If you’re reading this blog, you already know that recruiting and retaining top technicians is one of the most difficult challenges the residential home service industry faces. The skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill in the United States for the seventh consecutive year, according to a 2015 ManpowerGroup survey.

Welcome to our five-part series in strategies for finding technicians. Today’s solution involves getting out in your community!

One of the best ways to gain visibility for your company and brand is to go out into the community. Nexstar Marketing Strategist Ed Cerier said at least one Nexstar member talks to students as young as eighth grade.

“Recruiting is a long-term proposition,” Cerier said. “It’s something you do every day. It should be part of your business process, like booking calls or running morning meetings. It’s not something you do only when you need to.”

Doing community service work is a great way to build brand awareness. In what Nexstar member Andy Wyatt does, there is even potential for meeting a potential technician in the making.

Wyatt, owner of WyattWorks Plumbing in Chardon, Ohio, teaches six-week long plumbing classes to women at the Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. It’s his third year of teaching the class.

“Some women come to class to learn ‘how-to,’ while others simply want to better educate themselves, so they can make good decisions when hiring a contractor,” Wyatt said. “What I enjoy most is the wide spectrum of students who apply. The classes have been a healthy cross section from diverse neighborhoods across the Cleveland/Akron market. Each person has unique story to tell.”

In one class, Wyatt teaches the class how to solder pipe by having them actually do it. The group puts together random pieces of pipe that then get hooked up and tested.

“Everyone steps up to the workbench and adds their piece to the ‘sculpture,'” he said. “It’s a fun project for all. Especially after the pressure test. A staff member mentioned that one student from a previous class successfully soldered copper piping in her own home. It’s empowering to teach and very gratifying for everyone.  Graduates can call our office for advice or request service at a discount.”

Wyatt said he has not hired any interested people from the class yet, but he has seen natural potential in some of them.

“These girls are great students,” he said. “And we would definitely entertain the possibility of hiring someone [from the class].”

Danielle Martini, owner of Three Way Plumbing Services in Concord, North Carolina, also advocates for getting out in the community as a way to recruit. She’s found that certain community colleges in her area will even customize classes to train the things her company requires. She recommends getting involved with local high schools. Getting people into the industry will require a change in traditional thinking about the best path for students after high school.

“It’s a mindset; it’s about educating,” she said. “Start now—you’re filling the pipeline for your future. You’re not going to hire the best people overnight, so start being willing to get out there.”

Check back next week for part two in this series.