Contractors Group Aims to Quell Workforce Shortage

Facing an industry workforce shortage, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association has deployed an initiative with the goal of attracting more than 100,000 millennials to the workforce by 2020.

A good education is key to a successful future.

But with a new initiative, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association is hoping millennials will expand their ideas about what kinds of education and careers lead to the good life.

“For a long time, we promoted people going to work in the skilled trades and then the education system changed across the U.S.,” said PHCC Educational Foundation COO Cindy Sheridan, CAE. “Most schools were pushing students to go to college, so all of a sudden it wasn’t cool to go into the trades.”

That philosophy trickled down to the plumbing, heating, and cooling industry. Currently, large portions of the workforce are retiring, but adequate numbers of newly apprenticed technicians or technical school graduates aren’t replacing them.

To help with this  shortage, PHCC started an initiative that aims to dispel myths about the industry and create awareness about the opportunities. At a national level, Sheridan said, PHCC wanted to “develop the tools and resources and the messaging that contractors and chapters could use on their local levels.”

PHCC didn’t have the resources to meet with every school’s counselors about its industry’s career options, but “if we could develop the messaging and make it easy for chapters and contractors to go to career days and meet with their schools and setup field trips and get involved in the schools, then they could do that,” Sheridan said.

And that’s just what PHCC did. In 2015, the national association released a series of four customizable flyers, which  local chapters could incorporate their own logos on and hand them out at PTA meetings or career fairs. These flyers touched on everything from career paths and needed STEM skills to salaries and the availability of jobs.

PHCC also created a Workforce Development Center on its website, and at the end of 2015, gave its local counterparts a customizable banner ad that pushed users to these workforce resources.

In 2016, PHCC gifted its chapters with a two-minute video that again touted the benefits of a career in the plumbing, heating, and cooling industry.

“Think about it,” asks the video’s narrator. “No college debt; great pay; huge demand, no matter where you want to live; interesting hands-on work—there’s always new products and technologies to learn. And if you want, someday you can own your own business. So what are you waiting for?”

Another part of this PHCC initiative is sharing the efforts of various chapters with other chapters. For instance, in Tennessee, one member used the PHCC resources and created a Ride-and-Decide program, where high school students can get paid for a six-week summer job of riding alongside a plumber, as well as working in the office and observing on the job site. After they graduate high school, whether they stay in the business or not, the industry is getting exposure.

“Our efforts before were really targeted at the chapters and contractors,” Sheridan said, but with a new site PHC Careers, the focus is really on students, people changing careers, and veterans. “We need [more than] 100,000 new workers to take care of the ones that are retiring.”



Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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