You have heard ASA talk a great deal about the looming labor shortages our industry will face over the next 10 years and what our association is doing to help attract the next generation

If you go to industry meetings, you’ve seen this trend coming. As distributors, we also have seen the significant labor shortages that our contractor customers are facing. In fact, most distributors know they have product sitting in the warehouse that is earmarked for specific jobs that our contractor customers can’t get to because they don’t have the labor to start the next project. 

I think everyone will agree not only is there a pending crisis in installer shortages, but the crisis is already here. And if President Trump is successful with accelerating the economy, our labor problems are going to get bigger, faster.

ASA has been active in helping to find a long-term solution to not only our labor needs but those of our contractor customers as well. President Trump is all too familiar with our needs to find quality workers to install construction products. It’s advantageous to us to have a builder in the White House who understands the need for apprenticeship and attracting young talent to the trades.

Since the beginning of the year, our association has been working with other leading organizations, such as National Association of Home Builders, to guide the Trump administration to focus on the need for craft training in America and in our nation’s schools, particularly in our high schools.

In June, the president signed an executive order directing the Department of Labor to establish a taskforce to look at new ways of attracting and training the next generation of construction workers, factory workers and non-white-collar labor. The well-established apprenticeship programs that have worked for decades have become too bureaucratic, slow and non-responsive.

ASA was invited to attend that signing ceremony. As you read the executive order, it calls for the establishment of a 20-person taskforce. While representatives from the plumbing industry applied to serve on the taskforce, more than 400 applicants from major organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber and Business Roundtable did as well. 

While hundreds of industries are looking to have input into the outcome of this task group, ASA has exhibited its leadership in a bold and visionary way. On Sept. 14, ASA organized an industry delegation of leading manufacturers, distributors and contractors to meet with White House officials to present our plan to recruit, train and retain future plumbers and pipe fitters. Our attendees were impressed by the level of commitment of the participants from the White House who support real solutions, as well as their interest in building up our labor force for several reasons. 

First, there is the benefit of job creation and economic growth. Second, is the nation’s ability to update infrastructure and lastly is the fact careers in our industry are there for our next generation to earn a great wage and rebuild the nation’s middle class.

What impressed me the most is while other industries are trying to figure out what to do or simply waiting to see what will come out of the DOL apprenticeship taskforce recommendations, ASA has unified the entire industry channel behind a big and bold vision that has impressed the White House. 

We believe our bold ideas have made an impact on the White House’s effort. We were extremely pleased to hear the president say while delivering a speech in front of a refinery in North Dakota that “the nation needs to train more plumbers and pipe fitters.”

The president doesn’t say something like that by accident. Folks in the White House are talking about our bold plan to start 1,000 high-school applied-technology programs focused on plumbing, totally supported by our industry and ASA members.

We believe this is the only viable course to solve the decades of neglect in promoting the value of an apprenticeship in favor of schools, guidance counselors and parents blindly pushing high-school students toward a college path.

No amount of advertising can impact a young person’s mind better than having them exposed to career opportunities that exist in the trades while they still are in high school and by giving them a chance to try it.

This meeting was a first step and we are prepared to work with the administration and all our industry partners in providing quality, cost-efficient and responsive installation.