Plumbing Mentorship: How Sharing Trade Wisdom Can Combat the Labor Shortage
Plumbing is about more than pipe bursts and fixture installs. Whether you specialize in new construction or repairs, plumbing requires craftsmanship that takes time and dedication. Mentoring ensures trade craftsmanship gets passed to the next generation of plumbers. And with the trade labor shortage, mentoring can be a great way to nurture young people into a plumbing career while helping your business thrive.
Mentoring isn’t a one-way street. Most assume that the pro offers wisdom and guidance to mentees or apprentices and gets nothing in return, but the benefits of mentorship go both ways. A mentor-mentee relationship can stimulate growth for you and your company while increasing public awareness of the plumbing industry and encouraging future careers in plumbing.
Ways You Can Help Your Mentees
Whether you want to offer shadowing opportunities or full-on plumbing apprenticeships, you can help make a positive impact on newer plumbing professionals.
Back to the Basics
As every pro knows, whether you’ve been on the job for a day or a decade, you learn something new every single day. Plumbing apprenticeships allow mentees to learn under the watchful eye of a seasoned professional.
With a helping hand, learning the basics becomes a little easier. Familiarizing your apprentice with plumbing techniques and your company’s procedures can help shorten the learning curve. The more comfortable they are with the basics, the quicker they can perform jobs on their own, increasing your business’s productivity and therefore profitability.
On-the-job training also offers lessons on customer service and career planning that no trade school can teach. You may want to share advice that helps your apprentice learn about the business side of the industry, for instance. With your guidance, they’ll not only learn nuances like the differences between PEX-A, -B and -C, but also gain small tips along the way, like slip fittings are good to keep on hand for emergency repairs. Teaching them different plumbing techniques for different situations trains them to be adaptable workers. In addition, comparing “the way things used to be” to modern practices could also help them to appreciate the plumbing innovations we have today.
Whether it’s through a family member or a friend, many pros are first introduced to the trades through a personal connection. As of 2022, the construction industry will need to attract approximately 650,000 more workers than normal to meet labor demands, according to a model developed by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Making a personal connection through the training process helps the trade achieve that growth and even maintain it. Think about how you felt when it clicked for the first time — and who helped you get there. Pay it forward by helping foster that connection in someone else.
Read more: 7 Ways Pros Can Promote Careers in Construction
It’s difficult for some people to gain access to the same level of training required for an apprenticeship based on bias in the industry. Because of this, pre-apprenticeships are a good offering to prepare people with the skills, information and strategies that they need to succeed in an apprenticeship. These programs may be offered in partnership with community organizations, high schools, labor organizations, workforce agencies or community colleges.
Read more: How Pre-Apprenticeships Increase Diversity in the Plumbing Industry
Mentorships don’t only happen between a seasoned pro and a young professional looking to join the industry. It often happens naturally between the people you’re around all the time. Pairing yourself or other team members up for peer mentorship can also be beneficial for your business.
This form of mentorship adds a sense of camaraderie that may not otherwise exist, while leading to an increase in productivity. Plus, customers notice team dynamics, and they’re more likely to call back a team that works well together to get their projects done on time with the best quality.
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Benefits of Being a Plumbing Mentor
The mentee is not the only person who gets to learn from the mentorship. You learn from one another along the way. Here’s how you can benefit from mentoring others.
Talent Development and Retention
Working closely with growing professionals gives you the opportunity to shape the employee you need to support your plumbing business. Their techniques will mimic what they learn directly from you, so you can start to fill your trade labor gaps while teaching new talent to do their jobs in the way you need them to.
Mentorship is a great way to encourage young plumbers to stay in the industry too. With personal guidance and support, your apprentice may be more loyal to you, your business and to your other employees.
A Fresh Perspective
Even mentors get an opportunity to learn new techniques and practices from their mentees. As technologies improve, trade schools are teaching new ways to perform installations. A younger plumber could learn about a technique or product that a seasoned pro may not have been exposed to. Diverse backgrounds and experiences can help you to learn things you never would have known otherwise.
Mentoring encourages you to be a better leader as you observe different work and personality styles. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses — whether in technical knowledge, leadership or business — presents a great opportunity to grow your skills. Acknowledging your own abilities allows you to shine a light on your apprentice’s talents and room for improvement, too, which is invaluable. This self-awareness can help you improve your own performance as well as your apprentice’s.
Tips for a Valuable Mentorship
Mentorship is a dynamic journey as you learn and grow together. With two people involved, different perspectives, workflows or other learning opportunities can arise. Here are some tips to make your mentoring partnership a valuable and impactful one.
- Set goals. Think about what you would like to gain or give from a mentor relationship or formal apprenticeship. Where do you or your mentee need to improve and how can you help each other get there?
- Share ideas. A mentor relationship is a good opportunity to brainstorm ideas to help improve your company. Encourage mentees to build on their strengths, problem solve and get creative. In the long run, it can be just as helpful for you.
- Embrace feedback. Use the mentorship as an opportunity to improve your business and communication skills. Ask your mentee what’s going well and what could be better and listen to what they have to say with an open mind.
- Open doors. It’s OK to have more than one mentor or mentee. Learning from multiple professionals can help people figure out their own workflow and get different perspectives on the industry. So, introduce your mentee to others in the business and the trades. Doing so can also expose them to different teaching styles that they may resonate more with.
- Be patient. You’re not going to be able to teach everything your mentee should know in a week. Sometimes, it takes a while for people to learn something or even to connect with one another. Build trust and be supportive when they make mistakes. It’s how everyone learns.
Mentorships can be a lot of work, but long term, it's good for you, your mentee, your business and the industry as a whole. Train the younger generation of plumbers and give yourself a chance to grow in the process.
Read more: A Plumber’s Advice for Plumbing Apprentices & Those Who Train Them