Despite the drop in numbers of high school graduates heading to colleges and universities in-person during the past few years because of the pandemic, admissions are picking back up again, and the fact remains that students still favor college and university over technical schools. Unfortunately, the trades have a long-standing stigma of being the less desirable choice. And, like many industries, residential and commercial services that need skilled field technicians and service professionals are experiencing a worker shortage. Over the years, college enrollment rates climbed, and the trades were touted as less desirable. Of course, you and I know that trades professionals carry irreplaceable knowledge and skill, but unfortunately, many young people entering the workforce don’t figure that out until later in life. This is a significant problem because one-quarter of the trade’s workforce is nearing retirement. So, where is the younger workforce going instead of trades? Well, at least some of them are going into technology. There’s no doubt that technology will continue to experience high demand, but it’s far from the only viable career option. Here, we’ll look at how tech and trade careers compare and what companies can do to make their trade service employees feel as esteemed as their tech counterparts.
Trades vs. Tech: A Breakdown of the Facts
Tech careers have rapidly become one of the most heralded career paths. With popular phrases like “unicorn” companies tossed around, it’s clear why people working in technology feel celebrated. After all, these one-of-a-kind products wouldn’t exist without people like software engineers. Without a doubt, though, the biggest draw to a job in tech is the salary. Technology careers pay their workers an above living wage, which is attractive to young people just starting. However, there’s more to a career than salary, especially when considering factors like the cost and time commitment of advanced education. To get the complete picture, let’s take a deeper look at how a career like a software engineer compares to some of the more popular trade careers overall. As we’ve already highlighted, software engineers are well compensated for their expertise. But that doesn’t mean service professionals aren’t compensated fairly. For example, the median salary of a software developer is $110,140 but often stalls around that range while the median salary for electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians is between $50,000-60,000 – keeping in mind the lower apprenticeship rates influencing the average and that over time the salary can grow to over $100,000 with experience. Especially if the technician starts his own business. Also, when you consider that a software professional needs to spend at least four years paying to learn their craft, and a trades professional typically spends two years getting paid to learn theirs, the initial pay scale begins to balance. Trades professionals get to start their career sooner and thus experience benefits such as earlier retirement contributions than someone spending their first few years trying to overcome student loan debt. Another draw of a technology career is the forecasted job stability. The BLS indicates 22% growth by 2030. Of course, technology careers are in high demand, but so are the trades. For example, electrician jobs are anticipated to grow at 9%, and that’s just one of the many trades. With a large percentage of trades employees aging out to retirement the industry predicts the demand for new works will be increasing dramatically in the coming years. Finally, we must consider job satisfaction. Ultimately, the career you choose is often the career you stay in for another 30 years. So, the career must offer the work-life balance you need to be happy. A recent survey of software engineers indicates that they’re in the bottom 46% of job satisfaction compared to other careers. On the other hand, research shows that 83% of trades professionals are either somewhat or extremely satisfied with their careers. All in all, both tech and trade careers have their perks. However, it’s time we start championing the value of trades the same way we do other roles.
Champion Your Service Professionals - True Heroes in the Field
When your pipes burst, there’s no app for that. In this instance – and uncountable others – you need a professional to come in and solve your urgent problem. This is the story we must keep in mind when we prepare employees – that they are the heroes. But, for them to fulfill their roles, they need company support. Here’s how you provide it.
- Facilitate precision onboarding and training – The first few days on the job set the tone. You need to establish a comprehensive onboarding and training program that every employee completes. Onboarding gives your employees the tools they need to be successful and creates a culture that promotes accountability. Plus, onboarding improves retention by 50%, so when you find a skilled employee, you lower your risk of losing them.
- Equip your people with the information they need – Nothing is worse than feeling like you don’t know how to do your job — especially if you’re a service technician with customers watching your every move. If you want to make your employees the hero, you need to equip them with all the information they might need for each job. Don’t embarrass them or upset your customer by not completing the service the first time, every time. The right technology supports your technicians to provide the best customer service, from scheduling and invoicing to communicating with the back office.
- Create consistent processes – Processes set your technicians up to be the expert. When the next step is always known, they're never left having to get back to a customer on a fundamental question or wasting time moving a job forward. Processes that ensure your customer the same experience no matter what technician arrives on the job. You want to empower your employees to always know the next step and be able to quickly grab job details even if they’re operating solely from their phones. This way, you create a better reputation for both your employees and your company as a whole – because everyone knows reputation means everything.
- Limit the administrative tasks – Service professionals don’t go into the field to do administration work. Yet, it’s a necessary task. The answer to keeping your employees happy and getting your administrative tasks completed without numerous requests is to keep it simple. You want to streamline administrative tasks to be easily replicated and take minutes – not hours – each week. Ideally, admin can be completed in a few simple clicks. Anything more, and you risk upsetting your service professionals and creating workflow bottlenecks.
- Support them with technology – Disconnected technology wastes everyone’s time. Give your technicians and customers a superior experience by integrating all your vital tools. When you pair a field services management software with your CRM and payment processing, it lightens your service professionals' load and lets them focus on serving the customer. It also creates extra time so that they can service additional customers.
- Don’t micromanage – The fastest way to keep your employees feeling like amateurs rather than heroes is to micromanage every job. Micromanaging lowers morale and productivity. So, if you’re confident in your onboarding and training programs as well as your processes, you should have no trouble trusting your skilled employees to do the job right.
It’s on service companies to make their employees feel like the valued experts that they are, in the same way that technology companies do. That’s what attracts and retains top industry talent. To build a long-lasting and profitable service business, you need top-rate employees. But, given that there’s not enough trades talent to go around, we must do better to make our employees the heroes of our companies. For this to happen, the trades industry must recruit fresh talent by highlighting the facts and championing trades careers – as they should be.