I am going to digress from business to start this article. It’s not supposed to be a rant, but I will say I was not pleased with the scenario.
It was not until after I related the story to a group at an NRG networking breakfast that I saw similarities with many businesses, clients and non-clients.
Recently I was invited to be a parent helper at my kid’s school camp trip. My kids are aged eight and 10 and, being the super hero dad, there are expectations that the answer will be, “of course, book me in”.
Now, an important point to clarify here is that I do not camp. Hate it with a passion. If I wanted to live that close to hundreds of other people (mostly unwashed other people) for a couple of weeks at a time, I would join a hippy commune somewhere.
Give me a door and a solid wall for some privacy any day — actually every day.
If I am sharing my secrets with you, I should also add the reason I was invited — they needed my large covered trailer. But, hey, an invite’s an invite, and I felt wanted.
Off we go with 64 kids for three days, and the weather is typical camping weather. It persisted down with hurricane-force (sort of) winds for the whole three days. The kids had a blast — did everything they were meant to do, got wet constantly, swam in big surf and came home shattered. A successful camp by anybody’s standards.
So what is my rant? It was with another parent helper — they could not drive more than 30 minutes without having to stop, they could not walk more than 200 metres without sitting down, didn’t know how to put a plaster on a cut and was needier than the kids.
Why oh why were they even asked — after all, they didn’t own a trailer!
I asked, sort of diplomatically, why this person, who had turned into a liability, was with us. The answer was that nobody else had come forward, and a certain number of adults were needed to make up the required parent-student ratio, or the camp was off.
So back to business. How many of you have had to take whatever is available when it comes to employing staff or using contractors? How many of you settle for second or even third best because that’s all there is?
Well, it’s happening more and more, especially within trade-based industries. And I could write a dozen pages on how much these sorts of employees actually cost your business.
Is there an answer? Well, not a simple one or a quick-fix one unfortunately.
Just before the end of last year we went through this issue with a trade-based client from the automotive industry. They are now training two apprentices for the first time in six years.
They also went through an immigration company, and now employ two tradesmen from overseas. Is this ideal? No, not exactly, but it means they can continue to operate.
Will this problem get any easier in the near future? Probably not.
The training organisations are doing a great job with their respective apprenticeship programmes, but if kids want other cooler jobs you can’t force them onto a building site.
But let me ask you this: How many skateboarders or gaming programmers can this world support?