Train Your Next Executive Through Internships and Apprenticeships
By Sherry Daniel

Sherry Daniel, Roto Rooter Plumbers of Savannah

By the year 2030, nearly 80 million people in the United States’ workforce will have reached retirement age, as compared to about 49 million this year. Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor suggest that three out of every four people in the trades will have retired by then.

Meanwhile, only 41 million new people will be entering the workforce. That means, as the baby boom generation ages, the workforce will shrink, creating opportunities for the next generation of workers in trades such as electricians, HVAC technicians and plumbers.

A job in the trades has always been an excellent path for a young person entering the workforce because there are ample opportunities to turn an entry-level position into a rewarding and secure career. Those opportunities are greater than ever before, but in today’s competitive job market, the trades need to take a page from other industries to open doors to new workers through programs for interns and apprentices.

The good news is many colleges and trade schools do have collaborative relationships with businesses that reward students participating in such programs with college credits or paychecks and the potential for full-time employment.

Michelle Groover, who administers the internship program for Georgia Southern University’s Department of Communication Arts, says such programs benefit both employers and students.

“The student is able to bring insight from what they have learned in class to the organization, such as the latest from the world of social media, which changes so quickly,” she said. “In return, they receive real-world experience by working at the job site and learn how what we’ve taught them works in the real world.”

“We can show students so much in the classroom, but until they get the actual experience they won’t know how the real world works,” said Groover. “We have had as many as 40 students intern at a given time, working in their field of study at small businesses to large companies.”

At the same time, apprenticeship programs typically offered in the trades provide a similar learning experience while they guarantee a paycheck from day one.

When I interview a prospective employee, I am not necessarily focused on what they can do now. I look at what they can achieve. The interview experience itself is one of the most important career-building tools for someone entering the workforce. I don’t expect every candidate to start out with job experience, but I do expect these five things:

1. Be mindful. The job interview is a two-way conversation. Both you and the interviewer are deciding whether this company and this position are a good fit. Relax and realize you may have more power at this moment than you might think.
2. Be prepared. Know something about the company before you walk in the door. Find out with whom you’re applying and what the position requires.
3. Be groomed. Pull yourself together with your attire and your grooming.
4. Be curious. Ask intelligent questions about the job and the company and don’t be afraid to interact with the interviewer.
5. Be willing to listen to suggestions. The interviewer may say you’re not right for this position or this company but you might be a good fit for another position or with another firm. Follow up on those recommendations.

What happens after an employee is hired makes the difference between whether they start a job or embark on a career.

For example, my company offers an in-house apprenticeship program that provides paid, on-the-job training alongside master plumbers. Within three years, an entry-level employee can become certified as a journeymen plumber and in a few more years should be able to obtain their master certification.

We help them prepare for the rigorous testing process, including paying for all of their expenses while they test and obtain their licenses. Throughout their career, their salary grows commensurate with the certifications they earn and the experience they gain.

You might wonder why a business owner would want to invest so much in their workforce. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average plumber makes a little more than $50,000 a year, but in my experience, a well-qualified master plumber can earn three times that, and a good one is worth every penny.

It’s time to clear up misconceptions and get the word out that the trades offer exciting career paths that can lead to a substantial income. We must work with institutions of higher learning to ensure that trades-focused educational and internship opportunities are both available and attractive.

Sherry Daniel is the owner of Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah. Services include commercial plumbing and drain cleaning, industrial plumbing maintenance, residential plumbing and drain cleaning, backflow services, restaurant maintenance, AO Smith water heater specialist, hotel maintenance and remodeling, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, and emergency servicing. For more information, please call (912) 303-8570or visit