Company’s Solution to Skilled Worker Deficit? Create Its Own

Illinois plumber doesn’t look for already exceptionally skilled candidates when hiring. He looks for qualified people who can be molded into skilled workers.

Company’s Solution to Skilled Worker Deficit? Create Its Own

Jay DeFrates, owner of Jay's Plumbing & Sewer in Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Plumbing is a trade, and trade skills get short shrift in a society riveted to the notion that everyone should have a college degree and pursue a white-collar career. Also working against talented people becoming plumbers is the fascination of the last couple of generations with manipulating electronic devices rather than turning wrenches.

So attracting qualified people into plumbing is an uphill battle. Jay DeFrates, owner of Jay’s Plumbing & Sewer in Downers Grove, Illinois, acknowledges the problem.

“It’s hard to find help. Younger people are not entering the trades. I mean all the trades, not just plumbing,” he says.

The issue was on his mind recently partly because he was looking to hire another plumber. The Jay’s Plumbing & Sewer website advertised for “an extraordinary plumber who is passionate about customer service” and doing quality work. Compensation promised to the person hired included health and dental insurance, a 401k, “a family atmosphere,” and ongoing education programs. DeFrates says when he hires, he looks for qualified people who can be molded into super plumbers.

“We like to make plumbers. Some of the best ones we have are the ones we have made ourselves,” he says.

DeFrates believes in education. He holds weekly training sessions for his technicians. He has instructed plumbers at the area’s building and fire code academy. And he wants to educate young people about the benefits of starting a blue-collar career.

“We are looking for opportunities to speak at schools, anywhere young people will listen to us. It is important that someone does it,” he says.

Part of his zeal in converting young people to the idea of working in the trades is that he benefited as a young man by serving an apprenticeship and being helped along the way by veterans of the trade.

“A lot of people offered me an opportunity when I was starting out and I try to do the same for others,” DeFrates says. “I sense a real need to give back. That’s a soft spot for me.”

Read more about Jay’s Plumbing & Sewer in this full profile that was featured in the January issue of Plumber magazine.


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