Yay—the economy is improving and the projected job outlook for painters is too. From 2012 to 2022, the field is expected to see job growth of 20%, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Boo—the economy is growing. “Labor is a challenge,” says Aaron Moore, president of Precision Painting & Decorating in Elmhurst, IL. “It’s not that we couldn’t do $6 million in work, we can’t find painters to apply that much paint.”
At some point, growing your business may mean increasing your staff. After you’ve done the cost analysis—which includes salaries, benefits and training—and you’re ready to hire, you might be in for a surprise. Remodeling and building sector reports point to a labor shortage.
Shortage of service
Anecdotally, the shortage comes from painters aging out, combined with an unskilled work force. “It’s extremely hard to find people who can excel in high-paced, high-end residential painting jobs,” says Kevin Weinmann, owner of Weinmann Painting in Portland, OR.
Weinmann says he pays better than anyone else in his market. He hired seven people in 2015 and already has let go of all but one. It’s not just the lack of skills in the technical aspects of painting but also in customer service. “It’s hard to find people who know that they have to have their shirt tucked in and remember to greet the customer every time he or she walks by.”
Mark Adams, owner of Southington Painting in Plantsville, CT., says his company pays well and offers benefits like health insurance, vacation, holidays, and a SEP plan—and wishes he had more employees. “But I can’t find qualified people who can pass a background check and a drug screen.”
What to do?
Despite some of the setbacks Adams, Moore and Weinmann have faced, training seems to be key to landing employees who will stay for the long haul. Weinmann has a training program for apprentices and doesn’t mind hiring, “people who have no experience, if they’re good people who want to work hard.”
Some of the places companies look for new hires include: community colleges, immigrant societies, online sources like Craig’s List and Monster, word of mouth, and referrals from current employees.