The most recent claim is that for every four tradespeople leaving or retiring from the trade, one is being replaced. In fact, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, 75% of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers. This becomes a huge problem in the effort to fight the skilled labor shortage problem. Many trade associations, contractor shops and manufacturers are working tirelessly to tackle this issue head-on.
Yet, the rise of social media and networking has been seen as a boon for the younger age demographic to contact peers, show off their work and stay connected within the industry. Some become big enough to become what the industry calls social media influencers. These outlets are a huge benefit for those interested, entering or are already part of the trades.
Yet, does the blue-collar workforce have a social media just to themselves? “White collar workers have LinkedIn, younger users have Snapchat, foodies and vloggers have Instagram,” suggests David Broomhead, CEO/Founder of Trade Hounds, a mobile app (available here on Google Play) that connects construction workers all over the United States, providing them a digital platform to share their experiences and showcase their work.
The app is a cross between LinkedIn and Instagram, allowing construction workers to connect with each other to discuss their jobs, new work opportunities, their families and their life/work issues and share on the job photographs. “Construction workers don’t fit in any of those categories; that’s where Trade Hounds is so valuable,” continues Broomhead.
Growing-up in a family construction business, Broomhead always felt blue collar contractors were under appreciated and overlooked. He credits his formative years and his admiration and respect for his family and their co-workers as the catalyst for Trade Hounds. “
“I grew up in a small, blue-collar town in Australia and at an early age I gravitated towards the family construction business. My uncles and cousins were all in the trades. I worked on job sites from the age of 12 and enjoyed working alongside friends and family; I got satisfaction out of a hard day’s work.” said Broomhead.
While at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., earning his MBA, Broomhead realized that construction workers worldwide didn’t have a digital home. “It was then that I began thinking about launching Trade Hounds, whose mission would be to empower blue collar construction and trade workers by creating a digital community built just for them.”
Trade Hounds empowers construction workers across the skilled trades—carpenters, plumbers, electricians, welders, etc.—by connecting them with each other to discuss their unique construction experiences. Members can weigh in on projects, share stories, get advice and proudly showcase work photos, no matter their location. “Our mission is to make the lives of the workers better, more efficient and maybe even more enjoyable in some way,” says Broomhead.
Equally important is getting students interested and involved with the trades. Trade Hounds started working with SkillsUSA—a career and technical student organization serving more than 395,000 high school, college and middle school students—from day one. The alliance is significant because SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. The goal of the partnership is to provide an online platform for trades students to connect with other workers in the industry to discuss job openings, safety, etc. Trade Hounds enables these students to develop a professional identity online that they can use to demonstrate their skills when seeking a job after graduation.
The Trade Hounds platform is a bright spot the school system where there are thousands of young students who are interested in trades careers. “There are a lot of users on our platform who have been in trades for years; they have experience and valuable knowledge that they are willing to share with others,” says Broomhead.
Trade Hounds has had a number of young users posting their first completed jobs and asking for comments. More experienced users are always willing to help, encourage and teach how to be better and more successful in the career. “That’s why our partnership with SkillsUSA is vital as it gives students a chance to interact not only with likeminded people in trades but also learn from the years of their experiences,” says Broomhead.
The goal is to help these students find work anywhere in the country, as well as network, showcase their work, and discuss career options. It opens up a new world of opportunities for young tradespeople. “It’s like going from fishing in a pond to fishing in the ocean,” says Broomhead.
According to Broomhead, the Trade Hounds mission is to improve the lives of the workers who are building the world around us by giving them access to their most valuable resource out there: each other.
Trade Hounds went live officially early January 2019 and since then it has already had more than 50,000 users in its community, with more than 30,000 unique posts created by the users. “All of our measurables are growing as we expand and add new features. This includes retention, time spent on the app and how active our users are,” says Broomhead.
In the future, the plan for the platform is to be not only a social platform but also a place where employers would be able to see digital resumes of users and hire them based on their previous completed jobs. “As of now, we already have a functionality to store all the work pictures in a separate ‘work’ tab where all jobs are geotagged and organized. We believe the future of hiring is through the digital channels,” says Broomhead.
Trade Hounds is a step forward to connect the next generation of construction workers with companies that are hiring and in desperate need of workers.