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Jun 30, 2022 IST Team

The Top 8 Questions to Ask When Finding a Skilled Trades Partner

Asking these questions of your skilled trades partner can help you find a partner that really understands the industry

Before you set out to find a skilled trades partner to fill the positions you need, you may want to use the following list of questions to vet out any potential non-starters and elect the best candidate for your project. Staffing solutions should be just that -- a solution, but oftentimes you may be working with a construction staffing agency that cannot fill the position you need, in the timeframe you need.

Here are some questions and commentary on how to find the right company for your temp agency needs.

What trades do you specialize in?

What percentage of your talent falls into this category?


Are you an RPO or a staffing agency?

(If you are confused as to what an RPO is or what are the strengths and weaknesses between those two approaches, check out our write-up.)


How many years of experience do you have in the industry?


Can you name the best projects you have staffed?

What made it the best?

How did you overcome the struggles during that time?


How is your safety program implemented?

How often do you provide refresher training?

What is your EMR, or your experience modifier rate?

This is used by insurance companies to determine the likelihood of worker’s comp claims being filed in a given year based on the past three years of data (with the exclusion of the last year). So, at the time of this publication in 2022, EMR would include data from the years 2018, 2019, and 2020, but not 2021.

An average EMR is 1.00. Any number lower than 1.00 is desirable. IST has a 0.95 EMR.

What is your TRIR?

TRIR is Total Recordable Incident Rate, also known as the Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) or the OSHA incident rate. OSHA-recordable incidents are:

Total number of non-fatal work-related injury and illness cases, number of cases involving job transfer or restricted work activity only, and the number of cases involving days away from work.

If you need to doublecheck the skilled trades partner's numbers (which may be a huge red flag in of itself), use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ calculator for TRIR.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.1 is an average TRIR for all types of construction and all-size companies.

What is your DART, or days away, restricted or transferred?

It factors in the number of workplace injuries that are severe enough to incur days away from work, create job transfers and/or restrict the work activities of employees throughout the entire year.

1.5 is an average DART (according to BLS).

In our recent survey, safety is one of the most important considerations when taking a job and leaving a job. If you are seeing worrying numbers in a company’s spec sheet, you may not only have a safety problem, but also a morale problem among the workers.


How deep is your bench?

What percentage of your tradespeople have certifications or journeyman status?

What percentage of the workforce is within the first 3 years of entering the trades?

How do you ensure that the skilled tradesman on site is the right person for my job?

Staffing agencies should be able to quickly answer the bench questions for you. If they cannot, IST can certainly do so.


Do you have a substance abuse program in place?

What is your culture regarding illegal substances?

They should be a no-nonsense company when it comes to alcohol/drug abuse, particularly on the job. However, there is also the aspect that a traveling journeyman job is lonely at times and workers may be using illegal substances and alcohol for pain management. There should be some grace here to allow a skilled worker to get sober in a rehab program while maintaining a high level of workmanship.


Talk about a time when you helped a project that was struggling to come in on time or get back on schedule.

To what can you attribute your success?

Good partners will most likely point to their people– the skilled tradesmen who made it possible.

If they still seem like a good fit even if they can’t name a time this has occurred (it is prevalent across the industry), you could try more of these vetting questions:

If you haven’t helped a project on time and on budget, why not?

What could you have done better or differently to ensure those outcomes?

You really want to avoid the blame game here. If a staffing agency starts pointing fingers at the prime, then you can stop them right there. The only exception is that the prime had OSHA violations or a supply shortage that stopped work for both parties.

Published by IST Team June 30, 2022
IST Team