Most participating companies in the RAP draft program are now enjoying the fruits of this program. Some companies have now created loyal tradesman from this important high school program. Others have not yet fully understood the long term value of the program. Students will come and go, but you should develop a plan for yourself on how you can turn these high school summer students into long term employees and a better more knowledgeable generation of worker. The word is out at the high school level now. Students, teachers, councilors and administrators have all been taught about the ISM Trade. With each group of students going through the AWCA's system of trade shows, showcases, seminars, interviews and employment, the understanding of our trade and the excitement of ISM as a career path improves.
Apprenticeship numbers are now at a point where classes are filling up earlier instead of the last minute panic mode that we have become accustom to. Now come the serious questions that need to be discussed for the health of our trade. How do we keep the momentum going? Why should you consider apprentices now when the economy is in a down turn? Why should you invest money in these people now when the market is so tight. Well, I am not sure I have the answers to these questions, but let me talk to some important concerns in a different way.
I was talking with a contractor a few weeks ago who told me that his two main workers were 65 and 67. That's not their employee number. That's their age! They had repeatedly refused to work with young people because they said that these young guys didn't know anything. His youngest staff member was 48. He was thinking that he would have to shut his business down in about three years because his two main guys were talking about retiring. The worst part of the conversation was that the contractor was not hearing what he himself was saying. He was not ready to retire but his staff were putting him in a position where going on would be impossible. His staff was in essence devaluing his business with each passing day as they closed on retirement without a plan for training new people.
A company’s value is based on three principals; work on hand, good will and the potential for growth. In this employer’s model, growth is not an option. Work on hand would be diminished because of staffing restrictions. Good Will would also be diminished or eliminated by the same age of employee issue. Ask yourself, would you buy a company that was in this kind of downward cycle?
I was the victim of exactly the same circumstance; staff that were not willing to train apprentices. I had become dependent on those old buggers. I found my business lacking a business plan to have an element for training. I always thought of myself as a trainer, but when I looked at the guys that I had trained, I realized that what I had done was to train them on how not to share their knowledge. My bad. The company was strong in a diminishing asset and before I knew it, I was in trouble. So, how can you learn from this lesson? Each company has their own business plan. Each company runs their business in a unique way. It is important to have a solid group of employees around you that are of like mind. This does not mean that they are not going to challenge you. On the contrary, it is imperative that they do challenge you. Employees today need to know that they are valued. They need to have a place in your plan that encourages them to mentor new young people in developing skills and attitudes that mirror what your business plan represents.
The merry go round that we have today of transient workers providing half assed efforts is not the answer. We will always need to them, but we as an industry depend to much on these individuals and to build a business model around them is crazy. Earlier this week, I ran into a guy that had previously worked for me some 10 years ago. He did not last long, but he had an impact. Not a positive impact though. I asked him how long he had been with his current employer and this is what he said. "After I left you, (he was released) I went to @@@ and ###", and he went on and on. In total I counted 14 employers and 5 of them were repeat appearances. WOW. I couldn't help but to think about all the money that was spent on orientations, safety training and a care free attitude, because he knew that he was a lifetime member of the merry go round.
We are all guilty of falling into this trap. Employees, not worthy of a job are being treated like precious commodities. Why?
There are companies in Alberta that put an effort into training and education of their staff. If you look at the companies that continue to succeed through the downturns and the booms, I think you will see the correlation between long term success and training. This does not have to ownerless on the company. A little planning will go a long way. You are not alone. Your apprentice is not alone. The AWCA can help to direct you and your apprentice to valuable funds through grants, scholarships and loans. Here is a quick rundown of some of the products that are available to your apprentices. Please look up the links below and make this happen for your own well being.