How to Get a Job and Keep It!
March 29, 2016
For years, PHCC of Massachusetts has hosted the largest plumbing and heating trade show on the East Coast – attracting about 150 exhibitors and 1,300 attendees each year. And, since 2009, the chapter has incorporated a special program into the show to recognize the top student from each of the 27 vocational-technical programs across the state, honoring those it proudly calls its “PHCC of MA ALL STARS.”
During this year’s show, held earlier this month in Marlboro, Massachusetts, the chapter also hosted an “employability panel,” bringing together industry representatives – contractors, wholesalers, manufacturers, and others – to promote industry careers to (and answer questions from) the more than 400 voc-tech students and their parents who attended. “The idea was to provide them with a taste of reality,” says PHCC of Massachusetts Executive Director Tom Theroux, “… to give them some real-world employment scenarios and encourage them to continue in this industry.”
The panelists included:
- Panel Chair Rob Basnett of Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC; also a past president of PHCC of Massachusetts.
- Michael Copp, PHCC—National executive vice president.
- Bill Lane, Jr. president of Superior Plumbing Co.
- Tim O’Connell, the plumbing trade manager with Ferguson.
- Jim Simas, senior vice president of Emerson Swan.
- Wayne Thomas, executive director for the Massachusetts State Plumbing Board and a past president of PHCC of Massachusetts.
- Joe Whitney, president of North Shore Mechanical; also past secretary of PHCC—National.
One of the highlights during the panel was a scenario shared by Lane, who described an employee who had been pushing for a promotion to project manager. Unfortunately, problems occurred after Lane gave the eager employee the opportunity he requested (the employee hadn’t read the instructions for a boiler), and the employee lost his position as project manager but remained on staff. After another year or so, the employee got a second chance, and today he’s managing the some of the largest projects for the company. The lessons learned are that “mistakes happen; it’s important that you learn from those mistakes and be persistent if you want to get ahead.”
The panelists also shared qualities they look for in a great employee as well as insights into the interview process. Among the key takeaways for prospective employees:
- Show the employer that you have a passion to succeed in the industry. Employers can teach the technical aspects of the job; they’re looking more for “employability” traits, such as arriving early to the job, appearing professional (especially important in the service and repair industry), working as a team, etc.
- For the interview, to be on time is to be early (if the interview is at 8 a.m., show up at 7:45 a.m.). Also, anticipate common interview questions and come prepared with questions about the company. Most importantly, remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression, which typically is made within the first few seconds. Look the employer in the eye; give a firm handshake; be professional.
- Use technology, but don’t abuse it. Contractors have different policies on cell phone usage, for example. Some see phones and tablets as tools to share information about jobs, take photos at job sites, etc., but you have to be able to carefully manage the technology and not let personal time on phones and tablets interfere with your work.
Great Resource for Students, Instructors
The panelists clearly concentrated their employability focus on “soft skills” – those non-technical skills that lead to success. Instructors, you can help your students better understand those all-important skills. Check out this free on-demand webinar on soft skills from the PHCC Educational Foundation. In two 30-minute webinar presentations, Steve Coscia of Coscia Communications guides students through the critical soft skills everyone should know.
PHCC of Massachusetts recognizes this year’s All Stars – the top graduating senior from each of the 27 vocational-technical plumbing programs across the state.
During the All Star Award Program at the trade show in March, each All Star received a $500 scholarship toward his/her apprentice education and a starter tool bag provided by Ferguson.
Representing different aspects of the industry – contractors, wholesalers, manufacturers, and others – panelists answered questions from students and parents on “how to get a job in the p-h-c industry and keep it.”