We sat down with Projects and Academy Services Business Development Director, Dan Sholl, to talk about the Field Service industry’s current problem - labour shortages. We talk industry trends, the labour shortage and how Concept resourcing can help those recruiting in the industry overcome these issues.
Elle Butler: Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to join us today. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about what your role is at Concept and your responsibilities?
Dan Sholl: Hi Elle, Hi Laura, of course, my role is in essence to deliver to Concept customers solutions to any, and all, resource led challenges they face across their field and field support operations.
This covers anything from talent acquisition, or creating for direct hires, or “perm hiring” through to flexible labour solutions for in house projects and peaks, as well as managed resource solutions with wrap around delivery services.
Laura Case: So we’re going to be talking about an important topic today that Concept is right on top of. We have a ‘talent famine’ (which we have a blog discussing here), an ageing population across Field Service in particular, the cost-of-living crisis and much more, but what are you seeing in the industry over the past 12 months?
Dan Sholl: There are issues arising in the field service industry at the moment. First of all, there is record demand. The retail industry is investing heavily in technology, to provide a digital customer experience. As new stores open up, the need for upgrading those stores with the latest tech increases.
There has been increasing demand for transportable tech, we have seen some pretty aggressive deployment schedules and WFH has increased the demand for wider geographical and reactive coverage than we see with traditional deploy to desk or desktop support activity. The labour shortage is everywhere, and we are seeing a record demand for field work and expanded coverage. Good news for any organization that’s in the field service business though.
Elle Butler: So the field service industry is in record demand, but there aren’t enough people out there to meet this demand?
Dan Sholl:: There isn’t necessarily a labour shortage, it’s more a shortage of experience. Lots of businesses are competing for the same time served Engineers and not many are investing in creating the next generation. Many businesses do not have the tools to find the best qualified engineers/candidates - in the most competitive landscape we have seen for some time - with traditional recruitment methods not yielding the results they once did. Field service roles may not be perceived as glamourous or aspirational in some cases. We see lots of examples of the true benefits of a career in Field Service not being presented to potential candidates early, and often enough across a hiring strategy. Certain external influences, such as the cost-of-living crisis, are forcing workers to be more ‘savvy’ with what contracts they choose: what roles work best around home life, which offer the best benefits, which have scope for regular set salary increases (etc.) making is really tough to compete with if you aren’t willing to work with candidates to deliver elements of flexibility (where possible of course). This can be a real challenge in field service with SLA’s to be hit and hours of coverage to be maintained.
Having been a market leader in the Field Service sector since 2000, our teams have a thorough understanding of the demands of this sector, the demands placed on candidates and how to best attract talent to businesses.
My consultants have an extensive network of field service engineers nationally that are responsible for installations, commissioning, fixing, and maintaining equipment – from electromechanical equipment such as coffee and ticket machines through to domestic appliances and commercial installations. The Concept Academy was created in 2020 to work alongside traditional time served hiring, to try and resolve the shortage of skilled engineers.
By working with Heads of Service, we are bringing through the next generation and adding more diversity into teams. The Concept Academy provides fast-track training into the world of Engineering for driven, personable individuals via a full-time 12-month intensive managed training programme. We’ve partnered with world-leading manufacturers to arm fledgling engineers with the skills to grab field service opportunities by the horns and make it their own, with permanent contract employment on completion of training. Added bonus - no upfront recruitment fees to customers who partner with the Academy to support their hiring strategy. We actually have created 275 new Engineers and that continues to grow.
Elle Butler: That all sounds brilliant, Dan. So, for those feeling the effects, do you recommend using our Concept Academy? What’s your best advice?
Dan Sholl:: Anyone in the industry can get in contact with us with any queries (big or small) to have a discussion on their recruitment, career or flexible resource issues or needs. We’re always looking for new partners or candidates to join us, so I’d encourage anyone to have a chat with us to understand the different solutions that are out there. Our free recruitment clinic at this year’s Field Service Expo is a great opportunity to stop and have a chat with our experts, if you’re in the area.
Laura Case: Moving on then, as well as the labour shortage, I’ve seen in industry news and insights that there is a phenomenon called the ‘Silver Tsunami’, can you tell us a bit about what that is?
Dan Sholl: [laughing] Yes, some people have been calling it that. The silver tsunami is essentially the ageing population within Field work. I read somewhere that 46% of FS workers are 50 years old or older. Not enough of the next generation of individuals agree are being encouraged to go into the field service business or engineering in my opinion. I say individuals and not “younger people” specifically as many of our best hires in recent months have been focused more on diversity of experience and average demographic of the most successful Academy graduates sit in the 24 – 40 category.
Laura Case: That’s really interesting. So, is this exasperating the talent famine? If not enough people are being trained in the sector, combined with an aging population who are likely to retire in the next 10 – 20 years, is there a correlation which will only get worse?
Dan Sholl: Well, if nothing is done, the signs suggest yes. This is why our Concept Academy and those investing in their own direct traineeship schemes, alongside apprenticeships, are so vital to find people (no matter their age) and train them to get them out into the industry. For time-served hiring, it’s all about how your business is seeking out talent and the message you are presenting to potential candidates about your business - that and money of course. You can’t compete for skilled labour if your salaries aren’t competitive. Anyone interested in understanding the market across a range of comparable Field industries should keep an eye out for our next salary survey. It will be free to download, or you can reach out today for market specific data. In today’s environment, it’s even more difficult to find candidates when you don’t have the networks and tools to find them.
Elle Butler: So this is where Concept can step in, right? How do you find the talent in your team?
Dan Sholl: As I mentioned before, our consultants have one of the largest dedicated networks of Engineers across the country who we can contact directly with opportunities which can be snapped up. We actively seek out the candidates with the best experience, expertise, and attitude to suit the company’s needs/ wants and we have continued marketing activity engaging passively with Field Engineers nationwide so we know who is or may be open to new roles and can reach them quickly and efficiently. Outside of the network, the tools, our knowledge, and the reach of our talent teams give us an edge over any direct hiring methods.
Elle Butler: So instead of companies relying on internal recruitment strategies and job boards, they should seek out more efficient, skilled ways to recruit such as using recruitment consultancies like Concept?
Dan Sholl: A mixture of both is absolutely the right choice here. It doesn’t matter the role, it could be urgent, long term, perm or contract. Our talent teams are not just here to fill a role and make off with a placement fee, our aim is to become an extension of your internal talent operation, delivering ongoing value add to your in-house strategy. This would include consulting on how to attract, retain and diversify your hiring. We have maintained relationships with many of our customers for many years and become a leading recruiter in this space because we look to create value to our customers.
Elle Butler: Great to hear, thanks Dan.
Laura Case: Now, onto the next obstacle, which we can safely say is affecting almost all of us - the cost-of-living crisis. We’ve recently seen an increase in fuel prices – I understand that a lot of Field Service work requires travel, is that right?
Dan Sholl: Yes, it does. A lot of our roles and candidates are required to travel across the country to different sites and venues.
Elle Butler: So, what impact is this having on the industry speicfically?
Dan Sholl: Majority of the time, vans and fuel cards are provided for engineers when hiring permanently; but this doesn’t mean the companies that provide them can afford this increase, so they must look for efficiencies elsewhere. Reducing cost per call by removing recruitment fees and hiring at a more junior level and upskilling is one way to do so but it’s not a quick win. We also have the contract labour market, where the cost of fuel directly impacts the Engineer each day and therefore the price you pay for a day’s work.
Laura Case: That’s not good news, let’s hope things get better soon for those in the industry and struggling. So, onto the final factor- automation. There seems to be a dramatic increase in the rise of automated goods and services, with AI often being able to figure out what is wrong with a system straight away. What are your thoughts on this?
Dan Sholl: It isn’t good news, but a balance of direct and flexible resource models can also help run a lean operation. In terms of AI, there are certain parts of the job that can be automated, there are some fantastic tools out there to help Engineers and many systems are focussed on removing the involvement of people, take Shelf Edge Labels and SCO’s for example. But in my view, we will be relying on skilled people out in the field for some time to come and be all the better for it. You always need people to install and maintain these systems, especially in retail and as the systems become more complex and technical, you need more skilled individuals to fix them.
Elle Butler: Okay then, so help me connect the dots. How does Concept Resourcing resolve this problem and why is this an opportunity?
Dan Sholl: With technology and field engineering, there will always need to be the people behind the scenes, creating the tech and installing it. Who do you think will be there when AI goes wrong, and we need human intervention?
Elle Butler: I understand. So, if you could sum up these issues, how much of a risk are they to businesses in Field Services and it’s workers?
Dan Sholl: With the right tools, the right mix of resource models and the right approach, it still won’t all be plain sailing and will require constant adjustment, but you can certainly see field operations that embrace the reality of today’s labour market thriving. It’s all about knowing when and where your field operation might need help, the solutions available to you, such as talent partnerships, Resource on Demand, Academy and even price per activity services for peak periods, years of expertise in recruiting in the field to overcome it and reduce its’ impacts.
Laura Case: Dan, thank you for joining us today. This has been a really interesting conversation. I hope our audience understand how Concept is calming these issues within Field Services. But for now, where can our audience find out more about Concept or get in contact?
Dan Sholl: You can go to our website, www.conceptresourcing.com and go to our Field Engineering page or Concept Academy page, or whatever sector is suited to you. Or, you can contact myself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Sholl: Thanks for having me. It was really great speaking with you both.