Of the challenges today’s pool and spa professionals face, the biggest may be hiring (and keeping) qualified employees. Tim Coleman, managing partner of Augusta Aquatics (Fishersville, Va.), knows firsthand. After years of trying online job listings, he decided to take a stand and try solving the problem himself.

“Online resources like Indeed, Craigslist, Monster and Facebook posts have produced lackluster results over the past few years,” Coleman says. “My high school motto was, ‘Find a way or make one,’ and that is our latest approach. If we cannot find experienced, well-trained individuals, we will create them.”

The result is the Construction Technician Apprenticeship Program, which blends syllabi from existing industry courses, like those from APSP and Genesis, and compiles them into a single, two-year or 160-credit-hour apprenticeship. The final syllabus was approved by the state of Virginia.

“I think it’s going to be beneficial for our trade as a whole, especially with the licensing movement that we’re seeing, to have people formally trained,” Coleman says.

In addition to 44 years of experience working on pools, 25 of which were in construction, Coleman is an APSP CBP trainer and Genesis associate. Once the program begins accepting attendees, he’ll be the main instructor.

“We started the idea of this program to entice people into our industry and to come work with us,” Coleman says. “We thought this would be a further enticement and we’ve gotten a very positive reaction from a number of people.”
About the same time the program was in development, Coleman and his son Tom got involved with the APSP Workforce Development Committee.

“What I want to do is not spend a great deal of time developing something that becomes antiquated within a couple years,” Coleman says. “If I can approach it from a national standpoint, and if [APSP] wants us to be the guinea pig, then I’m happy to do that.”

If the apprenticeship model were to expand nationwide, Coleman says the program would be tailored to regional codes and standards. Apprentices in Northern states, for example, would learn about freeze/thaw cycles while Southern states would learn about pool maintenance in the extreme heat.

“The committee is looking at my son Tom and I as the experts on the apprenticeship program,” Coleman says. “Simply because there’s nobody else that’s done the research we’ve done already or have a state-approval.”

Coleman's first program candidate will start in July.

Kathryn Howard is Assistant Editor of AQUA Magazine.