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High Schoolers and the Skilled Trades: Your Recruiting Guide

Bad Reputation

There are roughly 44.7 million Americans with an average of $28,650 in student loan debt (Forbes). Meanwhile, trades industries like construction, plumbing and electric – which frequently offer paid training – are suffering from a bad reputation and lack of interest from young people. With a projected vacancy of 31 million jobs in the skilled trades by 2020, the perception of the industry needs a serious facelift.

Research shows 84% of Gen Z (16- to 24-year-olds) plan to attend traditional college. As the new generations enter the workforce, there’s a lot to be done to encourage young people to enter the trades. Much like college sports, trades organizations are aggressively recruiting high schoolers and hosting their own signing days.

Here’s how you can get students interested and start promoting your own community trades signing day.

National Day, Local Focus

SkillsUSA, an association that promotes the trades and unites students, teachers and industry representatives, aims to help change this negative perception nationwide. Their inaugural Signing Day, co-sponsored with Klein Tools, falls on May 8, and high schools around the country are encouraged to participate (even if they’re not affiliated with SkillsUSA).

Organizations can boost their employer brand, gain interest from future recruits and help retain new hires by getting involved with young people early, all while helping trades as a whole.

Getting Started

Take a look at your recruiting goals for the upcoming busy season and beyond. If you’re worried about where you’ll find new recruits, here are a few ways you can attract a qualified labor pool and get students signed.

Look to Your Trade Association

Trade associations offer the latest in training, events, research and advice. Chances are there’s a committee already working to build connections with school administrators, so get involved. Try not to look at other members as competition. Instead, consider them your allies in promoting the trades. After all, a plumber and a carpenter need each other to get the job done.

Not involved with an association yet? Check out this directory.

Combat “Senioritis”

Senioritis – the mindset and timeframe when high school seniors typically start to slack off – is a good opportunity to create proactive programs with high schools. It’s likely that some of those students aren’t sure of their post-grad plans anyway. Since students are done studying, why not plan a social media-worthy event instead?

Gen Z loves social media and 45% of them say they are online “almost constantly,” so chances are your event would end up being broadcast to their networks as well. Host a field trip to your facility or job site, show them your impressive machinery and let them do the promoting for you.

Emphasize Career Opportunities

Trades aren’t “just a job,” but many young people still see the industry that way. According to Indeed, average salaries range from approximately $45,760 to upwards of $120,000 depending on the position and skill level. Many jobs requiring four-year degrees can’t even promise that.

Talk to them about the career paths available to them from apprentice to journeyman, and the increased wages and leadership responsibilities they can expect as they progress in their career.

Launching Your Signing Day

On signing day, focus on students and their families. While it’s the perfect opportunity to promote your employer brand, this day should be all about them.

Take to Social Media

Create a hashtag, supporting graphics and social media posts to rebrand all of your accounts in the weeks leading up to signing day. If you don’t have Snapchat or Instagram, this may be a good time to create an account, since Gen Z spends most of their time on those platforms.

After the event, ask permission to share photos and interviews with your new recruits on social media. Encourage them to use your hashtag and share their own stories. Talk to them about why they chose the trades and why they’re excited to begin their new career.

Back to School

Ask school officials to host the signing day and bring your brand with you. Set up banners around small activities like putt-putt golf or a scavenger hunt. The more buzz happening at the school, the more students (aka future recruits) are likely to notice.

Alert the Press

News stations love opportunities to promote feel-good stories in their communities. Reach out to your local stations and invite them to join in on the festivities.

Don’t Forget the Swag

Show off your brand with swag for your new signee. Bring hard hats, tool belts, sweatshirts or whatever else your recruits may need for day one. Tech is also a plus. If you can swing it, consider giving signees a tablet or mobile device to perform job-related tech work on. And of course, bring plenty of less expensive swag items to give to prospective recruits around the school.

Helpful hint: Bring a few kid-sized items as well just in case your new recruits have younger siblings.

Want more ideas on recruiting Gen Z to the skilled trades? Get an HR assessment from our team to get started.

About the Author

Chris Lennon, VP of Product Management, BirdDogHR, Chris is VP of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our customers. He does this by working directly with customers and partners, identifying key market opportunities, developing product strategies and bringing exciting new products, features and partnerships to market. Chris is an active participant in the talent management community bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like Talent Management magazine, CLO magazine, CEOWOLRD magazine, New Talent Times, TLNT, and HR Bartender.

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