Contractor Sees Value in Better Promoting Trades Careers

Jim Harper was exposed early to the career possibilities of the trades through his technical high school education. Today he fully appreciates the opportunity he had and would like to see more young people encouraged in the same way.

Contractor Sees Value in Better Promoting Trades Careers

Jim Harper, owner of PSI Plumbing Systems in Edwards, Colorado.

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Jim Harper, owner of PSI Plumbing Systems in Edwards, Colorado, has a lot of satisfaction in his work, and it goes back to his high school education at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin, Massachusetts, where at age 15 he began learning the plumbing trade.

During his senior year, Harper had a job while completing his studies. He alternated between one week of school and one week of work throughout the educational process.

Harper took the training he received and moved west to Vail, Colorado, in 1996. There he became a co-owner of Peak One Plumbing, and in 2000 he decided to strike out on his own with PSI Plumbing Systems.

“When I was a kid going to that school, I probably didn’t appreciate the tremendous opportunity I had been provided,” Harper says. “It was unique. I didn’t know it at the time. I had great teachers and learned a ton of stuff. Best of all, I found I really loved plumbing.” 

Harper’s educational experience, paired with his years in the industry, has given him a unique perspective on a significant problem in the industry today: recruiting bright young men and women to see the career possibilities in the trades.

“We have lost our way in this country, as there is a huge income gap in the trades,” Harper says. “Kids are going to college racking up huge debt, and they often don’t like what they are educated to do. There are so many other areas where a person can be successful. People are missing the boat because they are not encouraged to go in different directions.”

Harper takes recruiting and training new employees seriously. He says he usually does 10 or more interviews before finding the right individual to fill a slot, and he emphasizes that in addition to basic plumbing knowledge, the job requires an understanding that the customer comes first.

“We want them to know that we have to do the right job every time. Never deviate from that,” Harper says. “The job has to be done — executed in a fashion consistent with giving the finest service.”

Newly hired technicians will work with a senior employee for one to three years in order to gain a full understanding of the company policies.

“The challenge in finding that person is huge, and we never stop looking. We are always looking,” Harper says.

Read more about PSI Plumbing Systems, including how it got involved in trenchless services like pipe bursting, in an upcoming issue of Dig Different magazine. 



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