The remodeling industry has a growing problem on its hands that must be addressed immediately. The problem is a shortage of skilled labor, and it’s only going to increase as the economy improves and your backlog of projects grows.
At the 2014 IBS & KBIS event in Las Vegas, I attended an important committee meeting where a dozen or so remodelers were asked if they expected to increase their business in 2014 compared to 2013. Every single remodeler in the room indicated they expect to increase their year-over-year revenue. When asked if they expect to increase revenue by at least 10 percent—all raised their hands. The next benchmark was 20 percent—more than half raised their hands. Finally, when asked if they expect to increase their revenue greater than 25 percent—only a few remodelers raised their hands.
A buzz of discussion quickly went around the room, heads nodding in agreement that the remodeling industry is finally heading in the right direction after years of uncertainty based on this unscientific poll.
However, the topic of labor shortages has been percolating within the remodeling industry for years, and it has been largely ignored in favor of market recovery. Now the market is on the road to recovery, many remodelers are (or will be) faced with the prospect of finding skilled laborers. Most remodelers I’ve spoken with are not planning to hire new people right now, but that may change as their backlog continues to increase over the coming months.
According to the JCHS of Harvard University, the skilled trades have been increasingly hard to find the past three years. That’s correct...These skilled workers have been hard to find for the past three years.
Of course, this trend is going to continue in 2014 as the demand for skilled workers continues to increase per market demand. Combined with an aging work force (the average age of a construction worker in 2012 was 41.4 years old based on Bureau of Labor Statistics), a lack of new entrants to the workforce because of the extended recession, and the skilled residential workers who were forced to seek employment elsewhere during the last few years, there is potential for the recovery to stall because of the difficulty of finding skilled labor.
“We need to find ways to reach that audience and show them what great opportunities are available to them in the remodeling industry,” says Paul Sullivan, president, the Sullivan Co., and chairman of the NAHBR Board of Trustees. “Whether it be student chapters of NAHB, career days at colleges and universities, partnering with trade and vocational schools, or just getting the word out in the media that you can have a personally and financially rewarding career in this industry.”
“If and when there is a labor shortage, I feel apprenticeship is the key,” says Bruce Case, president of Case Design/Remodeling and NARI’s Government Affairs chair. “Industry newcomers that have some base level of ‘book knowledge’ need to work alongside experienced veterans for a number of years to learn the skills—not just the trade but also customer service and people skills—to become a top flight lead carpenter.”
Where are you going to find your skilled labor? Visit my blog at ProRemodeler.com to read more about this topic. PR
Tim Gregorski is the former Editor-in-Chief of Professional Remodeler. He joined PR in 2012 and was its editor until late 2014. Gregorski has more than 15 years of B2B editorial experience in the highway and bridge, transportation management, water and wastewater, concrete construction, and AEC industries.