It seems everybody is talking about trying to find employees. With unemployment below 4 percent, the challenge is not just the trades–it seems to be across all industries.  Construction trades compete with all other worthy professions. Even within construction, remodeling competes with many other verticals. To be competitive, remodelers must find ways to attract and keep workers versus another industry or environment.

The situation is compounded as the influx of new, trained employees is far below what is needed to meet demand. This trend began in the 1990s and accelerated in the 2000s, with the emphasis on all students going to college. As curriculums evolved, the loss of shop classes in middle and high schools reduced student awareness of carpentry and perhaps interest in the trades altogether. But the tide seems to be turning.

The Good News

Career and Technical Education (CTE) is making progress within the education community. CTE courses not only create interest in careers but also provide the connection between classroom-only based instruction and real-life applications. Recent studies have found that including just one CTE-related course in the high school curriculum increases graduation rates. Several states require at least one CTE-related course for graduation.

This year, Congress passed and the President signed the Perkins Reauthorization Act, known as Perkins V. Administered by the Department of Education, this act provides the framework by which federal money, a little over $1 billion, is distributed to states and then to secondary and post-secondary schools to fund CTE programs. One of the key components of this act is the requirement for the inclusion of local industry representatives on the planning process at the school level. There is an opportunity for remodelers to get involved. Let the school system know what you need to support the jobs in your company. The implementation of Perkins V will start in 2019 with full implementation by 2020.

One other key provision is the alignment between Perkins V and the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The WIOA provides federal money to states for worker retraining. Local Workforce Investment Boards implement these programs, and remodelers can work with these boards to find and train entry-level employees.

What Is the Need?

Today, the most visible need is for entry-level carpenters. However, entry-level plumbers, electricians, drywallers and other supporting trades are also needed. Through NARI’s work with SkillsUSA, we have seen entry-level workers in these fields, but not in the quantity needed to address demand and support growth. The NARI Workforce Development Committee is tasked with being future-focused and providing tools to our chapter leaders to assist in the outreach effort at schools and career fairs.

NARI also is working with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) for support in legislative matters and connections with others working to advance CTE.

The second area of need is new skills for existing workers. When thinking about professional development, ask yourself the following questions:

• How do you elevate the skills of your lead carpenter or project manager?

• What is the best way to add a new design element to your skillset?

• How do you support your production manager’s skill to understand more about how the business operates?

NARI certifications can help, as our eight certifications support career development and growth. NARI University provides webinars that support continuing education for remodelers. Other options for continuing education are available as well. 

Regardless of the type of program you choose, it is critical to provide continuing education to your employees. It will build employee loyalty, retention and create depth in your company. For nonbusiness owner readers, certifications and continuing education build your employability and create advancement opportunities for you.

Be Part of the Solution

So what can you do to help your company? First, get involved with a local school—be it high school or college. Let them know which skills your company needs to support your business. Second, interview continuously. “You never know when you will find that diamond in the rough,” says Robi Kirsic, CKBR, TimeLine Renovations Inc., in New York City and NARI’s president.

Chris Peterson, MCR, CLC, Schloegel Design Remodel in Kansas City, Missouri, echoes that sentiment, saying, “I keep a file of prospects that I can call when I need.”

The workforce issue is not going away. Solving it will require work by remodelers, industry associations, schools, and state and local governments. Each has a role but the  industry must define their needs locally, and hire and train program graduates. QR

Take the NARI Recertification Quiz for this topic here

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