Addressing the Labor Shortage in the Field Service Industry

What is the Role of AI in Future-Proofing Trades and Attracting Young Talent

550,000. That’s how many plumbers the US is expected to be short of in 2027, according to an analysis by John Dunham & Associates. This shortage is not confined to a single trade but spans across multiple critical trade jobs such as plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. Additionally, the field service industry – the workers responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing complex equipment and machinery – faces a critical labor shortage exacerbated by an aging workforce and a widening skills gap. In North America, 46% of field techs are over 50 years old, and looking to retire within the next decade.

But, there’s a promising shift. Recent reports highlight that many Gen Z workers are now opting for trade careers over traditional college pathways. The steep cost of college is not the sole motivator steering young people towards skilled trades. As AI becomes more prevalent, many Gen Zers perceive manual labor as less susceptible to full replacement by emerging technologies compared to many white-collar jobs.

While this demographic recognizes that AI won’t completely replace these roles, they see the value in utilizing AI to assist with their tasks. For field service specifically, AI can help by simplifying diagnostics and enhancing troubleshooting, making these roles more accessible and appealing to the next generation.

Additionally, AI’s ability to train new workers on technical skills contributes to the sustainability of the workforce and the overall success of the company. Recent data indicates that job mobility is common across various age groups, particularly among younger workers. Organizations need a method to preserve their workforce’s knowledge when workers inevitably leave, and AI provides a solution for this need.

It also helps mitigate the cost impact associated with underperforming talent; studies such as Aquant’s field service benchmark report indicate that the least effective field service employees can cost an organization 80% more than their most effective counterparts. In contrast, if every employee had the knowledge and skills to perform like the top 20% of the workforce, service costs would be reduced by as much as 22% – and this is achievable, with the help of AI.

How AI is training workers

AI assistance is training and upskilling less-experienced workers in real-time, bringing their efficiency up to par with their skilled counterparts. However, when it comes to sectors like field service, organizations will need a customized approach. Every service challenge is one of a kind and generic AI answers won’t cut it. Certain AI technologies out on the market – ones that take a personalized approach and are built for specific use cases – will collect and process data from multiple trusted sources, including expert insights, using advanced algorithms to deliver actionable information on devices like iPads and mobile phones.

Through advanced pattern recognition, the AI identifies key connections and behavioral patterns in the data, providing deep contextual awareness. Additionally, the AI integrates expert knowledge into reliable data to enhance decision accuracy, supported by an intuitive interface and a predictive algorithm. The system continuously adapts based on real-time feedback and business goals, evaluating solution effectiveness and making necessary adjustments to optimize and personalize service delivery.

By integrating these kinds of AI tools in the training and day-to-day operations of field service jobs, the industry can not only address the current labor shortage but also future-proof its workforce. This ensures that services remain responsive to the high and ever-increasing customer expectations.

Additionally, as AI handles more of the technical load, workers are able to shift their focus towards developing soft skills, such as customer service, communication, and teamwork. This shift makes the trades more appealing to a broader range of individuals, including those who may not have previously considered a career in this field due to its technical demands. Emphasizing soft skills enhances job satisfaction and adaptability, making trade careers more dynamic and fulfilling in an ever-evolving work environment.

To learn more about using AI to future-proof the field service industry and attracting young talent, visit the Aquant website here.

Related News:

Salary Guide 2024 by Mondo Released for Attracting and Retaining Talent

RTO-Return to Office Study Found a Quarter of Execs Hoped for Turnover


About Author

Sidney Lara is currently the Service Principal at Aquant, a software company focused on bringing service intelligence to field service organizations through AI and data-powered platforms. With over 20 years of experience in operations and service leadership, Sidney is passionate about eliminating waste from business processes and focusing on the activities creating value for customers. Prior to joining Aquant, Sidney worked for RATIONAL USA as Vice President of North America Service.