Addressing the Labor Shortage: Industry Leaders Work with Local Agencies to Develop New Painting Talent

As professional painting contractors are all too aware, there is an acute worker shortage affecting not only the coatings industry but the building trades as a whole. Now, some forward-thinking industry leaders are banding together to do something about it.

Getting started

“We have seen a significant shortage in newcomers into the industry, and we’re seeing a lot of people that are exiting, and there’s not a lot of interest in joining the industry,” says Belinda Zamora, Marketing Director, Pro Contractor Programs at Sherwin-Williams.

Sherwin-Williams has partnered with the Painting Contractors Association (PCA) and the Building Talent Foundation (BTF) to launch a national program to address the talent shortage.

In June 2022, they worked directly with the San Antonio Housing Authority to set up a pilot program to train local community members in the painting trade.

The first two days of the program were spent in a classroom learning the fundamentals of painting. Over the next two days, the 11 students painted two San Antonio Housing Authority residences.

On the last day, there was a graduation ceremony followed by a hiring fair.

Basic training

Wayne Seymour of Sherwin-Williams served as the commercial class instructor for the program.

“We start with a presentation on the basics of painting: where is paint used, what kind of paint do you use where,” he says. “Surface preparation is a focus. We talk about caulks and sealants. We talk about ladder safety. We talk about job site safety.”

Students were also educated in the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule for lead-safe work practices.

“At the end of that day, they took a 25-question multiple choice test and left RRP certified,” Seymour says. “The great thing is that all 11 folks passed the test, which is an outstanding achievement. They left on Thursday being able to finish the project and being able to make it look better than what it did when they went in there.”

Encouraging results

According to Jenna Garcia, the BTF Engagement Manager who coordinated the event, the program helped many of the students land full-time jobs with local painting contractors.

Just as importantly, the participants got a glimpse into the long-term opportunities available to them in the painting trade.

“Learning the basics of these skills will allow me to have a better job, better opportunities, and better benefits,” says LuCretia Wilson, a student in the program. Looking ahead, she sees the potential for eventually starting her own business.

In the end, the program showed the possibilities of what can be done when people and organizations join forces.

“Having all these companies work together is what made this event a success,” Garcia says. “It shows what you can achieve with a collaborative effort.”

BTF CEO Branka Minic agrees.

“We need very consistent and committed efforts from all stakeholders to truly create a better pipeline of talent into the industry and to train and retain that talent,” she says. “This pilot project is a promise that, by working together, we can create new, talented, qualified tradespeople who would be able to take on painting positions and possibly, one day, become the owners of new painting companies. It is a way to form new talent, train people and, in a systematic way, enrich the workforce with new painters.”

What’s next?

Sherwin-Williams will be working with the PCA and BTF to replicate this project in other locations across the nation.

“We proved that this concept is efficient and effective and therefore we are working now with Sherwin-Williams and PCA to develop a replicable model that could then be implemented across the United States with candidates that not only come from the housing authority in their projects but could come from many sources of candidates,” Minic says.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of PPC magazine. ©2022 Northbrook Publishing. Read more stories about recruitment, hiring and managing your painting business in the PPC magazine archive.