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Brian Nolan

By now most contractors know that experienced craftsmen are in short supply. The sooner we all realize that the only solution is to hire good people and train them on the trade, the better. “Hire talent, train skill.” as we like to say. However, even after we realize this, training still doesn’t stick. Why?

I recently ran a leadership workshop in California for over 45 field supervisors. The attendees were, in my opinion, the best and brightest in the trades. We spent several hours on the subject of training craft skills. It was unanimous, training is not working because of culture. Many experienced craftsmen and crew leaders don’t want to be dragged down by apprentices. They’re in a rush to get the job done and training an apprentice takes away from productivity. “Just wait around until I find something you can do….” is often heard around job sites.

This is a MAJOR problem and owners and field leaders must own the resolution. Who will train the craftsmen of the future? You and your team need to step up. As an owner, you set the culture. You must consistently communicate the importance of training. Write down a list of craft skills that need to be learned. Then, create a “Learning Pathway,” by assigning required skills to each job level, providing a vision of what skills are expected for promotion to the next level.

Consider rewarding training with specific bonuses. Find the best trainers in your company, and pay them to train small groups on Saturdays. It is an absolutely necessary investment (not an expense) in your company’s future. Further, promote those employees who do the training. Recognize the trainers in company meetings. Talk about it every week. Training must become a core competency.

I’ve heard many excuses, like, “a craftsman trains himself.” Sure, I’m all for it. I’m also all for shortening the learning curve and improving your business return by TRAINING! Often in leadership, you get what you tolerate. We are in a labor shortage in the trades. If you want to be in this business and grow, you have no choice but to make training a cultural priority.

Hire attitude and train skill,

Brian Nolan

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