Kayleen McCabe, host of DIY Network’s Renovation Nation. Photo: courtesy Kayleen McCabe
Canadian philosopher and communications sociologist Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message.” For today’s remodeling industry, Kayleen McCabe has been the ideal medium to deliver the message: “Trades for life,” to schools nationwide. A licensed contractor in Colorado and host of DIY Network’s Renovation Nation, McCabe has made it her mission to inspire a future generation of skilled tradesmen and women.
“Many people don’t realize it, but I saw the labor shortage firsthand when I was hosting my television show,” McCabe says. “Episodes had to be cancelled because we couldn’t find a plumber. It was frustrating and it should be one of the biggest panics in the U.S.”
So McCabe makes it a point to take part in as many National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) programs as possible, and it’s why she travels to roughly 30 schools per month to deliver her real-life example of how a life in the trades can be as exciting as driving a race car. “I really feel that vocational education is underrepresented in American schools,” McCabe says, “and even worse, it’s undervalued in American culture. I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and I feel strongly about bringing the trades back into the public lexicon.”
For McCabe, this passion for making students aware of other career options and teaching them about the trades came about almost by accident as a result of working on the show. She says that while she enjoyed the fame that the TV show brought her, she is grateful for what she learned: “In addition to realizing how sorely women are underrepresented in the trades,” she says, “I also came face to face with how sorely the trades are underrepresented in society. I met so many people who attended four-year colleges because it’s the so-called respectable thing to do—only to later change their minds and become a contractor or electrician or plumber.”
McCabe believes that the need to get the message out about the trades is mission-critical right now. “Maintaining a high level of craftsmanship is so important to our country,” she says. “Our infrastructure is starting to collapse, people will need new homes, and we need to maintain the homes we have. So encouraging kids [and letting them know that] they can have a great-paying job right out of high school, with great growth potential, and without a load of student debt is more important now than ever.”
Read more about what the remodeling industry is doing to address the trade shortage.