Tacoma plumbing service provider advocates transformational thinking about trades while building next-generation workforce with immersive Harts Academy initiative Harts Services, a top-rated Tacoma-based plumbing company founded in 2013, urges jobseekers to consider the many rewarding, high-paying career opportunities available in the essential skilled trades. “Whether you’re just entering the workforce or you’re frustrated in your Read more
Tacoma plumbing service provider advocates transformational thinking about trades while building next-generation workforce with immersive Harts Academy initiative
Harts Services, a top-rated Tacoma-based plumbing company founded in 2013, urges jobseekers to consider the many rewarding, high-paying career opportunities available in the essential skilled trades.
“Whether you’re just entering the workforce or you’re frustrated in your current job and want to make a mid-career change, we encourage everyone to think about the trades as a meaningful alternative to the traditional career path,” said Rich Hart, co-owner of Harts Services. “Many of us have been taught that attending a four-year college is the only way to have a successful and satisfying career. But we’re starting to see that college doesn’t necessarily pay off for everyone. That’s leading a lot of young people to look for other options.”
As the cost of a college education continues to rise, the long-term financial value of a four-year degree is steadily declining. At the same time, an ongoing shortage of skilled labor is driving up demand for trained workers in home service industries such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Experienced technicians in those fields are highly employable and can demand premium salaries as well as signing bonuses, paid training and opportunities for rapid advancement.
“Instead of treating trades as a fallback, we want people entering the trades to be energetic and enthusiastic,” Hart said. “Being a plumber or electrician requires training, focus, problem-solving and people skills, just like any other profession. It’s a dynamic and engaging field with a lot of upside, especially in today’s labor market.”
In 2022, Harts Services launched Harts Academy, an innovative in-house apprenticeship program that prepares motivated trainees for immediate employment.
The Harts Academy program includes four weeks of comprehensive classroom education and immersive hands-on experience in the Harts Academy plumbing platform. Classroom sessions are followed by two to three years of supervised field training with licensed plumbers, with pay raises to match experience, testing and skill level. Harts Academy also provides preparation assistance for the plumber licensing exam.
“We created Harts Academy to help meet the needs of our industry overall and transform how younger generations think about the trades,” Hart said. “We’re investing in the creation of a truly trained and expert team not only here at Harts but throughout the Pacific Northwest. It’s part of a major disruption that we expect to unlock new opportunities for young people, drive economic growth and ensure that homeowners have access to the services they need.”
Harts Academy apprentices support plumbing leads in the warehouse and on jobsites while actively learning core skills. A valid driver’s license and clean driving record are required. Apprentices must be able to lift up to 50 pounds and are expected to work in crawlspaces, operate machinery, climb ladders and stairs, and other physical work in the warehouse and on jobsites.
For more information about Harts Services, please call (253) 470-8766 or visit www.hartsservices.com.
For more information about Harts Academy or to apply, visit https://hartsservices.com/academy-apprentice-program/.
NEST, the pioneers of integrated facilities management, has teamed up with leaders across the construction, retail, and skilled trades industries to create the Skilled Trades Advisory Council (STAC). Aimed to combat the crisis facing skilled labor in the U.S. and Canada, STAC’s founding advisors will leverage their resources, knowledge, and network to elevate the skilled trades Read more
NEST, the pioneers of integrated facilities management, has teamed up with leaders across the construction, retail, and skilled trades industries to create the Skilled Trades Advisory Council (STAC). Aimed to combat the crisis facing skilled labor in the U.S. and Canada, STAC’s founding advisors will leverage their resources, knowledge, and network to elevate the skilled trades as high-paying, honorable, and often heroic career paths, including electrical, plumbing, HVAC, janitorial, construction, and other essential jobs that require a rejuvenated workforce.
Founding STAC advisors include:
- Rob Almond, CEO of NEST
- Sara Angus, Director of Construction, Starbucks
- Julie Starzynski, Director of Construction & Design, Floor & Decor
- Andrew Brown, Founder and CEO of Toolfetch
- Sarah Hammond, Owner and President of Atlas and Treasurer of Women in HVAC
- Kam Washington, Owner of PMA Construction
- Kate Cinnamo, Executive Director of Explore the Trades
- Mónica Muñoz, Senior Director of Capital Programs at DaVita Kidney Care
- Mary Gaffney, President of NAWIC Philadelphia Foundation and GEM Mechanical Services
“I’m encouraged that so many others share my passion for growing the trades and ending the stigma that surrounds jobs in the industry,” said Almond, who spearheaded the initiative. “STAC is a way for many of us to work together and find ways to encourage youth to consider a career in the skilled trades. There are many viable, lucrative, and creative opportunities to explore.”
According to online recruiting platform Handshake, the application rate for young people seeking technical jobs dropped by 49% in 2022 compared to 2020 (source). Staffing firm PeopleReady estimate 40% of the 12 million people in the skilled trades workforce are over the age of 45, with nearly half of those workers over the age of 55 (source).
Associated Builders and Contractors reported that the construction industry will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2023 to meet the demand for labor (source).
“The U.S. and Canadian workforces are struggling to fill a massive gap in the skilled trades, and we need to unite as an industry to reverse the trend,” added Almond, who is based in the Philadelphia area. “This group of founding advisors shares that passion across many sectors that make up the industry.”
Third annual list recognizes 241 private companies putting purpose ahead of profit Interplay Learning, the leading provider of online and VR training for the essential skilled trades, has been named to the Inc. 2022 Best in Business list in the Prosperous and Thriving ($5-$50 million in gross revenue) category. Inc.’s Best in Business Awards honor Read more
Third annual list recognizes 241 private companies putting purpose ahead of profit
Interplay Learning, the leading provider of online and VR training for the essential skilled trades, has been named to the Inc. 2022 Best in Business list in the Prosperous and Thriving ($5-$50 million in gross revenue) category. Inc.’s Best in Business Awards honor companies that have made an extraordinary impact in their fields and on society.
The list, which can be found in the Winter issue of Inc. magazine (on newsstands Dec. 13), recognizes the most dynamic companies of all sizes and industries that have had an outstanding influence on their communities, their industries, the environment, or society as a whole.
Interplay Learning builds better training, better careers and better lives for its customers and their employees. Its award-winning online and virtual reality training for the essential skilled trades, including HVAC, plumbing, electrical, solar, multifamily maintenance and facilities maintenance workforces, is scalable and more effective than traditional training methods. By leveraging immersive learning technology, Interplay’s customers are able to train and practice hands-on learning from a desktop, phone, tablet or in virtual reality, resulting in a highly trained employee who is job-ready in weeks, not years.
“Inc. magazine is dedicated to showcasing America’s most dynamic businesses and the great things they do,” said Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. “The Best in Business awards shine a light on those that have gone above and beyond their original mission to make a social, environmental or economic impact benefiting those around them.”
Rather than relying on quantitative criteria tied to sales or funding, Inc.’s editors reviewed the companies’ achievements over the past year and noted how they made a positive difference in the world. They then selected honorees in 55 different categories — from advertising to sustainability to retail, and more — and in age-based, revenue-based, size-based, and impact-based categories. The applicant pool was extremely competitive — a huge success for the 241 companies honored in the list’s third year. Honorees for gold, silver, bronze, and general excellence across industries and categories are featured online at inc.com/best-in-business.
“Interplay Learning invests in the communities we serve through transformational career training,” said Doug Donovan, CEO of Interplay Learning. “We believe in the power of training to not only improve people’s lives but to tackle key social issues, such as poverty, inequality, and unemployment. Helping businesses, educational institutes and communities overcome critical workforce challenges also extends direct benefits to technicians and students who gain the confidence they need to thrive in their careers. The positive impact is being felt throughout the industry and beyond as we work to create better lives and better careers for everyone.”
For more information, visit www.interplaylearning.com.
Welcome to another edition of our Hub Spotlight series where do a deep dive into the men and women who make the trades great. This spotlighted tradesperson tells us that he really enjoys trashy reality TV. “Nothing like kicking your feet up and watching someone making horrible life decisions on 90-Day Fiancé on a Sunday Read more
Welcome to another edition of our Hub Spotlight series where do a deep dive into the men and women who make the trades great. This spotlighted tradesperson tells us that he really enjoys trashy reality TV. “Nothing like kicking your feet up and watching someone making horrible life decisions on 90-Day Fiancé on a Sunday evening.” Joking aside, for Keith McGillivary (@mps_207)—full-time business owner of McGillivary’s Plumbing Services (MPS), Gardiner, Maine, for the past two years—his story into the plumbing trades is an interesting one.
McGilivary’s path started in a small town when a small plumbing business was looking for a helper, and he was looking for a job. “Little did I know it would be the start of where I am now,” says McGillivary. Before college, McGillivary started working for a small plumbing business that primarily focused on service work. The owner, Russell, was/is a great mentor and really took the time to help him understand not only what they were doing, but why they were doing it.
After deciding to pursue plumbing, McGillivary attended Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) for its plumbing and heating program. Through college, he continued to work alongside his mentor, and after graduation, continued to work for him full time for three years. McGillivary then took a job at Bath Iron Works (BIW) as a pipefitter building destroyers, ships for the United States Navy. “The piping systems were complex, and although it was “plumbing on a ship,” it was completely different. I found it fun to learn the ins and outs of that particular plumbing,” says McGillivary.
Eventually, McGillivary joined the Pipefitter Test Crew and tested the piping systems after they were built. He worked there for six years, but the whole time he continued to work nights and weekends doing plumbing work on the side. “This allowed me to gain hours and knowledge for my Master’s test. After passing my Masters, I decided to make the plunge into self-employment because I wanted the schedule flexibility for my family,” says McGillivary.
In fact, McGillivary’s biggest motivation for self-employment was time, rather than money. “I have learned to set firm boundaries for myself when scheduling and taking on jobs. I have been able to take more time off for my family than ever. Being a service plumber, in this day in age, you could work 24/7 if you wanted. I try to work ‘normal’ hours, and if I can take a day off for family stuff, I always do,” says McGillivary.
Shout Out to Mentorship
According to McGillivary, Russell taught him everything he knows about plumbing and owning a business. “He taught me all the hands-on work, how to write estimates & bid on jobs, customer relations, and how to balance a small business/family life,” says McGillivary.
And McGillivary wants to pay it forward. “I definitely consider myself a role model for others looking to join the trade. I feel I am a good example that hard work and dedication pays off,” says McGillivary. “My mentor was so important to my journey that I try to give back what I can by being transparent about my plumbing knowledge.”
Uplifting the Trades
Recently, there has been a big push for kids to attend trade school so there has been a shift in younger people showing interest, says McGillivary. “Trade school was beneficial for me to learn the code side of things, in an environment different from the hands-on work. I think we could get more interest in the trades if the schools showcased all the different avenues someone could go once they completed their schooling, and the financial opportunities that come with them. Everyone expects a doctor to make six figures, but not everyone knows you can make that in the trades without massive student loan debt,” says McGillivary.
“Everyone expects a doctor to make six figures, but not everyone knows you can make that in the trades without massive student loan debt.”
Social media can also be used to attract more people to the trades. “I see it all too often when guys in the trade are way too harsh on people for asking questions on Facebook plumbing pages. There are so many people asking questions for the purpose of learning and gaining knowledge. We were all there at some point, so be kind enough to answer the questions in a helpful manner. Social media can also be used to form “new-to-the-trades” communities and to provide seminars,” says McGillivary.
Social media also has played a huge role in the growth of McGillivary’s business. Starting as a small, part-time business with the help of word-of-mouth recommendations on small town Facebook pages, which made McGillivary realize that social media could be used to showcase the work he is doing on a day-to-day basis. “I use my Instagram to show what I am about as a business and the work I put out. I have found that if a customer can see why you are more expensive than the other guy, then they are more likely to go with you. I use it as an open-door insight to my business both in reels and daily stories,” says McGillivary.
McGillivary uses social media to learn little tricks of the trade that he just wouldn’t have been exposed to, being from such a small town. For McGillivary, it is extremely beneficial to be able to have conversations with such great tradesmen. He also talks to apprentices daily or weekly about projects, and gives them advice. “I wish when I was learning, I had this platform to learn and meet others. As visual learners, much like a lot of trades guys I know, it’s changed the way we can learn,” says McGillivary.
Summers in Maine are short, so McGillivary tries to spend every nice weekend camping in his camper. In the winter months you can find him on his snowmobile at camp. “I would love to ride my snowmobile from camp in northern Maine to the Gaspe Peninsula to complete the “Great Gaspe Snowmobile Tour,” a six-day, 1,500-mile ride around some of the best trails,” says McGillivary.
And the last day McGillivary said it was a great day? “You know it’s funny, as I look back on just yesterday—camping with my family, beautiful weather, everyone smiling, does it get much better than that? So, the answer to that question would be yesterday!”
Go-To Tools on the Job
According to McGillivary, his go-tools are a couple pairs of Knipex Cobra pump pliers, a 6-in-1 screwdriver, and an adjustable wrench. Any good service plumber can fix most things with those!
Also, I find myself feeling naked if I don’t have my Leatherman Wave on me. Another great tool that has many uses.
Lastly, if there was one tool that changed the service plumbing game, it’s the M12 Milwaukee press tool. If you’re running a service company and don’t have one, you’re late to the party.
It’s been quite the start to 2022 for Ryan Bickerton, owner/operator of Bickerton Plumbing and Heating LLC, Boston. Recently recovered from COVID, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He’s been busy, and that’s a good thing. Mostly specializing in high-end renovations, old houses in the historic areas of Boston and high-efficiency boilers, Bickerton has run his Read more
It’s been quite the start to 2022 for Ryan Bickerton, owner/operator of Bickerton Plumbing and Heating LLC, Boston. Recently recovered from COVID, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He’s been busy, and that’s a good thing.
Mostly specializing in high-end renovations, old houses in the historic areas of Boston and high-efficiency boilers, Bickerton has run his own company since 2014. At the age of 18, Bickerton started into plumbing, working for a larger residential company doing large multi-unit buildings where he worked for 2 1/2 years before moving to a smaller company doing mainly commercial work.
The itch started for Bickerton when he started in construction over the summers during high school, working for a roofing company and a general contractor, basically doing whatever was needed on a job site. “I tried helping whoever needed to be helped on the site—plumbers, electricians, carpenters—cleaning up, making coffee runs, etc. I remember those summers working for the GC and I enjoyed helping the plumbers more than anything else. I realized I was falling in love with the industry, and the rest is history,” says Bickerton.
Nevertheless, Bickerton was encouraged to make an attempt at college even though he didn’t really want to; he gave it a shot anyway. He lasted less than a year and decided that was it. “For me, it was a waste of time and money,” says Bickerton. “My parents were okay with me leaving after giving it a valiant effort, but my father said ‘pick a trade because you’re not going to be sitting around here all day.’”
Bickerton recalls speaking to his father, and a few other people he knew who worked in the trades, and was pushed in the direction of electrical or plumbing mainly because, “you’ll never be looking for work.”
After obtaining his Journeyman Plumbing and Gas Fitting License in 2008, Bickerton completely shifted gears and joined the United States Marine Corps where he was deployed to Afghanistan. It was a difficult decision but joining the military was something Ryan had always wanted to do. In 2008, it was the right time. After six years of service with the Marines, Bickerton returned to plumbing and got his Master Plumbing and Gas Fitting License. “I started doing more and more side work until I landed a few bigger jobs that motivated me to leap into owning my own company. I haven’t look back since,” says Bickerton.
Part of that drive came from his biggest role model, his father, who worked most of his life in a power plant in South Boston as a general mechanic—he could pretty much fix anything and everything that needed fixing. “My father is the hardest working person I know. I remember as a young kid not seeing him for days at a time because he was getting home late and leaving early before we were awake. I knew he was out working hard taking overtime to provide for us. He could and would fix most things around the house. I remember one year our water heater went out on Thanksgiving and he took care of it by himself. I thought that was pretty cool, and still do,” says Bickerton.
As for Ryan, he never considered himself a role model, but he tries to conduct himself that way. Any chance he gets, he’ll speak highly of the trades. “If any young kids ask me about the trades, I do my best to steer them in the right direction and let them know it’s a very viable option. It’s a rewarding career choice, and college and white-collar work doesn’t have to be for everyone,” says Bickerton.
Bickerton’s trade role model was his first foreman, Mike Sheehan, a plumber for 30+ years, his body broken from years of moving massive boilers and extra heavy cast-iron pipe. “But he still loved the trade. He taught me a lot of my early skills, and he would say that this trade has all the potential to do anything you want with it, which has really stuck with me to this day,” says Bickerton.
While respecting these two men’s work ethic, Bickerton knows that balancing work and family life is important. It’s probably his most difficult task, says Bickerton. “I’m usually out the door by 5 am and home around 5 pm, and the kids go to bed between 7:30-8 pm and then most nights I have to do estimates or invoices when they’re in bed so I don’t have as much ‘leisure time’ as I’d like. I try to make every second I’m home count.”
And the weekends are for family. Bickerton used to work every Saturday and even some Sundays. Lately, however, Ryan doesn’t work Sunday unless it’s a catastrophic emergency, and on Saturdays he tries to be done by 12 or sometimes not at all. “Like I said before, I love plumbing and working but I don’t think I’ll ever regret not working more and spending less time with my family so I try to best divide my time in the fairest manner possible.”
It’s clear that family time is most important. “In my spare time, more than anything, I enjoy hanging out with my wife and our children. My wife Micayla and I have been married for six years and our three kids are growing up fast. If I’m not working, I’m with them. They are starting to get into different activities, hockey, baseball, football, swimming, horseback riding, and I just enjoy every second of that. Even if it’s just hanging out and watching a movie, it’s never wasted time for me,” says Bickerton.
Perhaps family means a bit more to Bickerton because his daughter, Mallory, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Rubenstein Taybi Syndrome (RTS). In 2017, Ryan and Micayla, along with some close friends, started a non-profit organization called Mals Pals Foundation. “We have been very fortunate with Mallory. We live in the epicenter for healthcare; she has had an inclusive educational opportunity here in Boston and it helps that we are able to pay for anything and everything she has needed in order to thrive,” says Bickerton.
Mal’s Pals Foundation aims to ease the burden of other families who maybe are not as fortunate. The Bickertons raise awareness for rare diseases like RTS, and they help educate newly diagnosed families. “We are trying to make difference in other people’s lives even if it’s just a small one. You can check us out at malspalsfoundation.org.”
Mallory is now seven-years-old and doing well. “Initially, there were concerns, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Bickerton.
Bickerton looks forward to going to work every day. “But the most rewarding to me is being able to sit back at the end of the day or at the end of a job and look at what I’ve done,” says Bickerton. “I like having something tangible, that I can look at and touch and say I did that, or I fixed that or I created that. Whether it’s fixing a leaking faucet, creating a bathroom where there wasn’t one before, plumbing a 5-unit building completely from scratch or providing someone with heat and hot water for the next 20-30 years. That’s pretty cool.”
In the end, Ryan really loves plumbing, even if he’s stressed out and jobs are behind, or he’s behind on paperwork, or he’s made a mistake and or redo something. “I still consider myself lucky to be doing what I love every day. And on those harder work days, I still get to come home to three beautiful children and a wife who loves me. Every time I walk in the door and they scream ‘DAD!’ all that stress lifts off instantly, and it’s all worth it.”