local plumbing program aims to bring more into the industry | Business Observer

If you can’t find it, why not build it? That’s the motto that Fort Myers-based Best Home Services follows.

When the number of plumbers in the area plummeted, the company, which also has sister companies Integrity Home Solutions based in Tampa and Frank Gay Services in Orlando, created a Plumbing University program. The program serves as a labor pool for the company. Best Home Services provides air conditioning, plumbing and electrical services in Lee and Collier counties.

“We realized there was a shortage of skilled labor,” says Bill Watkins, the company’s general manager in Naples. “The number of people entering the industry is not very high.”

After completing the six-week program, for which apprentices are hired and paid to attend, they are released into the field. While they don’t necessarily have to stay with Best Home Services, outside of a two-year commitment that comes with training, that’s the idea, says Watkins. However, if an apprentice leaves before the two-year commitment is fulfilled, Watkins says he will owe the company $7,500 for the training.

For a program set up in about three months, Watkins says they keep the training simple. The first class in Naples started on July 12. These seven participants are preparing to graduate, though Watkins suspects there will be additional on-the-job training required even after graduation.

Another program has also taken off in The Villages, with 21 apprentices from the Tampa, Orlando and Ocala areas. Watkins says that after the six-week program, the company will take a two-week break before starting the next program. Essentially every eight weeks, a new class might arrive. “Any time there’s a class like this, I’d say it’s a work in progress,” Watkins says. “We’re going to look at what went wrong and execute it differently.”

The application process for the program involves being screened by a recruiter and speaking with two managers to ensure that each candidate is a good fit with the company culture. Classes are taught by members of the company’s plumbing team.

Watkins says they are looking for “anyone who is able-bodied, has the right attitude and is willing to learn.”