Relieving Serious Labor Pains

by WOHe

Sam Warwick, Bryan Zolfo, Glenn Brody, Jeff Cannata, Tom
Trzcinski and Jeani Lee all share a similar good news-bad news
dichotomy that’s, sadly, far too familiar to many businesses in the
kitchen and bath industry these days.

All of them either own, manage or are employed at kitchen and
bath design firms. All are fully engaged in an industry that they
find exciting, fashion-oriented, multi-faceted and growth-oriented.
All report that their company has plenty of projects in the
pipeline a gratifying by-product of a strong economy and continued
surge in high-end remodeling.

So much for the good news.

The bad news, unfortunately, is that at least partly due to the
current construction boom and high employment levels all of them
have experienced a vexing labor shortage that seems to hang, like a
noxious cloud, over much of the construction industry.

This dilemma only starts with the companies’ efforts to sift
through a dearth of qualified job applicants in search of help on
the design, drafting, administrative, sales and subcontracting ends
of the business. It extends far beyond simply finding new employees
to such related issues as meeting those workers’ salary demands . .
. training new people . . . keeping workers motivated . . . and,
lastly, retaining employees once they’re fully up to speed.

As the story on Page 62 notes, it’s a problem that’s become so
acute in some regions that it’s causing some design/remodeling
firms to either turn down work, take on more than they can handle,
or spend far too much time engaged in an unending and often
hopeless scramble to find employees competent enough to handle
existing projects.

A ray of sunshine, however, may be on the horizon. For one
thing, many employers are demonstrating that, over time, they’re
developing a number of methods for coping with existing labor
shortages. These approaches range from effective networking and the
implementation of internship programs to outsourcing design
services and creating attractive new benefits packages.

It’s also encouraging to note that help may be on the way when
it comes to addressing some key industry-related training
issues.

For example, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry
(NARI) reports that it is rolling out a “Certified Kitchen and Bath
Planner” program, aimed at focusing on non-design, business
management issues that NARI terms the “nuts and bolts” of operating
a kitchen and bath remodeling firm.

And, in a separate development, the National Kitchen & Bath
Association (NKBA) recently formed a trio of ad hoc committees
directly tied to the issue of industry training.

One of them a “Career Development Committee” is responsible for
devising a clear, defined career path for kitchen and bath industry
professionals, including programs and additional certifications up
to and beyond the CKD and CBD.

As the NKBA noted in creating the committees, the kitchen and
bath industry has become so varied and so vast that reaching NKBA’s
certification level may well be too much for some industry
professionals who are just starting out, and not challenging enough
for veteran professionals. By examining the true career development
of kitchen and bath industry professionals, the new committee will
be able to recommend if the NKBA should implement other levels of
certification, allowing the association to educationally service
all aspects of the industry.

These kind of educational initiatives are most encouraging
particularly in light of the ongoing shortage of well-trained
employees.

The industry must do whatever it can to help design/remodeling
firms attract, hire and continue to develop people who are
competent, caring and qualified enough to meet the demands of a
consumer who won’t settle for anything less than the best, and a
vibrant market whose growth is still seemingly unlimited.

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