OTTAWA — For many young adults entering the workforce, the idea of teaming up with a large company with the potential for relocation and advancement may seem appealing. Still, there’s a need for a new generation of workers, especially with the pending retirement of many Baby Boomers, being felt among area small businesses.
Scott Wagner is the owner of Scott Wagner Plumbing and Heating in Ottawa. For him, the generational work transition will have an impact on his workforce.
“I’m going to have eight of us who will be getting ready to retire all near the same,” he said. “That’s a huge chunk because we have 24 people, and if you take eight out, that’s huge, plus the experience we’d be losing.”
To this point, Wagner has been able to find new HVAC workers to help serve his customers, often actively looking for them rather than having potential applicants seek him out.
“As far as our company goes, we go through a pretty good screening process when we bring people along,” Wagner said. “Most likely, if we’re interested in someone, we go after them. We’ve actually pulled about five people out of the HVAC program at (the University of Northwestern Ohio).”
Finding new skilled trade workers can be difficult for Wagner, especially with less emphasis put on trades as potential career paths for young people.
“You don’t just learn this stuff overnight, and for many who have been brought up with phones and computers, they basically don’t want to get their hands dirty,” he said. “So if I have a young gentleman or lady going to school for this kind of education, I’ll give them a shot here.”
Brian Baker, of Burden Construction in Lima, also feels the pinch of a lack of young skilled trades workers coming up the pipeline.
“It’s been happening since the recession, when a lot of tradesmen got out of the industry,” he said.
While also actively recruiting new workers, Baker also touts the benefits for young workers in working in a smaller company.
“I would want to work for a smaller company where you feel more a part of the team and feel you have a more important role,” he said. “One of the biggest benefits you can have is time off if you have something to do, you have a doctor appointment, a family committment or if you want to take your family to the zoo for a day off, that’s a benefit I can give that maybe a Fortune 500 company can’t because of their human resource policies.”
The biggest attraction to smaller companies, Burden said, is building relationships.
“If you’re not proactive, you’ll fall by the wayside,” he said. “It’s all relationship-based. Just like our leads and sales and customers, we generate most of those through relationships and not marketing. So if I find a good carpenter with a good work ethic, I’ll go out and find them and bring them in.”
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.