By REMODELING Magazine Staff. Joe Schwab
HCS Construction Services
We typically have somebody around here in their 60s working in the field. And we've found that the experience that brings is invaluable. When a guy has survived that long, he knows how to use his body and tools in the most efficient manner. And he can be a terrific teacher to the people around him.
It's also true that [older people] have a different awareness of time. Often you see young people rush right in, tear into things, and then look around and wonder where they are and what to do next. The seasoned worker will stop, analyze, formulate a plan, then work through it.
I haven't had too many older people working for me. I have had older subs though, including some older carpenters, as well as painters and HVAC subs. As long as somebody is mentally and physically capable of handling the rigors of field work, and they love to do it, I don't know that age is that much of a factor.
Kansas City, Kan.
To me, too old is when you will not change. We had a carpenter who was older and very much set in his ways. At the time, we were going to employee carpenters vs. subbing the carpentry, to control quality better. We were also shifting to the lead carpenter system. Our leads have to communicate. They have to do the work, look good, and be intelligent. He didn't like paperwork. He wanted to just go in and build the job his way. And he did not want anybody looking over his work. Our efforts to change him resulted in discontent, and that affected some other carpenters in the field.
It all depends on how you are, mentally and physically, how you feel, and what type of work you're doing. For instance, if you're performing masonry and concrete work, you're probably not going to be doing that at an older age, as opposed to, say, finish trim. If the guy is laying floors and he's 60, his knees are going to hell. I'm 65, and though I don't work in the field, I still do physical work.
If I am going to make an investment, it will be in someone that has the potential to be around for a while. Our team is already relatively young, and young people tend to fit in better with that culture. On the other hand, if I were hiring somebody for their skill, age would be relative to the job. Hiring an older employee with skills can be a quick solution. But the idea is that we have a culture, a style of doing business, systems, and if we grow somebody within those systems, we have a much more productive, longer-lasting employee.
It depends on the nature of the work, the individual, his or her health, and local conditions. Down here, it gets very hot. Roofers tend to get out of it in their mid-30s. Carpenters last a little longer. I think somewhere between the early and late 40s is the time to get out of the field -- or at least be put in a supervisory position as opposed to doing the physical aspect. You can't expect somebody to hold up trusses in their 90s.