Remodelers have long lamented the gutting of skilled-trade education, but recent developments — combined with worrisome school dropout rates, massive job losses, and soaring college costs — hint at a resurgence in the kinds of hands-on education that programs such as No Child Left Behind, well, left behind.

Natíl Center for Public Policy and Higher Ed, May 2006

The developments are bolstered by findings including a recent survey by employment services provider Manpower, which identified the skilled/manual trades as the third-toughest positions to fill. In surveys, members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) consistently cite a “paramount need for skilled labor,” says executive director Mary Harris.

Developments go deeper than green jobs, which remodelers say are more apt to produce entry-level photovoltaics installers than professionals with the well-rounded skills that are needed in residential remodeling.

For instance, besides President Obama’s call for every American to get at least one more year of education or career training, consider these recent activities:

  • Diverse organizations representing education, policy, and business have spoken out to support skills-training programs such as high school career academies, apprenticeship programs, and community college, where enrollment is surging.
  • A provision of the energy bill supports “green programs of study” and includes grants for construction education.
  • Education secretary Arne Duncan announced $7 million in competitive grants to establish community college programs that prepare displaced workers for second careers.

Now to extend that reach to future workers. Sixth to ninth grades are the formative years for developing career interests, says Dan Taddei, NARI’s director of education. Without hands-on education, many would-be skilled tradespeople go adrift, either dropping out or lacking the grades or money for post-secondary schooling. “But in the end, any attention is good,” he says.
—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.