Education is a bare necessity in today's remodeling market. Yet with public schools phasing out shop classes, colleges dropping the construction discipline, and vocational schools focusing on high-tech training, the educational system is failing our industry. Remodelers must take the lead in teaching the construction trades and nurturing a new generation of workers.

One educational initiative we've undertaken is our peer-to-peer mentoring program, which is mandatory for superintendents (our name for lead carpenters). Among other results, the program promotes teamwork and keeps new supers from calling the production manager for everything. For his or her first 30 to 60 days on the job, each new super receives structured training from an experienced super. Among other things, they attend meetings together, discuss them afterwards, and role-play various scenarios. The relationship lasts for a year, giving the new super a sounding board for various issues and challenges.

Other employees may also participate in the mentoring program, though usually in a less structured, on-the-job format. For instance, we paired a carpenter's helper with a seasoned carpenter, who has helped him buy tools and learn skills involving trim, doors and windows, and cabinet installations.

During the Renaissance, skilled craftsmen held a prestigious status, and many of their works still stand. We can only hope that in the future, educated remodelers and carpenters will again be as sought after as those artisans once were. The term “educated carpenter” isn't an oxymoron, it's our future. —Andy Hannan is the production manager of Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md.