Do Your Part to Communicate the Value of the Plumbing Trade

At the root of the knowledge gap and the struggle to find the next generation of skilled workers is the perceived value of the plumbing trade

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As a country, we’ve gone through some major shifts in perspective regarding the trades.

For many years, working in the trades was considered a highly respectable path. Then we force-fed our kids the “higher education” path and created a worldview that saw college as the only respectable choice after high school. Whether we realized it at the time or not, pushing college on our kids communicated to them that higher education equals value.

Now, here we are wondering why we can’t seem to get a new generation of workers to fill our shoes in the trades. We didn’t give kids a chance to consider the trades. We didn’t give them a reason to consider the trades. We told them there was one way to go if they wanted to get anywhere in life and provide value in their community, and that wasn’t the trade school route.

This isn’t an article about the knowledge gap or the struggle to find the next generation of workers, because both problems have roots in the same thing. We’re going right to the heart of the issue, and that’s perceived value. Do you know your value as a tradesman and are you working to create a culture that knows and respects the value you bring in your work?

Know Your Value

Creating a culture that recognizes value when it sees it and that understands and appreciates the worth of a skilled tradesman starts with, well, the tradesmen. You have to know your own value and the importance of the work you do. You have to respect the work itself in order to expect respect from others. 

Plumbing is life saving, life changing work; it’s specialized work. Becoming a master plumber takes years of training and education and it’s no less impressive than any other specialized career choice. You may take for granted the knowledge you have and the years of experience you have under your belt, but you shouldn’t. Take pride in your knowledge, experience and skill, and appreciate the fact that you bring something to the table that not everyone does.

If you want to shift the perception of your community, start with you. Take the time each and every day to remember the value you bring and to take pride in what you do for your community, day in and day out.

Once you know your value and respect your work, your perception of your work will change, and your customers, neighbors and kids will notice. When you recognize the value of your work and approach it with the same respect you approach any other work, whatever the color of the collar, you communicate that higher education does not have exclusive rights to value. Value is in how you do the work, whatever that work may be.

Communicate Your Value

Not everyone knows the years of training and education that go into becoming a journeyman or master plumber, and without that understanding, they may not fully appreciate what you do. It’s your job to communicate that value to your community and educate your customers.

Look at the way your business is set up — look at everything from your trucks and uniforms to your invoices, scheduling process, marketing messages, and everything else that makes up the customer experience. Are you communicating and exemplifying value in those areas, or are you working against yourself? Do your techs show up late and dirty, without ever bothering to call or text the customer to let them know when they can be expected? Do you no-show, leave a mess behind in your customer’s home, or fail to return calls? Or are you professional, communicative, and respectful in all areas of your business? You’re either communicating to your customer that you treat the work with respect or you’re communicating the opposite, and they’ll follow suit. It’s up to you to set the stage.

Not Everyone Will See Value

Yes, there are people out there who have never worked a day in their lives and that have never been in any sort of service role. These are usually the most demanding and disrespectful people in restaurants, retail stores and, you guessed it, your workday. So here’s the caveat: You can’t make everyone happy and you can’t make everyone see your value.

There will also always be people out there in your industry who are working against you. These are the plumbers who fit every single stereotype and don’t take their work seriously. They probably aren’t as skilled, educated or as experienced as you are, and they certainly don’t approach their work with the same sense of pride. They don’t perceive value in what they do and they don’t really care how they come across to customers or what they communicate to customers about the plumbing industry as a whole. They’re the ones creating negative perceptions in your customers’ minds even before you get the call.

The real challenge and solution in these circumstances is to not let these people change your perception of your value. You’re still doing work that’s worthy of respect. You’re still doing work that provides value, regardless of what a customer happens to believe or think, and regardless of what others in your industry are communicating.

You get to choose the level of value you bring to and through your work every day. Are you doing your part to create a culture and a society that respects the plumbing trade or do you need to get to work on your own perception first?

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They’re also the co-hosts of the Blue Collar Proud (BCP) Show, a podcast that’s all about having and living the blue collar dream, and the co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit or


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