Ironworkers are involved in almost all aspects of our built environment and Infrastructure. Whether it’s new construction, renovation, or maintenance on commercial, industrial, transportation, power generation, or public facilities projects, Ironworkers had a hand in creating it.
Ironworkers place and secure the reinforcing in foundations and bridges. They hoist, rig, connect, bolt, and weld the beams, columns and other metal parts that form the structural frames of our buildings. They also install architectural and ornamental railings, fences, and exterior facades. An Ironworker can drive past a building, cross a bridge, or admire a city skyline and say, “I built that.”
The Ironworkers’ apprenticeship program is how Local 512 trains new Ironworkers. It’s what keeps the buildings going up, the union strong, and the jobsite safe. But the organization was facing a new challenge: recruiting apprentices. The recruiting pool used to be largely local—relatives, people from an Ironworker’s neighborhood—and word of mouth. “For a long time, people would be lined up out the door to become an Ironworker,” said Pete Teigland, training director for Local 512. But since COVID-19, Pete said, competition for workers is “Unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Though the Ironworkers have done their own marketing in the past, their social media efforts were scattershot and irregular. “Everybody was in charge, so nobody was in charge,” Pete said. They realized it was time to seek out expert advice. Through a referral connected to another local union, the Ironworkers turned to SOULO.
Because their marketing materials and online presence were inconsistent, SOULO proposed tightening up the Ironworkers’ brand guidelines, creating a social media marketing campaign intended to drive awareness and activity online, and writing a series of monthly blog posts for their website.
The blog posts are informational, focusing on aspects of an Ironworker’s job, such as welding, bolting, and crane safety. They also cover other aspects of an Ironworker’s life, such as mental health, wellbeing, and the apprenticeship program.
The posts are honest and frank about the challenges of being an Ironworker: physically demanding work, typically done outdoors in the kind of conditions that come with living and working in the upper Midwest. But they also highlight the benefits of being an Ironworker: excellent pay, health insurance for the Ironworker and their family, and retirement with dignity. There’s also the satisfaction of seeing the results of your labor; in an increasingly digital world, the opportunity to build something that will last for generations should not be discounted.
These posts (and the social media marketing linked to them) help drive awareness and raise SEO to bring in more applicants interested in becoming Ironworkers.
The project has been a success. Initial efforts with the Facebook ad campaign were successful enough that the ad buy continued and expanded to target specific geographic areas and audiences with the message. In three months, the ads generated 83,175 impressions and 1,735 clicks, for a click-through rate of 2.08%. (The average for all industries on Facebook is 0.90%.) Furthermore, Ironworkers Local #512 saw a noticeable increase in applicants from demographics that they had not drawn interest from in the past.
Having more information on the website is helpful, too. According to Shannon Allen, digital marketing manager at SOULO, “Research is showing that Gen Z won’t even apply for a job if the organization doesn’t have information about the job and workplace on their website.”
And since many of the Ironworkers potential recruits are young people, “We kind of have to recruit the parents, too,” Pete said. “When our website can show parents and recruits that Local 512 is a professional organization, with education, training, wages, and benefits, that’s a lot better than me telling one person who then tells their parents.” No more games of telephone, where it’s easy to lose some of the critical details.
Another benefit of the regular posting SOULO is doing on behalf of the Ironworkers is that it gets them posting more often. “People see the posts, and then they get ideas for posts of their own,” Pete said. In all, it’s a much more active and effective social media presence and web strategy, one that has already begun to pay dividends.