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3 Ways to Retain New Plumbers


As a new generation of tradespeople enter the workforce, many employers struggle to find great talent and keep them on the team. After digging into research and talking to industry professionals, there seemed to be one main retention tactic: Improving employee engagement.

Explore the three topics you can address for a more committed team.


1. Career and Skill Development

As skilled tradespeople are retiring, there isn’t enough young talent to fill the gap, creating a labor shortage in the skilled trades. To combat this, employers must consider what plumbers expect from a career in the trades and what they value in a job.

The opportunity for career advancement and skill development is the No. 1 reason tradespeople stay in their job, according to a study conducted by the Building Talent Foundation and the Oxford Center for Employee Engagement. So, how can you provide this for your employees? 

Career Advancement

There are many different career paths available in the trades, but no matter which path your employees take, they are looking for a job that prepares, challenges and helps them grow. Below are some practical ways you can support your team.  

Career counselors. Partnering with career counselors who know the industry provides an inspirational figure for your employees. These counselors often help apprentices choose to stay with the trades long-term. They can help your employees make smart career decisions, which keeps them in the trades and always ready to learn. One great source for counselors is through nonprofits such as Women in Plumbing and Piping or American Society of Plumbing Engineers mentorship programs.  

Non-technical training. Just like technical training develops your employees’ skills, leadership training provides personal and career development. There are many classes and other resources that can not only retain your workers but also create great supervisors and leaders within your organization. Many trade associations offer this, such as Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, Mechanical Contractors Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and American Society of Plumbing Engineers.

Skill Development

Trade secrets and expert-level skills are essential for a career in the trades industry. The main way to develop these skills is through experience. Here’s how to make that a reality for your new employees.  

Paid technical training. Unlike leadership training, technical training takes time. As employees develop new skills and improve on current ones, they are getting more invested in the trades.

In a recent interview with Joe Jaspers, an expert plumber and Elite Trades Championship Series Plumbing Nationals finalist, he explains that credentials like a backflow certification, journeyman license or basic welding offers better pay and more opportunities. From his experience, new employees should take this step because it’s a way for them to work while gaining marketable skills. Justin Coutu, another ETCS finalist, agrees with this in his interview, saying “I wish I would have known to work towards my licenses faster.”

Mentorship. Your most experienced employees are one of your biggest resources. Their knowledge is extremely valuable, so encourage them to pass it on. Pairing more seasoned employees with apprentices will teach the next generation specific skills and lessons that ordinary onboarding does not offer.

Mentoring apprentices equips them with the techniques and procedures to be successful in the trades. Providing this opportunity — whether informal or through an established program — will give them the specific skills they need to stay full-time with your company.  

Read More: Plumbing Mentorship- How Sharing Trade Wisdom Can Combat the Labor Shortage  


2. Effective Leadership

Who you let manage your employees matters. In a Building Talent Foundation study, 45% of respondents said being respected, valued and not micro-managed by their boss was their reason for staying in their job. Here are a couple of ways you can create a culture of retention.

Challenge Your Employees  

Employees with high job satisfaction are more likely to stay with their current employer. One way to increase job satisfaction is to assign projects that challenge young tradespeople. These projects grow their skillset and help them take pride in their work.  

Dave McDonough knows this better than most people. Dave is an ETCS finalist and plumber of 40 years, and in a recent interview, he shared what has kept him on the job for so long. His philosophy is to work hard and steady, always taking pride in what you do.  

Mission Minded

Another way to increase job satisfaction is to explain the goal of the plumbing project and who you help by completing it. In Dave’s experience, plumbing is fulfilling because it helps people, and better yet, they appreciate your help. Connecting your employees to the mission of their project not only motivates them to do their job well but also instills a sense of purpose.  

3. Wages and Work-Life Balance

Although many tradespeople work in the trades because they love it, competitive pay, reasonable hours, and benefits are major factors in deciding where to work and if they should stay.  

Wages and benefits

The trades offer a dependable and profitable career, even during recessions. Apprenticeships and licenses are two ways to earn more money while growing your skillset. To keep employees who will be loyal to your company and the trades, you should encourage their growth in these areas. You can do this by offering apprenticeships and telling them about ways to develop their career.  

Pedro Bruno had no opportunities or marketable skills before the Home Builders Institute, but since graduating from the program, he has successfully worked in the field and has come back as an instructor. His mission is to help students find a lucrative career in the trades by equipping them with useful skills. 


Our goal here is to not only get them a job, but to get them an apprenticeship.

Pedro Bruno, HBI plumbing instructor

Starr Delgado has a similar story. She is an HBI instructor who invests in her students and tells them how the trades and the institute have given her financial freedom. 

"You don’t have to be a master plumber to make money in the plumbing field. The skills students develop here help them go into the field and make a good career for themselves." Starr Delgado, HBI plumbing instructor

Work-life balance

Finding the right work-life balance can be difficult in any job, but plumbing business owners can make it easier. Consider providing an equal distribution of weekend jobs and on-call rotations. This not only shows equal respect for your employees but makes a reputable name for your company.


I choose not to work so many hours and I have a comfortable life. My bills are paid, and I prefer to do something fun.

Kim Yeagley, Arizona plumber

The flexibility of the trades is also a major driving force for your employees to stay on the job. This is true for Kim Yeagley, who has been a plumber for 15 years and is now the owner of Gold Canyon Plumbing. She not only finds the trade rewarding, but profitable. Encourage your employees to move forward in their career so they can create their own hours just like Kim.


There are three main ways you can retain new plumbers in the workforce as the industry struggles with a labor shortage.

1. Career and Skill Development

New tradespeople start their careers off right when they receive career counseling or start off as an apprentice. Other great resources include both leadership and technical training, which teaches them the skills they need to succeed in the field.  

2. Effective Leadership

Leaders shape the workplace and can be the reason new hires decide to stay or leave. Leaders should include employees in projects that will challenge them to get more buy-in from them. You can also do this is by connecting them to the mission of each project and how it helps the community.  

3. Wages and Work-Life Balance

Those new to the trades will look for a lucrative, yet flexible career. Apprenticeships and licenses should be encouraged, as it teaches young employees that they can grow their skills while earning a living. While many employees seek to make their own hours, managers and mentors should educate them about the flexibility of owning your own business, which is something they can work toward.  

Managing the Labor Shortage