I received a package within only weeks of starting as a trainee at Ferguson. Our branch operations manager dropped a stack of American Supply Association (ASA) training manuals onto my shipping workspace in the warehouse.
In the Beginning
There began my plumbing training, and a great way for my employer at the time to set me up for success. When you have no experience in this industry, you first have to learn a foreign language. ASA was my new teacher, my “translator”, and it still is for many newcomers in manufacturing and distribution.
Learning material types, installation methods, piping basics, fitting assemblies, even just terminology all while picking and packing these same materials paved a way forward for this newcomer. This connection between the products and their application opened my opportunity.
Our industry faces tough competition for top talent. More important than ever, managers need to break down barriers to success and generate excitement among new associates. As we help ASA celebrate its 50th anniversary, I’m happy to share how ASA delivers tangible benefits to us as a manufacturer.
At LIXIL Americas, home to such brands as American Standard, GROHE and DXV, we’re excited about the work ASA does through its Emerging Leaders Division (EL), cultivating middle and upper managers and advancing their training. Last spring in New Jersey we hosted ASA EL, building and strengthening relationships while listening to what these future leaders think about and what gets them excited for the future. We learned about disruption, we de-bunked online threats to wholesale distribution, and we turned to one another for action. This is an industry in transition.
We appreciate ASA’s efforts to encourage more diversity in executive talent. We admire ASA’s Women in Industry Division where our own future executives contribute and build networks that attract even more women to our industry.
Of course, competition for talent isn’t just coming from other industries, it comes from within as plumbing firms grapple with the skilled labor shortage. My colleagues and I have heard from wholesalers who are losing their knowledgeable counter talent to their own plumbing customers because there is just not enough talent to go around. This critical situation needs all hands on deck.
Changing the conversation
For our part, LIXIL Americas provides our latest plumbing innovations to vocational schools in our home state of New Jersey as part of a larger effort to steer the conversation towards the benefits of pursuing a career in plumbing. We tell the story about our “Olympic plumber” Jonathan Cheever, an elite snowboard cross athlete and plumber. He chooses the trade because it gives him the flexibility — and earning power — to support his true passion of snowboard racing. Stories like these help change the perception of plumbing careers and plumbers.
Through ASA’s advocacy, we tell these stories to the all-important audience of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., including at the White House where our CEO Steve Delarge was among the ASA delegation in 2017 calling for increased support of apprenticeship programs.
Advantages of membership
Underpinning all these advantages to ASA membership is the value of networking. A best practice at LIXIL Americas involves executives from different areas of our company serving concurrently in various volunteer roles. We’ve gained new customers as a direct result of our involvement with ASA. By working together to address industry challenges, we learn about each other which helps us be more effective at sales and service and makes our supply chain more efficient. LIXIL Americas has gained so much more through our long association with ASA.