Our family business is on its 2nd generation of owners but we’re also on our 2nd generation of tile installers. And, since most of them are over 35, we’re starting to think about who comes next.
And we’re a little concerned.
Ours is an artistically rewarding business with practical and beautiful finished work. The trends and materials are ever changing, so the trade can be one of growth and opportunity. A good tile installer can provide for his family and find daily rewards in a job well done. We are, however, still part of the construction industry, and we’re finding that’s not a popular career choice these days.
The recent recession hit the trades particularly hard, and many experienced workers had to find other means of making a living. Statistics show that these departures, baby boomer retirements, and a decreasing number of workers entering the construction fields are likely to bring significant shortages.
For consumers, this will mean longer waits for quality work and higher prices to get knowledgeable craftsmen. We’re trying to be proactive and recently had a good visit with two of Franklin County’s Career and Technical education professionals. They’re helping us think through ways we can reach out to local young people as they’re making career decisions. While we are optimistic, we realize the looming problem is bigger than our limited capacity. To that end, we’d like to share some suggestions made by Angie Hicks of famed “Angie’s List,”
She addressed the coming shortage of skilled trade workers in a recent column, and made several good suggestions:
1) “Let’s agree not to take the trades for granted. Some observers and service company owners believe a general devaluing of skilled labor – a societal stigma, even – is one reason for the shortage.
2) Look around where you live. Do vocational education opportunities exist? Is that an issue you might get involved in? Do you have a skill set you could pass on to the next generation?
3) Perhaps you can encourage a young person or someone making a career change to consider the trades. Don’t assume that working with one’s hands pays less or is less satisfying than other work.”
We agree, Angie! It will take all of us working together to make sure we can find, as she says, “skilled hands and heads to solve our home maintenance and improvement challenges. Where would we be without them?”