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The availability of skilled workers has become one of the biggest challenges faced by the home improvement industry as activity has increased and grown since the years of the recession. Also, the rise in prices for both new homes and existing homes has increased demand for remodeling work as people are staying in homes longer. The labor shortage is only expected to intensify as current skilled workers become older and reach retirement age. As a result industry leaders and associations are putting a real effort into solving this problem.
There are several reasons at the root of the labor shortage.
- Loss of two million skilled workers – During the Great Recession and the subsequent years there was a large exit of skilled workers as they were unable to find employment during the turbulent period.
- Lost workers no longer in the industry – These skilled workers likely were unable to wait out the recession and either left for other industries, retired or returned to their home countries if they were foreign workers.
- An industry struggling to attract younger workers – Many high schools have eliminated trades courses and training from their curriculums. And parents today are pushing their children to attend college and obtain four year degrees or higher.
- Negative perception of the industry – Stereotypes and cultural perceptions of blue-collar work accompanies the belief that a good living can only be made when you have a college degree. Business ownership is not automatically connected with skilled work abilities.
- The lack of female skilled workers – The construction and remodeling industry has an abysmal 2.5% of workers that are women (as of 2013).
What Can Be Done?
Industry leaders must work with schools – high school and college level – in promoting trades and entrepreneurship/business ownership. College is not the right path for everyone and getting educated in the trades must be presented as a viable option, early and often.
The industry has much to offer women and it’s a matter of making a concerted effort to seek and attract women to skilled labor fields. Women are detail-oriented, thorough and anxious to work on diverse projects. As a result, female professionals excel in project management, design and planning.
Positioning the construction and remodeling industry as a path to business ownership is an attractive alternative to a four year degree for both millennials and women. But it needs to be supported by educational institutions and policy makers at all levels in order to offer these alternatives to students as a viable career option. The industry associations are hard at work reaching both and will continue to try to make strides in this area.
Here are some related articles on the subject:
Best Buy: Women in Remodeling
Remodeling Industry Labor Trends: Research Overview for Panel Discussion (at the Remodeling Futures Conference)