Labor, labor, labor. Ever tire of hearing the refrain? As the crescendo builds, some remodelers are taking action instead of adding their complaints to the din. Our local Remodelors Council took action and made something wonderful happen in their communities recently.
We’re members of the Greater Fox Valley HBA, in Batavia, Ill., and that Council took the initiative to invite high school students to an open house presentation. The Fox Valley area, as with many other areas across the country, is facing a remodeling boom, so the Council decided to introduce these juniors and seniors to the HBA, the industry and the opportunities.
Ron Vermaat, program chair for the Council, told the group of 25 students - along with some of their parents - that the goal of the program was simply to inform them about the industry. "If one of you is better informed, it was worth it, "he said at the end of the evening.
The students are enrolled in trade classes at three local high schools, and their final project is to build a house. Page McCloud, the students’ instructor, told the Council, "The highlight of my teaching year is to see kids take their parents through the finished house."
Vermaat put together a panel of Council members who spoke on five topics: state of the industry; employer expectations; job training; career possibilities; and earning potential, benefits and career advancements. Each took five minutes to briefly explain his topic.
The true learning took place afterward, when the session opened up into questions and answers. McCloud asked each student to write questions before coming that evening, and the Council planned to read a few and have members answer them. It turned out that the 25 students each wrote down several questions, for a total of 300. Interestingly, though, those 300 questions boiled down to 16 basic questions.
The questions were job-oriented, not trade-oriented. These kids knew that they liked working in the construction industry; they wanted to know what to expect from the job market. They knew what local fast food chains paid and the hours they were expected to work. They didn’t know what the wage scale was for a remodeler; they didn’t know if they had to buy their own tools and trucks; they didn’t know what the differences were between union and non-union shops.
After the meeting officially broke off at 9 p.m., many students stayed to talk with specific Council members. A couple of them were still talking an hour later. For some of these 25 students, a career path had been chosen that night. Others came away with a clearer vision for college.
Most important, though, was that a group of professional remodelers shared an industry with a group of young people. The value of that effort won’t be fully realized for many years. But their example is one to be applauded today.