FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Plumbers across the Pee Dee say they are having a hard time recruiting trainees to the industry.

Jason Keaton, owner of J&C Plumbing in Florence, said his last apprentice quit after just three days on the job. He said finding apprentices has always been difficult, but never like this.

Keaton blames reliance on unemployment benefits and an unwillingness to get dirty.

“Those are the ones you want to keep — the ones that want to get down with you, get dirty, get mud up to their knees and figure out what you’re doing,” Keaton said.

For the last two years, he said employees like that have been hard to come by. Between himself and another plumber who works for him, Keaton said the company stays busy.

“We’re probably running between six and 10 calls a day,” he said.

Keaton said wait times for customers would go down if he had more employees.

“If we had more apprentices around that wanted to get down and work, we wouldn’t be as slammed as we are now,” he said.

Keaton said many applicants simply don’t have the patience to complete a two- to three-year apprenticeship to become a plumber.

“You just can’t get anyone to come into work,” Keaton said. “I have had several people that have called and applied, scheduled to come into work, then just don’t show up.”

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 51,000 plumbing jobs are expected to become available every year until the end of the decade. With a lack of trainees, those jobs may be hard to fill.

“We’re finding that across the board with everybody,” Keaton said. “Other plumbing people we associate with say they are having the same problems.”

He said the benefits of completing an apprenticeship in plumbing or another trade include increased pay and the ability to work for yourself.

“When I first started plumbing, I never knew 20 years down the road I would have my own business,” Keaton said. “Stick with it. Don’t give up.”

News13 reached out to several plumbing companies across the Pee Dee, all of which confirmed that they have had trouble finding apprentices since the pandemic began.