Get Off Your Duff!

Get Off Your Duff!

By John LaPlant

We constantly read and hear about the labor shortage around the country, and it is not just occurring in the contracting industry. Yes, and then we stomp around and complain ad-nauseum. So, what are you doing about it? It is not going to get easier! So what is your move? Take action.

First Question: What or Who is Our Industry Competing Against for Labor?

Recent reports suggest the fastest growing opportunity position for the foreseeable future is fork lift operators. Why? A one-word answer: Amazon. With approximately 75 distribution/fulfillment centers with a typical size of 1,000,000 square feet and 800 associates who “fulfill the customer promise” every day of the week. Amazon has a huge labor requirement for fork lift operators.

A high school in Patterson, California, near one of these Amazon fulfillment centers, spent a few million dollars constructing a mock warehouse facility to teach students distribution and logistics, warehouse management, supply chain, and fork lift skills. This is because Amazon estimates they will increase employment from the current level of 100,000 associates to over 125,000 associates for warehousing functions over the next six years. And then there are others with comparable demands such as Walmart, Big Lots, Target, Costco, and the list continues. That is considerable demand for warehousing jobs.

And these forklift jobs pay between $14.00 and $18.00 per hour – approximately $30,000 plus per year, which is an attractive wage to a high school or junior college graduate.

Now think what our heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical industries can offer. It’s so much more. There is absolutely no comparison…in dollars, independence, professionalism, career…you name it, we win! With technicians, plumbers, and installers on performance pay are making over $40 per hour, key managers making in the $70,000 plus range, and comfort specialists making six figures a year! This can be life changing for young talent.

We have the challenges and glitz of technology, not only in product and system controls, but in diagnostic testing and now applications of the IoT (Internet of Things) with smart homes.


Second Question:  How can we reach this young talent?

  • Company Sponsored Job Fairs – A number of top tier companies in our industry are holding one-hour, on-site Job Fairs from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm once a quarter. The Job Fair is promoted in want ads, digital and social media.

Interested applicants register to attend. On the evening of the Job Fair, applicants are given a brief tour of the facility, background on available positions, and clear definition of expectations and clear articulation of company culture.

Resumes are collected, evaluated, and offers are extended. Companies report it is an excellent way to bring folks in from outside the industry. It also attracts a diversified age group. It is an effective way to present career pathing opportunities and long-term benefits of connecting with a future oriented organization.

  • Outreach Presentations at High Schools, Vo-Tech Schools and Junior Colleges – One owner of a very unique, top tier company works hard to get himself in front of high school and junior college student groups, particularly on career day agendas.

He walks on stage, introduces himself and his company. He holds a 16” x 16” rigid card covered front and back with brown paper. He holds up the card and tears the paper off the front revealing a Range Rover. He says, “Even though I am the owner of the company, this is not mine. It is one of our team members. His name is Jimmy John, he is a field service specialist.”

He turns the card over and tears off the paper revealing a Hummer H2. He says, “This is not mine either. It is one of our team members. Her name is Nancy Wyatt and she is an installation production manager.”

He is speaking the language of young people and he grabs the participant’s attention. The overall message is that college is not a requisite for success any more. He lets students know that the training is there, the teamwork is there, the technology is there, and the door is there to be opened.

  • Up Periscope – Be on the lookout for retail talent. Constantly be observant of employees providing a service in a retail setting. If a server in a restaurant is impressive as a communicator and attentive to detail, then that person is viable candidate for your team. If the manager of an oil change/lubrication establishment is really good at explaining and educating you about the benefits of additional services, then that person is a viable candidate for the team. Always try to find those people that present the WOW FACTOR. Most likely, that person will be an excellent fit for the team.

So driving a forklift may be a job, but joining a HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical company can be a lifestyle far surpassing any personal dream! It’s a real career. Do things that open the eyes of the next generation to our industry. Get off your duff!


Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!