Peter Pagenstecher, CR, president of Pagenstecher Group Inc., based in Kensington, Md., believes the remodeling industry is facing major challenges because of a depleted skilled workforce.
“By and large, there is a diminishing number of qualified tradespeople in our industry, and we need to be reaching out to younger generations to expose them to this career path,” Pagenstecher says.
Recent attempts to find skilled labor has placed this issue as one of most significant challenges faced by his business today. As his employees age and retire, his ability to find qualified people to replace them has become more difficult.
“I’ve posted advertisements, I’ve reached out to local vocational programs in high schools, and there’s just not enough interest,” he says. With some possibility that the high cost of living in Washington, D.C., may be driving skilled tradesmen outside of his immediate work area, there is no doubt that the issue is happening nationwide to some degree. (See”Workforce shortages in construction industry”).
Pagenstecher’s goal is not only to expose younger generations to the skilled trades and design professions but also to dispel myths that remodeling is an undesirable, back-breaking career choice. “A master carpenter with a creative mind and skill can earn a very good living,” he says.
Show and tell
Like most children, an early exposure to a hobby or activity could leave a lasting impression.
Knowing this, Pagenstecher welcomed an opportunity to get in front of a group of fifth-grade Boy Scouts.
One of Pagenstecher’s vendors asked him to host his son’s Boy Scouts group, as part of a program designed to introduce them to different professions and careers.
He enlisted Mike Ullrich, Pagenstecher Group’s in-house architect, to plan the event around an introduction to architecture and construction. During the event, Ullrich passed around examples of design plans and taught the group how to read the plans and apply them to the construction process.
The group also received scale rulers to teach them about the tools architect’s use to read plans and convert them to real-life measurements.
Finally, Ullrich put the children to work, by having them design their own house. “Their designs were off the charts—some were drawing circles, and others had homes next to a lake,” Pagenstecher says.
“From a personal standpoint, [when I was younger] I had no idea how people could make money in remodeling, and you never know what will influence someone,” he says.
In search of the next new master carpenter, Pagenstecher always seeks out a young person to add to his field staff. Although his master carpenters are not trained instructors, they teach and assist apprentices as best they can without derailing their work.
It has become a fine line between the time and efforts placed on training an apprentice, who suddenly realizes that carpentry isn’t for them.
“Not everyone is willing to put forth the time and effort it takes to become a skilled tradesman,” he says. “It’s a combination of the right attitude, willingness to learn and skill.”
With several failed apprenticeships under his belt, it’s a frustration with no alternative. He’s tried to curve this trend by incorporating salary increases with written and physical skill tests, but he believes the problem may be part of a larger issue in generational mindset. “They [younger generations] think that if they show up for a few months they are capable of running a job.”
Pagenstecher says lack of education in skilled trades and unrealistic expectations are what makes the apprenticeship process more difficult for remodelers compared with other industries.
Still, for the sake of his business and an industry he loves, Pagenstecher will continue to do his part when it comes to growing the skilled workforce in remodeling. –Morgan Zenner
Are you doing your part in remodeling workforce development? Share what you and your chapter are doing to introduce skilled trades and remodeling to the younger generations at email@example.com. NARI offers a Career Path for Residential Remodeling that illustrates the various entry points into the remodeling industry and the jobs you can expect to have throughout your career. You can view that on NARI’s Website: www.nari.org/workforcedevelopment.