Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC) sponsored a workforce summit Jan. 23 in New Orleans, LA, to focus attention on the city's shortage of skilled plumbing and HVACR industry workers, and plan for the future.
Approximately 40 PHCC members, union representatives, educators and government officials attended the two-hour meeting. They discussed worker recruitement methods and training in Louisiana, which faces a severe worker shortage following Hurricane Katrina. They also shared ideas on how to attract and educate workers in the future. Gerry Kennedy of the PHCC Educational Foundation provided an update on resource materials available for training plumbing and HVACR technicians to industry standards.
During an introductory presentation at the summit, PHCC President Jim Finley, C.N. Finley, Inc., New Orleans, explained that nationally, the plumbing and HVACR industry needs more than 100,000 workers each year. And in Louisiana, jobs for plumbing and HVACR technicians are expected to increase by 13 percent between now and 2014.
“With these types of statistics, it is extremely important that everyone involved with recruiting and training future workers in all regions of the country work together to solve the worker shortage,” Finley says. “That’s why we’re setting up meetings in several areas to talk about what can be done.”
Tim Horst of the Gulf Coast Workforce Development, says much of the problem is caused by too many trades chasing too few workers. “All the trades are going after the same population,” Horst says. “For the construction industry to get their share of students, all the construction trades need to be focused in the same direction.”
Communicating the right message, reaching the correct people and taking personal responsibility also were emphasized during the summit.
“We need to get the word out that plumbing and HVACR technicians have more than a job, they have a career with great opportunities. Efforts need to be coordinated in order to get students into the programs,” says John Easley, Louisisana Community and Technical College System.
Jerry Payne, the Louisiana PHCC’s representative to the Louisiana State Plumbing Board, says outreach efforts must include parents.
“Not only do we need to make students aware of opportunities in the trades, but parents need to know about these opportunities, too," Payne says. "For example, we need to find ways of showing parents that their kids can get free postsecondary training.”
Henry Heier of the MCA of New Orleans emphasized the importance of sharing the responsibility for growing the trades.
“The trades need workers with good people skills, and a good attitude,” Heier says. “Whenever you go to a meeting, talk to someone about going into the trades. Everyone should make it their personal responsibility to talk to someone about a career in the trades.”
As a next step in Louisiana, the group will meet again to develop a plan of action to train the workers that are needed to build and maintain the infrastructure needed in the state and region. On a national basis, future workforce summits are planned for North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma.
For more information, contact PHCC at 800/533-7694 or visit www.phccweb.org