain, train, and keep the good technicians. There are many ways to manage this issue successfully:

• Use your connections with vendors and other members of the industry to be aware of top technicians working for your competitors. These can be a great source of leads for new employees.

• Make connections with local trade schools and junior colleges to let them know you are always in need of good people. Ask them to contact you when graduation time approaches.

• Belong to an organization, or multiple organizations, which have as one of their objectives to train and provide people for contractors like you.

• Make sure that you pay wages and provide benefits that will help you attract the cream of the crop. Do you want anyone less out there representing your company?

• Set as a goal for your company to be a great place to work for. The NEWS has an annual contest which recognizes those contractors that are great to work for (employees can visit www.achrnews.com to enter their company). Do you think those contractors have trouble attracting top-notch employees?

• Have regular meetings with employees to allow them to give input so that they feel that they are an integral part of the company.

THE BENEFITS ARE ENDLESS

There are significant benefits to making sure that you have all or most of these processes in place in your company. The fact is you will be able to attract and keep the very best workers available. As many consultants and speakers are pointing out today, if we are going to be an industry with a limited workforce supply, then new opportunities arise.

It is no longer necessary for us to always be the cheapest or to continually lower our prices. When in a market with a limited supply of capable people, the dynamics change. If a customer cannot easily find a contractor who can perform his work, it’s possible that the quality and timeliness of the service you perform will be more important than the price.

I urge each of you to make sure that you are taking the steps listed above. Make your company a great place to work for and I anticipate that finding qualified personnel will be less of a problem for you in the future.

Publication date: 10/29/2007
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