Who Will Build It When They Come?
They are coming, you know. People arriving and moving into luxury homes, workforce development housing, apartments, condos, second homes, vacation homes, you name it.
And there are others who are staying. Living longer, healthier, more active lives. People who are staying in their homes and remodeling them to fit their needs. And people who are moving into new (or new for them) homes.
So, to play a bit on the “Field of Dreams” adage — who will build it when they come?
In other words, it is time to start thinking about workforce development and figure out what we can do to identify and encourage the next generation of construction workers.
One of the things I believe we need to think about is how to elevate and recognize the trades as a truly honorable, gratifying, satisfying, positive, productive and fulfilling career path. That’s right, I said career path — not just a job.
For years, we’ve gutted our high school vocational education programs — and now we’re crying that there’s no one around to pick up the tools and build.
A resounding “duh” is in order.
For years, we’ve pounded into our young adults that they cannot expect to be achievers or productive members of society without a college degree.
Let’s hope that we can finally lay those thoughts to rest. Not everyone wants to be in college. Not everyone should be. And not everyone needs to be.
Historically, the trades have been some of the most highly-respected and honorable fields to work in. It’s about time they were again.
It is also about time that we recognize and acknowledge that some careers can’t and won’t be outsourced to overseas workers. Repairing, remodeling and building homes cannot be done through Malaysian call centers.
Is another resounding “duh” in order?
With all the safety and technological advances that have taken place and continue to take place in our industry, the trades are no longer just a stopover for teenagers working their way from high school through college.
No, today the trades are a legitimate career path that offers a comfortable livelihood ― and a solid sense of accomplishment. The skills and many life experiences learned in the trades are learned for a lifetime. And it’s not unthinkable to be making upwards of $40,000 a year after just a little on-the-job experience.
But to get young people interested takes an attitude shift. The trades are not for flunkies who can’t hack school. They are not for everyone but my children. They are not strictly for those people who live in that neighborhood or who come from that country.
It’s time that we take a fresh look at what the trades have to offer our young people. It’s time we recognize the value that this segment of our workforce adds to society, the rewards the trades have to offer ― and the values this work teaches those who take it on.
It’s time we recognized and promoted the trades for what they truly are — a viable, positive, productive, well-paying and real career path.
This needed attitude shift starts with me, you, public officials, high school administrators and faculty and parents.
Shall we start today?
Greg Miedema, CGR, CAPS, is president of Dakota Builders in Tucson, Ariz. He is the founder of his local Remodelors™ Council, a member of the NAHB Remodelors™ Council Board of Trustees and currently serves as the chairman of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association (SAHBA). The SAHBA also named Dakota Builders, Inc. the Remodelor™ of the Year in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003. For more information, send him Miedema an e-mail.
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