Contractor Makes Workforce Development a Priority

Like many of his colleagues, Patrick Wallner has had difficulty finding skilled workers for his company, so he’s made that area a focus in his work for the PHCC

Contractor Makes Workforce Development a Priority

Patrick Wallner, co-owner of Wallner Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning in Redding, California.

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National organization Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) has been a part of Patrick Wallner’s life during much of the time he has been with his family’s longtime plumbing firm in Northern California.

For 25 years now he’s been involved with PHCC, finishing a one-year term as president this past October and currently serving as secretary-treasurer for PHCC’s Educational Foundation. A top focus of Wallner’s in his PHCC service is workforce development.

“In our industry we have a huge shortage in the workforce with baby boomers retiring, and then with the great recession, so many people getting out of the building trades thus adding to the shortage,” says Wallner, who co-owns Wallner Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning in Redding, California, with brother Andy.

Wallner supports programs that many states are implementing that focus on “Ride and Decide” opportunities, allowing young people to experience first-hand what takes place working in the field for a plumbing company or other companies in related trades.

“The beauty in most cases and states is that the individual becomes an employee of a company and enjoys all the benefits while learning,” Wallner says. “Covered by workers’ comp, pay, and a chance to advance and learn.”

The “Ride and Decide” concept started in Tennessee, and many other states like California have picked up the idea and implemented a variety of approaches, much depending on the unique regulations in each state.

Like so many in the industry, Wallner approaches workforce development from a personal perspective of having had difficulty with recruitment efforts for his own company. Although Wallner Plumbing has a population of about 90,000 to pull from in its home base of Redding, the community is still small and remote compared to other Northern California neighbors like San Francisco.

“Having a business in a small or remote rural area, it is very difficult to recruit skilled tradesmen who are in a major city or metropolitan area, and it has to do with the disparity in wages,” Wallner says.

Wages are higher in metropolitan areas, so for a tradesman to come from an area paying $60 or more per hour to a more remote location paying $40 per hour, it loses the attraction, even with the cost of housing being proportionally lower, Wallner says. It often comes down to lifestyle and personal goals.

“It seems most of the skilled and qualified workers come from out of the area, wanting to get away from the big cities,” Wallner says.

Read more about Wallner Plumbing in the July 2018 issue of Plumber magazine.


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