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Valuable Insights from Interstate Vice President Luiza Mills

With no end in sight to the skilled labor crisis, this thought-provoking interview offers some great insights that are applicable to all companies even those outside the trades.

The shortage of skilled tradespeople isn’t a problem that’s going away anytime soon, but we are always discovering innovative ways of addressing it at Interstate. Vice-President of Human Resources Luiza Mills recently sat down with Todd Dawalt of the Construction Leading Edge podcast to talk about strategies and methods Interstate uses to attract and retain the best electricians in the industry.

Here are some excerpts:

On the value of apprenticeships

While you’re going through the apprenticeship program, which is on average a four year program, you have a job at the same time. So you’re getting not just the schooling and the technical aspect of it, but you’re also getting hands-on, on-the-job training as well. At Interstate, we cover the cost of the apprenticeship schooling. So someone can go through the program and leave debt-free and heading down a career path. They’ve received benefits, everything from health insurance, to vacation, to paid time off, without having that burden of a student loan that they need to pay back.

As an employer, apprenticeships allows us to invest in the employee and identify strengths and weaknesses, what it is it that we need to work on, and what we can learn from them as well.

On misconceptions about millennials

One misconception about millennials is that they’re lazy, not committed and they want the easy way out. What we’ve found is that they’re not asking questions to be annoying or lazy. They’re asking because they truly want to understand why is it that you’ve always done something the same way over and over again. Because they have grown up thinking there always has to be a better way.

I think if employers took a step back and listened to millenials instead of rolling their eyes and dismissing their ideas, we’d all probably be better off. Together, the millennials, along with the core group that has been in the trades that are in their 50s 60s 70s, now provide a great balance of stability and fresh ideas at Interstate.
On Lean Methodology, prefabrication and the electrical trade

Gone are the days where management is top-down, where someone hands someone a binder and tells them to follow steps one through 10 and you don’t veer from that. We now take the actual people that are doing a specific function and challenge them to find ways of doing it better. How do you eliminate those extra steps that are not needed, or that are redundant and really fall under someone else? And how do you now take the piece that is really critical for your next customer and continue to make that better?

Through extensive prefabrication in our Operations Center as part of our Lean initiatives, we take the away a lot of the “noise” in the field. When our electricians are ready to receive products, we supply them in the safest, most efficient way possible, and we check for errors prior to shipping to the point of installation. This eliminates a lot of the grunt work in the field, allowing our electricians to feel excited about what they do on a day to-day basis, and by the way, come up with something else that maybe we haven’t thought of.

To listen to the complete podcast, visit constructionleadingedge.com.

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