The best of times can be trying times

By now, you are probably well aware of the serious need for qualified labor in the communications-cabling industry. Certainly, if you have tried to hire personnel recently, you know that demand is high and supply is low.

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By now, you are probably well aware of the serious need for qualified labor in the communications-cabling industry. Certainly, if you have tried to hire personnel recently, you know that demand is high and supply is low. The fact is, communications-cabling installation is not simple work, and to be properly trained in the discipline, one must commit time and energy to learning it.

In this issue, market researcher Frank Murawski forecasts that the premises-cabling marketplace is about to slow down, with total market growth in the single digits for the next several years. If we take Murawski at his word, do his findings fly in the face of the idea that we are in a highly successful marketplace? I think not.

If you look at the overall growth chart in Murawski's article, you see a sharp incline in recent years, which, Murawski tells us, is typical of many growing markets that have not yet reached maturity. For all practical purposes, that graph has translated to, "I can't hire enough people to keep up with all the jobs I have," for many a cabling contractor, which brings us back to the personnel supply/demand issue I referenced earlier. And while this might be the proverbial problem that all cabling contractors should enjoy having, it is a problem nonetheless.

Recently, I spoke to the head of a cabling project-management firm whose situation is typical of many in this industry, I think. He told me that he has so many jobs going on that he is hiring on new staff. Now, he has to spend a considerable amount of time interviewing prospective employees (read: work), then training them once they are on board (read: more work). Plus, he said that in all likelihood, he will expand the company to a point where it will outgrow its current office space, necessitating a move (read: even more work).

The hiring and training of additional staff, and a move into a new facility are not revenue-producing activities. And it's quite likely that the most skilled and experienced professional in the organization is spending less and less time at the jobsite, and more and more time doing "desk work." That can take an emotional toll, too. While it makes absolute sense for the best-equipped professional to be responsible for hiring, training, and similar activities, many of those professionals were inspired to open their own businesses for two reasons: (1) they enjoyed installing cabling systems and (2) they wanted to be small-business owners. Now many of them don't actually install systems nearly as often as they used to, and they may be taking a closer look at exactly what a "small" business is.

In my mind, the relative plateau that Murawski is predicting for the near future is a heads-up to installation-contracting firms that in all likelihood their workload will remain steady-not decline-in the near term. So if you're understaffed today, you will have to keep those recruiting efforts underway. Work is not slowing down any; it just may not be growing at the same pace that you have experienced the past few years.

Therefore, this is the opportunity to bring in the workforce that you have needed for some time. Maybe sooner rather than later, you will be able to spend more time at the jobsite. And if you wind up growing so much that you move into larger quarters, at least you can be sure your new cabling system will be properly installed by people who were well-screened and trained before they went to work.


Product-shopping tool available online

You may have already noticed that a new system called the Product Sourcing Assistant (PSA) is available on our Website, www.cable-install.com. Launched in May, the PSA is designed to help product purchasers find appropriate suppliers and products. According to Jay Regan, former publisher of Cabling Installation & Maintenance and now the director of business development for pennNET, the company that created the PSA, the tool "saves companies time and money" by "broadening their reach to suppliers" and filtering out suppliers who cannot meet the purchasers' needs.

Those who use the assistant can provide detailed specifications on the products they need, such as a description of the intended application, desired product attributes, delivery date, and quantity needed. Users also select the suppliers with which they want to inquire. Selected suppliers are then notified of the request and have the opportunity to obtain the lead.

Please let us know how useful the PSA is.

Patrick McLaughlin
Editor-in-Chief
patrick@pennwell.com

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