Skilled Trades

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.”

Harts Services, a top-rated Tacoma-based plumbing company, supports jobseekers considering a rewarding, high-paying career in the essential skilled trades with its innovative Harts Academy in-house training program.

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.”

To learn more about the Skilled Trades Advisory Council, follow STAC on LinkedIn or the platform formerly known as Twitter.

As far back as he can remember, Derek Zeolla, general manager and licensed plumber at Zeolla Plumbing & Heating Corp., was running plumbing jobs with his father in downtown Boston as early as seven years old. Derek’s dad was a Boston service plumber that ran a 1- to 2-man shop. “It’s not like this was Read more

As far back as he can remember, Derek Zeolla, general manager and licensed plumber at Zeolla Plumbing & Heating Corp., was running plumbing jobs with his father in downtown Boston as early as seven years old. Derek’s dad was a Boston service plumber that ran a 1- to 2-man shop. “It’s not like this was common, I was just growing up around it,” says Zeolla (@zeollaplumbing).

Zeolla Plumbing and Heating Corp., Derek Zeolla, plumbing, heating, Doug Zeolla, HVAC, boilers, skilled trades, support the trades

Derek Zeolla and his wife Arlene

Derek’s father eventually stopped working as a plumber in the late ’90s. Around this time, while still a teenager, Derek dropped out of school had a baby at the age of 18. Moving forward, “My brother, Doug, and I convinced our dad—also named Doug—to get back into the trade, but before we worked as a family, he sent us off to get experience elsewhere,” recalls Zeolla.

Zeolla Plumbing and Heating Corp., Derek Zeolla, plumbing, heating, Doug Zeolla, HVAC, boilers, skilled trades, support the trades

Derek’s father’s company in the ’90s

According to Zeolla, they worked all over the city and jumped around recklessly from company to company, some jobs together, some not. “We always found a way of getting together with a new employer, one of us would talk up the other,” says Zeolla. “It’s funny looking back on that thinking how little we knew back then. My parents were coming off of a divorce and my father was starting to take on some service stuff in our new town Stoughton, Mass. where we grew up and went to high school. Eventually, he had enough work for both of us and we stayed pretty busy,” says Zeolla.

And that’s how Zeolla Plumbing & Heating Corp.—residential service plumbing, drain cleaning, heating, and boiler installation—came to be. “We have built a solid reputation in our area through more than a decade of answering the phone and showing up. Man, we have come a long way since then,” says Zeolla.

The Family Dynamic

Working with his father, brother and one of his cousins most of the time were the best memories in the field for Zeolla. “I can’t explain it, but something about sharing the bond of working together, figuring out problems together, feeling the pride was the best, and I hope to share that with my two boys one day,” says Zeolla.

Zeolla Plumbing and Heating Corp., Derek Zeolla, plumbing, heating, Doug Zeolla, HVAC, boilers, skilled trades, support the trades

Derek with his father Doug a few years ago.

But with life, things change. “As many know, my brother passed away. This was tough, and even before that, my father took a step back from the business and went to Florida (but still flies back to Boston from time to time to help out). Add to that, my cousin and I haven’t talked in years so it’s not the same out here anymore,” says Zeolla.

Zeolla says he is blessed that his wife Arlene has filled a void. “She is the savior in the office, and I have a great team.”

Derek also hired his younger cousin Justin last year and he has been phenomenal. “I was out with him today clearing drains on a Sunday and it brought back that feeling again of working with family. Working with a Zeolla,” says Derek nostalgically.

And while Derek puts his father center on the Mount Rushmore of mentors, there were some other people outside the family that were strong influences on Derek. For Zeolla, one of the best was a Greek guy named Alex, who, when Derek was looking for work, took him on for a couple of years. “He taught me how to get shit done; he taught me how to move.”

Zeolla Plumbing and Heating Corp., Derek Zeolla, plumbing, heating, Doug Zeolla, HVAC, boilers, skilled trades, support the trades

Derek working with his cousin Justin

Alex was a great mentor yet has since passed away. “Which brings me to, am I a role model? I don’t know, but Alex has two sons. One has come to me looking for mentorship, and it’s just so crazy how things come full circle because now he works with me and he is already just like his father when it comes to plumbing skill.”

Zeolla hopes to be a good role model for him, including and all his younger guys he works with. “I will never steer them in the wrong direction, that’s for sure. This is too important to me,” says Zeolla.

Challenges/Rewards

One of my biggest challenges isn’t the pipes, says Zeolla, it’s the people. “I say this phrase a lot, and I love people in general, and I love my customers, but sometimes when it comes to understanding what we are doing in their homes, it can be challenging. It’s very important to explain things and make sure they feel comfortable. It’s a delicate balance between taking control of a situation and saying, ‘hey, look, I’m the professional here I need you to trust me,’” says Zeolla.

Zeolla Plumbing and Heating Corp., Derek Zeolla, plumbing, heating, Doug Zeolla, HVAC, boilers, skilled trades, support the trades

Again, the pipes are the easy part! “I’m lucky that I have great customers. The rewarding part is helping people out, getting someone’s heat back on, clearing a main drain, getting the hot water back, or being told that you are appreciated is probably the best. That ride home to then seeing your family after you helped another family, that’s the reward.”

Leisure Time

Derek and his wife love to travel, and they take their kids literally everywhere they go. AHR Atlanta was their second time leaving them overnight in five years. But basically, there is no leisure time without the phone ringing and Derek coordinating with his six guys, and customers. “My wife and I are like running a telethon while ‘trying’ to be on a vacation. We love it and we are good at it, but she knows I can’t be away from the field long. It’s my therapy and I get depressed if I’m not turning wrenches,” says Zeolla, a self-described workaholic.

Zeolla Plumbing and Heating Corp., Derek Zeolla, plumbing, heating, Doug Zeolla, HVAC, boilers, skilled trades, support the tradesAs far as spare time close to home, Zeolla enjoys fishing, hiking and hanging out at his cabin nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. “Summer weekends there with my boys are what I work toward every week. When my brother passed, I wanted to find a place to escape, and I found something special,” says Zeolla.

The Skilled Trades

According to Zeolla, “We” need to push our way into middle schools and high schools to get “our” message heard. Kids need to know that they have options at a younger age, says Zeolla.

“Listen, school isn’t for everyone. You might be told you aren’t good enough, or your attention span is too short, or you can’t listen to lectures all day, but put that kid in front of something hands-on, something he or she can feel—and feel the pride of building something—the sky is the limit. Once you get that feeling of being productive and important, you will open doors you didn’t even know were there,” says Zeolla.

Innovative industry leaders collaborate to provide essential skills and insights that drive efficiency and productivity XOi, a leading provider of technician-focused technology solutions, announces a new partnership with Interplay Learning, the leading provider of online and VR training for the essential skilled trades. The partnership combines Interplay Learning’s immersive turnkey learning platform, which helps field service Read more

Innovative industry leaders collaborate to provide essential skills and insights that drive efficiency and productivity

XOi, a leading provider of technician-focused technology solutions, announces a new partnership with Interplay Learning, the leading provider of online and VR training for the essential skilled trades.

The partnership combines Interplay Learning’s immersive turnkey learning platform, which helps field service technicians acquire and deepen essential skills, with XOi’s suite of AI-powered data collection and analysis solutions. Together, the two solutions accelerate the time it takes to train technicians for the field and provide essential resources to support superior performance and customer service from jobsites.

“The natural and powerful extension of the Interplay Learning platform to the XOi solution positions companies to succeed and also moves our industry forward,” said Interplay Learning CEO Doug Donovan. “Interplay Learning helps techs acquire and deepen foundational knowledge, while XOi delivers the resources that techs need in the field to better serve customers and communicate with the office. Both solutions work anytime and anywhere — convenient for techs and essential for great customer service. Interplay Learning helps techs gain skills faster and reduce ‘time to truck,’ while XOi serves as the essential resource for communications and customer service for those techs once they are out in the field.”

Interplay Learning, the leading provider of online and VR training for the essential skilled trades, has expanded and upgraded its commercial HVAC catalog, enabling commercial HVAC firms and mechanical contractors to reduce training costs and accelerate ramp-up times for their apprentices and technicians.

XOi’s growing suite of cloud-based solutions offers the premier data-cataloging and analytics functionality for field service, giving teams a range of tools for increasing efficiency, accuracy and accountability. Powered by XOi’s standardized workflows, job documentation capabilities, and training and enablement solutions, teams can build deep and easily accessible institutional knowledge bases that support real-time decision-making and data-based continuity. Service teams can apply these extensive data-science capabilities to analyze those foundational elements and strategically respond to evolving data trends and forecasts.

“At XOi, we’re committed to supporting technicians in the field so they do their jobs accurately and effectively,” said Aaron Salow, founder and CEO of XOi. “Interplay Learning’s proven training platform helps get new techs up to speed quickly and keeps experienced techs up to date so they can deliver premium service and performance, allowing contractors to focus on their mission and drive growth.”

Interplay Learning’s award-winning online and VR training for the essential skilled trades is scalable and more effective than traditional training methods. By leveraging its immersive learning platform, SkillMill, Interplay Learning users are able to train and practice hands-on learning from any device or in virtual reality, resulting in highly trained employees who are job-ready in weeks, not years.

For more information about Interplay Learning, visit https://www.interplaylearning.com.

For more information about XOi, visit https://xoi.io.

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.