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Being the Change for the Trades Shortage


Being the Change for the Trades Shortage

Showing high school students the possibilities and benefits of construction

By Mike Pressgrove | NAHB 2024 Remodelers Council Chair May 1, 2024
Photo: stock.adobe.com
mike pressgrove
Mike Pressgrove

Nothing is more important to my success as a remodeler than the quality of the crews I put in the field. They’re what keeps customers returning and new ones coming in. But, as we all know, it’s not always easy to find that next hire.

That’s true in remodeling, it’s true in new residential construction, and it’s true in commercial construction. That’s why NAHB and its state and local association partners invest in attracting and preparing the next generation of trades professionals. 


Working for the Workforce

NAHB’s workforce development partner, The Home Builders Institute, is ramping up its instructional capacity through its Job Corps Centers, its growing network of BuildStrong Academies, and training programs at military bases. 

NAHB’s philanthropic arm, the National Housing Endowment, funds the Housing Education Leadership Program, which has helped expand construction management training at 48 colleges and universities.

NAHB has also developed a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that will give more than 4 million young people an opportunity to learn about residential construction careers. And a partnership with SkillsUSA will help close the skilled labor gap and create a workforce that can meet the strong demand for housing.

Many local associations conduct Build My Future events that connect high school students with seasoned professionals. Our Build My Future event went from 540 students last year to 700 this year, and we had companies offering internships. 

We connected the students with professionals in carpentry, welding, drywall, and other career paths. Students would go from one profession to another. All the professionals had tools and equipment they let the students use to get their hands dirty and see what they could do. 

The welders let students use their equipment to weld two pieces of metal together. The students can take those experiences and have real options to consider as they look forward to a possible career.

Building that next generation is no easy task. For some time, many educators have steered students away from vocational programs. They suggest, however subtly, that if you don’t go to college, you’re a failure. I think that’s beginning to loosen up. 


Real-Life Impacts

I love getting these kids into our company. They haven’t developed bad habits, so you can teach them true best practices. They work hard, make good money, and take pride in their accomplishments. After a few years, they can buy a home.

Katy Nelson, our executive director, invited 18 students from the high school construction program to meet with trades professionals. She had representatives from 18 different companies.

Amongst tables of two, every student paired up with a professional. The students would spend time learning about the work of one trades professional, and then they’d switch and go talk with another one.

One young gentleman came up to me, stuck out his hand, and told me his father and his grandfather had been carpenters. He looked me in the eye and said, “Mr. Pressgrove, I want to be a carpenter.” 

That young man has worked for me for a couple of years now, and next year he’ll be a lead. Just a few years out of high school, and he’s someone I can trust. He will train someone else next year, and I’m confident he’ll build a great team. 



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