Good Jobs Are Hard To Find


The trades offer plenty of them.

Here’s a recent story that grabbed my attention. It describes a scene in Queens, New York, where hundreds of people camped out overnight to receive applications to join the Plumbers Local 1 apprenticeship program. The union made it known that they would hand out a maximum of 1,000 applications, of which a small, unspecified number of apprentices would be selected.

What makes those plumbing jobs so highly coveted? The main reason is that New York City union plumbers are image of plumber iconamong the highest paid trade workers in the country. Many of them bring home six-figure annual incomes. These jobs are hard to get, because trade unions are inclined to limit the number of people they train. Members of most big city plumber unions mainly do new construction work, which is highly cyclical, so the unions don’t want to flood the market with too many plumbers who might end up unemployed during construction down cycles. Some people also say the unions purposely restrict the supply of labor in order to boost wages. The two reasons go hand-in-hand.

Most union plumbers around the country earn top dollar for their trade. The problem is that they have to “make hay while the sun shines,” as an old construction industry saying goes. That is, they work hard and put in a lot of overtime when the construction market is booming, but may be unemployed for long periods when work dries up.

What struck me about this story is that so many other plumbing jobs are available around the country that offer comparable incomes and steadier work. Yet these employers don’t have hundreds of job applicants camped outside their door. In fact, most of them say finding good plumbers is their biggest business problem.

I’m describing mainly residential service companies, whether union or nonunion. Trade apprenticeship programs mostly are geared to new construction work and neglect the service side of the field. So many service companies operate their own in-house training programs.

The irony is that many of these service companies offer their plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians the opportunity to earn six-figure incomes, and service work tends to be steadier than new construction. The technicians who work for top-notch residential service firms must not only be skilled mechanics, they usually receive extensive training in customer service skills.

Not every residential service firm offers great opportunity. Some are small shops that offer inferior pay and little or no benefits. But you can usually identify the good ones by their big, clean, brightly colored service vehicles you see driving around town. Many of these service trucks have signage inviting people to apply for their jobs.

If you are interested in a trade career with high pay, attractive benefits and steady work, give these companies a call.