Looking for Good People? Offer a High School Scholarship

One evening while enjoying dinner with a group of contractors, the subject of our shrinking labor pool came up. There were the usual complaints about the shortage of good workers, the lack of skilled labor, and the unwillingness of youth to enter our industry. After listening to the group bellyache for a while, one contractor posed an amazing solution he had practiced for several years with incredible success: offer a high school scholarship.

What he had done was to simply package a service tech or installer job in a manner that attracted the very best and brightest students in his local high schools. It gave him hero status in the community and, in addition to securing a clean and sharp apprentice; he picked up two to four HVAC projects before he left the graduation ceremonies every year.

Here’s what you could do to replicate this powerful employee magnet in your company.

Itemize the tools, services, and training you provide a new employee for the first four years of employment. Next, total the investment you will make in their career. Here’s a brief list to get you started:

1. List the basic HVAC tools and test instruments included with the position
2. Uniforms and protective gear
3. Drug testing and hiring costs
4. Initial new employee training
5. Enrollment in a beginner’s course in sheet metal or HVAC service in a local college or trade school evening program
6. In-house company training over the first four years
7. Training courses from your distributors and manufacturers
8. Courses by your local ACCA, RSES or other trade associations
9. Ongoing training at your local trade school or college
10. Additional training and certification from companies within the HVAC industry.

The value of this training will probably total well over $10,000. Compare that to the typical scholarships presented at high school graduations. “We now have a $250 scholarship from the PTA, a $500 scholarship from the American Legion, a $300 scholarship from the Rotary Club and a $12,500 scholarship from Advanced Mechanical.” Can you hear your community gasp at your generosity?

Throw in a Job

Include with the scholarship an offer for employment : a four year apprenticeship. (It’s working for Mr. Trump) With the cost of higher education these days, the value of a college diploma is decreasing. Not everyone is made to be bound to a desk for years under professors and destined to become a doctor graduating with a quarter million dollar debt.

Create a career path appealing to a sharp young high school student, fulfill it with a job, and bundle it with the scholarship. Include a proposed pay scale and list all of the employee benefits that you offer. Compare this opportunity to the hopes of most high school graduates, and for the first time you see how much your company really has to offer a qualified, clean, and able young person.

Package the Scholarship

Search out a qualified local graphics designer and have them create a brochure for your scholarship offering. Once you’ve completed the text of the offering, they can make it look like a million bucks. They’ll find the graphics and make it appealing to young people. This shouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred dollars, which you can pay from your marketing budget. Isn’t this a powerful way to market your company to your future employees and the community?

Contact the High School

Just call the office and tell them you want to offer a $10,000 plus scholarship to one of their students at their graduation ceremony in a few months. You’ll easily get through to the right person. Take a trip down to the high school with an armload of your scholarship brochures. Have the school circulate them for you. Request for them to arrange interviews for the most qualified and able students. Perhaps you can speak to clubs or departments in the school.

Promote the Scholarship Publicly

The best and most valuable marketing is free press. Contact your local papers and ask to speak to their chief editors. Describe what you are doing and ask them to help you get the word out to parents and qualified young people. Odds are they will send out a reporter that day. Give them a copy of your brochure and you will most likely get the best write-up a local business has seen in a long time. Go ahead, become a local philanthropist and take all the free positive publicity you can get.

Interview Candidates

Kids are better today than we were at their age. They can rise to the call better than we could. They sense more and I believe that many have more ability to thrive than our generation, if given the opportunity. So, go give one or two the break they need to do so. Create the chance to have the best and brightest work for you. This beats the heck out of most of the hiring methods we’re now using.

Set a time at the high school and correlate with the school staff to arrange 15 minute interviews with their best kids. Each should complete a questionnaire that you make up so you’ll have all their essential information. This should prove to be a beneficial opportunity for you and the young people you’ll interview. You’ll find one that rises to the top and you’ll see young nobility peeking through and feel their desire to make something of themselves. You will have the opportunity to paint a picture of what our industry is all about and attract qualified young people to it.
Check with the parents of your top candidates to be sure you have their support if their youth was to be selected. This will give you valuable insight into the high school student as well.

Make Your Choice

Choose the candidate you feel would benefit your company the most. Make the arrangements with the high school for the award. Arrange for the job to start several weeks after school is out. Look forward to a long and prosperous relationship and be sure to keep your end of the bargain.

Young people are our future. Imagine the impact you can have in the lives of these young adults if you package your company and our industry in a way they can embrace it as an opportunity for their future. Compare this method to placing a want-ad in the local paper. Envision the results this could produce for your company and the rising generation.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. You can contact Doc at robf@nationalcomfortinstitute.com or call him at 800/633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, technical articles and downloads.

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