Recruiting welders for your projects requires a different plan than most other craft workers. Aside from all of the standard approaches to getting critical resources on your sites, welders have a few more hurdles to get over to get them certified and keep production rolling so your schedule and budget do not slip. Every craft position you need is critical, and I have written several articles on this subject, but when a resource needs to test, get certified on a specific process, and then pass x-ray inspections on their production welds, it serves us all well to recognize the inherent differences and have a plan to ensure smooth recruiting and on-boarding.
Step 1: Where to Focus Your Recruiting Efforts
The goal of any craft recruiting effort is to quickly identify qualified resources and get them to work fast, smoothly, and in a way that minimizes turn-over. Due to the nature of welder regulations to effectively get these people onboard, and have them complete their work to code, it costs more to recruit them and even more to replace them. This is incentive enough to take care when recruiting welders to your projects.
A decade or so ago, when we needed welders (or any other craft worker) for our work, supervision would pull out a small back book and start calling numbers of workers they knew of and trusted to see if they were available to come to work. Such a simple, and yet, effective way to man up a job. If you had good supervisors, with a good network of known resources, your job became much easier. I have heard so many stories from truly talented foremen who talk about how they had to leave a message with so-and-so’s wife because Johnny was on a hunting trip until the end of the week in order to assemble a good team of workers under them. It was simpler times for sure, and as with technology, things change.
With the advent of social media and cell phones, reaching a good target audience has changed. A lot of workers change their phone numbers regularly, do not have access to their email (or maybe only their spouse does), and have access to a mountain of positions all over the country. The black book approach which traditionally has accounted for maybe 80% of your recruiting, now represents under 20%. The times have definitely changed.
One thing which everyone needs to wrap their hands around is social media. Social media is the best and easiest way to get a bullhorn behind your message and reach thousands of workers quickly and for free. Once you figure out the many many pitfalls in using social media, marketing your job changes. My company has figured out a truly unique approach to this which has lead to industry leading welder testing pass rates as well as zero advertising cost. But be careful, social media is a double edged sword which, if not handled properly, can lead to the exact opposite results.
Step 2: Screening for the Test
I worked for a company once that submitted every applicant who had “Pipe Welder” on their resume for a pipe welder job we had. If you understand welding at all, you will know how bad a practice this is. No screening for the specific test and not being able to talk welder language lead to a less than 20% pass rate in the booths. Bottom line, whoever is recruiting your welders will need to understand the entire process, test, and motivations of the target audience. This could be the biggest downfall of our industry – recruiters not knowing anything substantial about the people they are recruiting. Have you ever heard of an unemployed pipe welder stretching the truth about his experience (haven’t had a chance to update their resumes) because they needed the work? Once they start talking about 6010/7018, TIG, Root and CAP, FCAW to an unknowledgeable recruiter, they easily secure a test booth and go in and bomb the test at $300 a shot. You can only screen effectively if you understand the work your applicants need to do, and in this case, the differences in procedures and applications on your job.
Step 3: Truthful Job Descriptions and Pay
This could be inserted first as part of your recruiting efforts. It is such an important part of the process and needs to be present at every step of the way. Make sure all aspects of your job are written plain and clear – especially the negative parts. It will not do your turn-over rates any justice to recruit welders to a pipe welding job and have them show up to tackle tank welding. If you need tank welders, make it bold in your advertising so you only get applicants who want that work. Otherwise you will have the best pipe welders available show up on day one, go through safety orientation, and then drag on day two.
Not only are you short on man power now, but disgruntled workers do a great job of voicing their complaints on social media, greatly affecting your chances of getting good applicants again. The same goes for wages and schedule information. If you advertise a 7/12’s schedule, you will get workers who want those hours. If they do not get them, you will be left in a bind. I usually write that the hours will start of 6/10’s and depending on how the work goes, they could go to 7/12’s at some point. This way we get workers who accept 6/10’s but they are also aware that it could go to 7/12’s at some point. It would be difficult for anyone to complain or drag my job if they were told all of this up front before they arrived but you can’t really blame a worker for leaving if they were told 7/12’s but only got 6/10’s. Up front and truthful marketing is the best path forward.
Step 4: Over load Your Test Booths by 10%
You will need to account for no shows and test fails in order to maximize your testing efforts. Whether it is car trouble, family emergency, or slept in too late, you will have unforeseen changes to the best laid plans. Any welder can have a bad day (or their rods were too cold in their opinions) and Murphy’s Law needs to be heeded. If you’ve done your job screening properly, a 10% up lift over the booth capacity will pay off. Worst case scenario if everyone shows up and passes is you have 10% more welders than you need, and if you work goes anything like mine, you will need those welders at some point in the first few days anyway.
Step 5: Always Be Aware of Turnover and Continuity
One of the things we focus on at Dutch Resources is Continuity. We are keenly aware of our welders’ continuity and whose certifications are current and can be deployed quickly without testing. If you have followed the steps above closely, hopefully your turnover rate will naturally be low. As long as perfectly qualified welders have been told every detail about your job and they agreed to take it, your turnover rates should be lower. The cost of re-testing a welder, onboarding them, paying them through orientation, and getting them in a productive flow, should be incentive enough. But if you need more welders for whatever reason, a firm grasp of your continuity log will help reduce costs. Again, if your recruiters do not understand these basic concepts of welder recruiting, it will be difficult for you to positively affect your results.
Welder recruiting follows the same principles as any other skilled position and requires in depth knowledge of welding and the inherent process that are present every day that a welder is on a job. If you focus on recruiter knowledge, honest job advertising, and details like continuity, you will be a head of the game and on the right path to higher pass rates and lower turnover costs. Of course, if you suffer from high recruiter turnover in this competitive market, you’ll need to repeat the process every time your recruiter takes another job or gets promoted. This is the point where I shamelessly plug my company Dutch Resources :). We specialize in everything I just wrote about, and more (you didn’t think we would give everything away did you lol). At Dutch Resources we focus 100% on our pass rates and low turnover. We have our own social media network which has taken 7 years to develop and perfect. Bottom line – if you need welders, we know our resources, match them up for your specific scope of work, and will deliver the best pass rates you have seen. This is just what we do and we will always be here to produce for you and help you meet your welder numbers. Call Dutch today to discuss your welder recruiting needs (404) 822-9089.