Help Wanted – Finding Qualified Help Isn’t Easy

By Todd Fratzel on Framing

Hiring Qualified Carpenters

Not sure this post will mean much to everyone but it’s my way of venting some upcoming stress. Today my top “go to guy” (foreman) tendered his two weeks notice. So tomorrow my day will start in search of a replacement for a position that’s becoming harder and harder to fill with qualified help.

I can’t even really be upset at this guy for leaving as he’s leaving for a rather noble reason I suppose. He’s decided that after years of pounding a hammer and strapping on a tool belt that he’d like to try a new career outside of the construction industry. At the age of 40 I think he’s realized that youth is passing by quickly and his body will likely not take many more years of abuse.

Frankly I can’t blame him. My father has been in carpentry for almost 40 years and his body has taken the toll. His numerous surgeries and a recent hip replacement are all too familiar for these old veterans of the trade. So with a sinking feeling in my gut I’m wishing my friend and co-worker the best of luck in whatever it is he chooses to do next.

Is Carpentry A Dying Profession?

So tomorrow I start the day searching for the replacement with some very specific job skills:

  • Extensive Experience in framing, roofing, siding, interior and exterior finish including complex roof framing.
  • Project Management Skills – I need someone that can organize a job site, organize his crew and find a way to keep all the other sub-trades moving forward and not back!!
  • Motivational Crew Leader – Good foreman have an ability to motivate other crew members of all skill levels and bring everyone together for a common goal.
  • Trustworthy – Finding trustworthy loyal employees seems to be harder than ever these days….then again most everyone knows this to be true.
  • Customer Delight – Finally and probably most important is an employee that truly understand the importance of making the customer both happy and satisfied. When a customer raves about your foreman you know you’ve found a special employee.

So this all begs the question about how easy it is these days to find a qualified person to fit such a position. I struggle with this question as I see the older carpenters retiring and moving on. Today it seems very difficult to find younger people interested in a career in a physical trade. Even harder is finding someone that can fill in the personal trades such as being motivational, trustworthy and able to communicate with the customers.

Maybe I’m a bit cynical tonight as I write this. More likely I’m taking the time to  thank a good friend and remind myself what traits are necessary for a successful foreman in the carpentry world. I would image that I will find a replacement, maybe not quite a good, maybe better, time will tell.

Thanks for letting me vent. If you happen to live in Central NH and you’re looking for a working foreman position for a builder that tackles everything from residential to commercial then send me an email. You never can tell where the next top notch employee will come from!

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the author of Tool Box Buzz and Today's Green Construction. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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1 Comment

  1. Good Luck with That!

    Seriously, carpentry has been gutted as a trade and a career due to the ‘piece work’ phenomena among builders and construction companies.
    When the only requirement is a hammer and a speed square, when lumber is pre cut, roofing is designed and delivered by truck and crane, and houses are constructed ‘as’ and ‘reverse’, and the only meaningful measurement is square footage output, finding a ‘carpenter’ is a ‘challenge’.

    But I feel your pain and since you do care, I will share a few tips toward your search. You can cull applicants right away if their tool boxes do not have a framing square, a set of sharp chisels, nail sets, several hammers, hand planes, levels, and a knowledge of crowning lumber. I think you get the idea. This will eliminate a lot of time.

    To find out if they can think on their feet, have them calculate a garage roof. Then have them recalculate the same roof with a dormer.

    Once you have these folks, you have the beginning of a crew to manage.

    A Foreman needs all of the above plus a ‘next guy’ attitude. There are two types of construction workers. Other Guy and Next Guy.
    Other Guy is the one who does the minimum necessary to complete the task.
    Next Guy is the one who not only is doing their job but is also thinking about what they are doing will impact the next guy. Will they build corner posts in such a way to make it easier for the electrician and plumber to drill their holes for their runs?
    Will they select their lumber for trimmers and openings so the drywall will lay flat and square? Will they take the time to provide blocking for the rest of the trades?

    The foreman has to be able to understand and see these things through. The foreman also to be able to keep the project managers heart in a jar, and squeeze it to get the materials and supplies on the job when needed. Trust me, a PM can screw up a job faster than having crappy employees. Like delivering cabinets before the structure is dried in….

    At one point in my life I hung drywall exclusively. My partner and I would hang a 8′ ceiling 1600 sq.ft house in 7 hours including screwing it off. We also did steel stud, fire assemblies, elevator shafts, radiation rooms and just about every fire rated assembly concieved.

    The absolutly hands down best jobs we did were houses built by a father/son company. They were square, true and flat. There were no loose nailers, studs needing cutting, headers and trimmers were true, and the crew that built them ran flat out.

    One day at lunch I asked them why they ran flat out. The foremen explained it. Every year at christmas they got brand new tools, there were presents for the wives and kids, cards for birthdays and special occasions, and yearly fishing trips. If there was illness the boss made sure there was transportation. These guys had been together for about 8 years at the time.

    As a result these houses came in ahead of schedule and under budget even including the perks. Hell just saying ‘nice job’ goes a long way.

    Happy guys will be your best salesmen and produce superior work.

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