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Tailor youth trades recruitment to what they want, says Job Talks executive director

Warren Frey
Tailor youth trades recruitment to what they want, says Job Talks executive director

To get youth into the trades, you have to meet them where they are.

Job Talks executive director Jon Callegher spoke at the BC Construction Safety Alliance’s Health and Safety conference on Oct. 20 at a session titled, How to Attract and Retain Young People to the Construction Industry, where he emphasized talking to younger workers and potential employees means going to where they’ll see the message and making the message itself positive and hopeful.

Callegher said past marketing of the industry focused on how much material gain is possible in the trades, which he said is ultimately counter productive.

“It was more focused on the money, this idea that you can make a great salary in the trades and have a lot of stuff with it. While that’s true, if you’re directing that message at young people, they’re not so concerned about the money when thinking about a particular job,” Callegher said.

“There are other reasons, and by the way we don’t really like people who talk about their salary and yet we’re using that as the most compelling message to enter a field.”

While money isn’t the dominant factor in recruiting people into the trades, he added, the data shows young people who work in construction and related industries tend to settle down at a younger age than others.

“When you don’t have college or university tuition to pay back or you’re in a trade with a college track and the tuition is a little lower, the bottom line is that you’re earning, not looking for a job.

“You’re in demand so you’re paying back that debt, putting money in your pocket, paying credit cards,” Callegher said. “The next thing you’re thinking of in your early 20s, instead of paying tens of thousands in tuition debt, is that down payment for that home or vehicle, or things that many other people who incur a lot of tuition debt are dealing with, and tradespeople don’t.”

Firms looking to recruit younger workers also have to put their message where it will be seen, he said.

“There’s this concept in marketing called ‘spray and pray,’ where you spray your message out and pray it lands on the right people. That’s great for companies with a lot of money, but if you have a limited budget you (have to) understand your target audience, not only who they are, what they aspire to, what their challenges are, but where do they live? Where can they see your message, either in a physical space or in the digital space?” Callegher said.

He emphasized reaching younger workers means talking to them on their own terms.

“You won’t know if you don’t ask them. Ask your current employees, who you want more of, what they like to do, where they live, how they spend their time and where they were before they came to you as an employee. Use that data to strategically place your promotional material,” he said.

He added “the data doesn’t lie” when it comes to men and womens’ goals in the workplace.

“Women are much more likely to value earning respect and building self-confidence, and there are all sorts of reasons for that, but that’s what the data shows,” he said. “(People) don’t talk about that when promoting skilled trades to women, and if they did, it would give them an edge.”

Men are far more likely to aim for leadership activities or if they don’t want to be leaders, to be on a winning team, he added.

“When it comes to what people value, men place a greater weight on winning and so the lesson there is in recruitment initiatives focusing on men, how can you get them to see that by joining your company and becoming part of your sector, they’re going to win professionally and in life,” Callegher said.

For more with Callegher listen to The Construction Record podcast on Friday, Oct. 27.

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