Once you work within the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) trades, you develop an understanding of the qualities it takes to be successful:

1.      Work ethic – You stay on the job until it’s done.

2.      Accountability – You admit mistakes and keep moving forward.

3.      Curbed ego – You realize that you may know a lot about some things, but you don’t know everything.

The bottom line in MEP is that you have to have grit: You understand where you’re starting from, that circumstances may not be perfect, but the job has to get done. No excuses. The experienced and successful employees hold themselves to a standard. They know they’re representing their company in producing a quality product.

The grit that is so prevalent throughout the trades is truly something to be admired. It has come in handy when faced with challenges and adversity. The trades will always find a way to succeed.

Workers in MEP have been solving problems for hundreds of years. Sometimes the solutions become innovations that propel the industry forward. Today, much of that innovation revolves around the development of technology that enables work in construction to be more efficient and more productive. The industry is primed for innovation, especially in light of the economic problems brought about by the reaction to the pandemic. This has certainly put the digital transformation in the forefront.

As MEP companies strive to hire in the face of what was already identified as a serious skilled labor shortage a decade ago, they continue to experience a “marketing” problem. It’s that image of hard, dirty work in the trades. However, these days there are many opportunities for careers within the trades – computer design, drone pilot, and other similar jobs that involve more than just hardware and fasteners. The trades is an exciting and growing place to be.

If trade contractors manage to attract and hire younger workers, they end up with a variety of personalities on the jobsite and the dynamics that can exist among two or even three generations. Of course, on the bright side, this situation brings with it the opportunity for mentorship – and respect for specialized skills – across generations. No matter what the job, hands-on experience is needed. Some skills, and in the MEP trades many skills, just can’t be learned from a book.

This embracing of younger talent by the trades can actually foster innovation. When someone is engaged in what they do, they may be on the lookout for inefficiencies and try to make a process better. The 80-20 rule usually applies: 80% of opportunities for improvement come from 20% of the job. 

One process improvement that’s promising to catapult the MEP trades into the future is prefabrication and modular construction. It seems inevitable that the industry must move in that direction to meet the production demands of today, as well as the compressed schedules, need for consistency, and the safety requirements in the years to come.

When I sat down with James Simpson of eVolve MEP during episode 40 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast, we unpacked the grit and innovation necessary to succeed in the trades. We also got into his inspiring story of starting full time in the trades at 16 years old and the lessons he learned along the way. Listen to “The Grit Needed for Success” today to hear the full conversation.


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