It’s a good thing that the old, pricey newspaper want ads are going out of style. Judging by the number of help-wanted notices posted on Craigslist sites nationwide, remodelers would have had to shell out big bucks if they were to use the same search tools their parents did.
The odds are nearly 3 to 2 that you’re planning to hire skilled laborers this year, a first-quarter survey of remodelers by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) indicates. But that same survey finds the pickings are slim: 43% of all respondents report a shortage of finish carpenters, and shortage rates are roughly 20% or greater for seven other jobs.
“A year ago, if we put out an ad, I’d get 100 résumés,” says Paul Sullivan, who runs a remodeling and property management company in New England. “This year, I did it two weeks ago, and so far I have four.”
But difficult times also can lead to creative solutions. Technological advances have made it possible for some remodelers to rely on staffers located far away — even on the opposite coast. And in an industry where outsourcing is a given (you’ve called those workers “subcontractors”), anecdotal evidence suggests that remodelers increasingly are farming out office tasks.
Helpful as those changes have been, the shortage of good workers that remodelers encounter today is symptomatic of a deeper, more ominous lack of interest in, and support of, the skills required in a good remodeler. Experts say that we Americans have brainwashed ourselves and our kids into believing that the only path to success runs through college. But the hiring squeeze has set many leaders to rethink that view and start creating new programs to refill the pipeline.
The rules are changing, indeed.