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What the future workforce could look like if we had the right conversations

Rick Thurston of WFS Ltd with his exhibitor booth at Build a Dream Windsor.

“I continue to be positive about what the future looks like if we have the right conversations in the right way,” says WFS Ltd‘s General Manager, Rick Thurston.

When you listen to Episode #013 of Build a Dream’s Perfectly Unfiltered podcast, you’ll notice that everything Rick says is positive…it’s just who he is. He started with WFS in 1984 as a delivery driver and worked in many positions before rising to his current role. His personal motto: there has to be a better way. A better way to do things, and a better way to treat people.

Rick loved what Build a Dream was doing and thought it wasn’t just an important message, it aligned well with his business goals. He ordered purple hard hats for Build a Dream to give to the young women attending. “I have a need for what the future would look like because we’ve had this long, historic issue with trying to attract women to our business (industrial distribution)….This was a way for us to make this bold statement on the skilled trades and show it doesn’t look bad to be in a purple hard hat.” Rick says that being comfortable in the hard had gets the students to think about these careers and if they do enter the trades, they’ll need to buy tools (hopefully from WFS!).

Parents’ influence on career choices

At live events, Rick engages with many parents to begin conversations about negative perceptions parents might place on certain jobs. He feels that youth have enough barriers to face already, and their parents should play a supportive role in career choices. He’s had good results, especially convincing the fathers who attend Build a Dream career discovery expos to change any unconscious bias they may have.

The conversations are positive not just because he’s a good salesperson, but because he believes (and lives) the message. WFS Ltd and its parent company — Grainger Canada — are always having progressive conversations about how to expand their talent pool and attract more people that reflect the communities they serve. Within their organization, specific business resource groups tackle different topics, developing relationships, models, and resources for staff so that they can create positive change. He says that companies who aren’t sure where to start should look at creating their own business resource group.

Women in skilled trades

It’s been 37 years…does he see more women in the trades now? “I’ve seen an increase but not to the extent that it should be. We as a society have a long way to go and as business leaders, we still have a long way to go.” Rick says that you can tout any message but if you aren’t driving that message within the organization (i.e. by looking at how candidates are recruited and interviewed), you won’t achieve what you need to do to create real change.

What advice does Rick have for students? What else does he say to parents? To industry? Listen to Episode #013 of Perfectly Unfiltered and find out!

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