The Small Business HR Podcast

Ep. 9

9. Playing the Long Game to Attract Skilled Trade Talent w/ Shawn Kaufman

In this episode 9, we talk with Shawn Kaufman about the unique challenges that the skilled trade industry faces.
Shawn Kaufman

Shawn Kaufman

Director of Human Resources
Riggs Industries, Inc

From truck bodies to roller coasters, building tangible structures is a large part of the appeal of working in the skilled trade industry. And you get to work in places like football stadiums and amusement parks. Cool, right? So, why has the industry been hit particularly hard when it comes to attracting new talent?

We sat down with Shawn Kaufman, Director of Human Resources at Riggs Industries, Inc, to talk about what’s unique about manufacturing and construction companies and the challenges they face when it comes to attracting prospective workers. In particular, we discussed the shift that occurred away from getting an education in the form of apprenticeships or at a trade school and towards getting a four-year degree only—and how that shift has hurt the industry.

We also talked about:

  • What he’s done to help improve the perception of careers in skilled trades with students
  • How education doesn’t just occur at a four-year university; for some, an apprenticeship or trade school is a better fit
  • Playing the long game when it comes to attracting talent
  • His recommendations to other HR professionals and companies in skilled trade industries who are also struggling to attract prospective workers

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“At some point we distorted what getting an education meant. It’s not just getting a bachelor’s degree. It can also be an apprenticeship, or attending a trade or technical school.”

Shawn Kaufman

“What we’ve realized is you have to play the long game. You need to make young people—and educators, and parents—aware of not only what career opportunities are available in your company, but also what’s available in your industry.”

Shawn Kaufman

“There are no two days that are the same working in HR. For example, when COVID hit, we had to figure out—in less than 24 hours—how to continue operating while also keeping our employees safe. Those decisions fell in the lap of HR.”

Shawn Kaufman

“Get involved with your local community. You have to be willing to put the work and the time in.”

Shawn Kaufman

“You never know when the message you’re putting out there will be received. It’s not magic—you’re not going to be suddenly inundated with applicants. But when you put the work in, the numbers will start to add up.”

Shawn Kaufman

“You have to find the right dance partner. Find an ally in your community who aligns with your vision. It starts with one—and that’s all it takes.”

Shawn Kaufman

“The HR industry has changed. When it comes to attracting talent, you have to be a salesperson or a business development person because the days of passively recruiting are gone.”

Shawn Kaufman

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