Getting young people into the remodeling field is the biggest challenge facing our industry today. The vast majority of high school graduates don’t even consider the trades as an option, and while there are many reasons for this, the largest one is probably simple prejudice. Negative assumptions about tradespeople are seen everywhere—from characters on TV to well-intentioned, yet insidious, comments from politicians.
Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders at a recent Democratic debate: “If you want to make it into the middle class—I’m not saying in all cases—we need plumbers, and we need carpenters, and electricians, that’s for sure, and they should get help as well. But bottom line now is, in America in the year 2015, any person who has the ability and the desire should be able to get a ... college education, regardless of the income of his or her family.”
The statement is subtle, but clear. It places a college education as the gold standard, and while we “need carpenters” there’s an implication that they’re below anyone with “the ability and desire” to attend a university.
On the other side of the political aisle, here’s a recent debate quote from Marco Rubio: “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” The statement drew a cheer from the crowd, and while I don’t think he meant any harm, as with Sanders there is still an undercurrent of bias.
Why can’t welders also learn philosophy? Shouldn’t carpenters and plumbers know the thinking that founded our country, the assumptions that run our economy, and the ideals that shape our culture? Bringing young people into the industry requires a dual approach. On one side, we need more outreach and an organized effort to change the national conversation so that tradespeople are given the prestige they deserve. This will make a career in construction more desirable. On the other side, we need to shine a focused and positive light on the people who are already in the field.
And that’s where Professional Remodeler comes in. Next year, we’re holding the first annual conference for our 40 Under 40 winners. The event, called Gen X-Change, is set for April
13-15, in Dallas. It will feature smart, interesting speakers relevant to younger remodelers, great networking opportunities, and an ambitious exchange of tips for using technology. It’s free to enter the 40 Under 40, and honorees receive a profile in print and online as well as an award presented during a special luncheon. Don’t miss it!