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

If you can’t find it, why not build it? Best Home Services, based in Fort Myers, follows this motto.

As the number of plumbers in the area went down the toilet, the company, which also includes sister companies Integrity Home Solutions, based in Tampa and Frank Gay Services in Orlando, created a Plumbing University program. The program serves as a corporate workforce pool. Best Home Services provides air conditioning, plumbing and electrical services in Lee and Collier counties.

“We realized that there was a shortage of qualified workers,” says Bill Watkins, general manager of the Naples-based company. “The number of people going into the industry isn’t very high.”

After completing the six-week program, for which trainees are hired and paid, they are released into the field. While you 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 end of the two-year commitment, Watkins says he owes the company $7,500 for the apprenticeship.

For a program that took about three months to put together, Watkins says they keep the training simple. The first class in Naples started on July 12th. These seven students are preparing for graduation, although Watkins suspects that some additional hands-on training will be required after graduation.

Another program has also started at The Villages, with 21 trainees from the Tampa, Orlando and Ocala areas. Watkins says the company will take a two-week break after the six-week program before beginning the next program. A new class could come through essentially every eight weeks. “Anytime there’s a course like this, I’d say it’s a work in progress,” says Watkins. “We look at what didn’t work and execute it differently.”

The application process for the program includes screening by a recruiter and interview with two managers to ensure each applicant is a good fit for the company culture. Classes are taught by members of the company’s plumbing team.

Watkins says they’re looking for “anyone who is physically fit, has the right attitude and is willing to learn.”

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