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Today’s Younger Workforce

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Finding good employees is a concern among the mechanical contractors I serve. In 2017, workforce shortage complaints in addition to complaints about millennials continued to arise. If you’re concerned about dealing with the younger workforce, the following anecdote may resonate with you.

Three 19-year-old plumbing apprentices sat in the front of the room during a recent customer service seminar. They were mostly attentive and engaged.

Midway through the seminar, the apprentice nearest me became preoccupied with his smartphone and this piqued my interest.

“What are you doing there?” I asked. His surprised grin told me everything I needed to know. He was busted.

“Give me your smartphone,” I said jokingly. He handed me his phone, and, within a split second, a text message appeared on the screen from the person with whom he was texting. That person just happened to be his girlfriend and the message is not for public consumption.  I promptly showed him the message and his face turned beet red. My serious facial expression conveyed my disappointment and, after handing the device back to him, he promptly turned it off and put it away.

Does this millennial scenario sound familiar? It should be among contractors who wonder how to find employees. As anecdotes like this occur among our younger workforce, what is often required is a stable mentor to guide millennials onto the correct path.

Thankfully, I am privileged to meet hundreds of millennial apprentices from coast to coast. Teaching soft skills to the younger workforce is a passion and, every now and then, I meet an apprentice who clearly rises above the fray.

Scores of trade school instructors have become close friends of mine during the last few years of traveling across the U.S.A. in my pickup. Seeing our beautiful country up close and personal allows me to invest more time with people. It was during a recent trek that I learned how one trade school student benefitted from soft skills training. The student’s name is Deshia Peters from Tulsa, Oklahoma. When Deshia Peters got into his customer service groove, it was so good that it won him first place in a state SkillsUSA championship.

Pat Enoch and Jimmy Hawley are instructors at Tulsa Tech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and they use my HVAC Customer Service Handbook in their soft skills curriculum. Peters, a student at Tulsa Tech, had done so well in the customer service portion of his class that instructors Enoch and Hawley enrolled him in the SkillsUSA state championships, Customer Service Division.

SkillsUSA partners with students, teachers, and industry members to promote technical education with programs, events, and competitions. The Customer Service Division competition is a recent development due to all the emphasis placed on workforce development and soft skills as key career factors. This student’s first-place state champion title won him automatic entry into the national competition, where he finished third.

After graduating last June, Peters was hired by Airco Service in Tulsa. I believe there are more millennials, just like Deshia Peters, who seek the guidance and wisdom of a patient mentor.

Today’s employee workforce shortage issues are real, and new thinking and partnerships are needed to resolve the problem. More patience, mentoring, and tough love are needed to equip younger employees slowly and surely with the correct work ethic and tenacity. Today’s workforce shortage among skilled trade workers isn’t going to be resolved overnight. It will take patience, care, and time. Among the three aforementioned attributes, I’d say time is the most valuable.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Management, Workforce

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