Attracting a new generation to the field service industry
“It’s hard to hire.” This is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot lately. And if you’ve been following XOi for a while, you know we’ve been consistently waving the red flag in regards to the skilled trades gap. This foreboding theme we’ve been warning field service owners and managers about for years appears to be coming to a head. It makes sense, knowing that the application rate for young people seeking technical jobs — like plumbing, building and electrical work — dropped by 49% in 2022 compared to 2020.
It’s daunting, and now that techs out in the field are an average age of 50+, we need to move quickly. Attracting a younger generation to the trades will take more than just touting basic incentives; we need to completely change the conversation around field service. Unlike what traditional stigma may tell us, becoming a tradesperson is not a backup career, and there’s a lot of promise about a job that is outside the box—or doesn’t require a formal education. From the perspective of a seasoned group of guys, the trades is an industry that has the potential to attract top talent — it requires curiosity, a willingness to work hard, and a desire to have a long, fulfilling career.
So, what’s the entry point to discussing a career in the trades? Let’s talk about money.
“Money” refers to more than just the salary a technician can make in the trades, and techs make a healthy living. Last year, the average entry-level salary was upwards of $48k per year. “Money” also equates to saving; not having to invest in a traditional 4+ year education. Over the past two decades, college tuition has increased in price more than almost any other good or service. If you’re someone that has a career plan—becoming an architect, doctor, or scientist—the path is clearly a college education, and the potential debt you’ll accrue paying for college will still yield positive returns in the long run. But, for the rest of us who may not have their future set in stone, a formal education is not the only answer to a valuable, lifelong career. Skilled trades is an express train ticket to a life in the middle class; bypassing the roadblocks of student loans, unpaid internships, and years of underrepresented and underpaid work that normally comes with a traditional career in corporate america. From day one, skilled tradespeople hit the ground running. If they work hard, the monetary reward is a direct result.
The Trades supercharge work ethic.
The introduction of technician-focused technology into the trades has accelerated good techs into fantastic techs. For people that want to work hard and solve problems, technology is a secret weapon. Good techs who know how to use technology on the job have an arsenal of information and answers at their fingertips. They spend less time diagnosing and fixing problems, adapt to challenges quickly, and earn customer trust at a rapid rate.
Talking to our techs in the field, we hear all the time that their job is ever-changing. Not only day-to-day—dealing with revolving customer demands and personalities, but on a macro level. The entire landscape of field service equipment is becoming more complicated, but good technicians are adapting, and thoroughly enjoy the challenge.
Green is good.
Through the aid of technology, field service business owners and managers can hire for attitude, not aptitude. The barrier to entry in the trades is becoming even smaller. Not so long ago, the journey from greenhorn to technician required formal schooling and years of training. Now, there’s so much information that can be accessed right on the job, the average 5 year period for new techs to be comfortable in the field has been significantly shrunk down. Businesses that have training, learning, and communication tools embedded into their technology stack are getting techs in trucks and on the road to servicing customers much faster than ever before.
The reality of a modern technician has shifted. Today, it’s not all about knowing the answers, but knowing where to find the answers. Techs that can efficiently navigate digital tools to solve problems—fast—are quickly becoming the definition of a great technician. Good technology provides instant answers and microlearning moments on the job. Green techs have guidelines and workflows to get the job done consistently. And if they have questions, technology can provide a vehicle for referencing previous work on the same (or similar) units, watching a seasoned technician perform fixes, or directly accessing a virtual mentor.
The most successful business owners and managers hire young, green techs and mold them into idealized versions of their best technicians. Technology that touts a knowledge base allows you to build a repository with your own institutional knowledge. Instilling process and procedure with training materials that are built by you and your A-team creates a full circle training institution for new techs to become experts.