What’s better: Being a carpenter or being a sewage plant operator? A construction worker or a garbage collector? According to CareerCast.com’s latest Jobs Rated survey, handling sewage and hauling garbage top remodeling-related jobs once you factor in pay, stress, work environment, and hiring outlook. And for roofers, it’s even worse; of the 200 jobs rated, only seven rank lower.
The relative lack of appeal for remodeling jobs is just one of many factors that make hiring in the remodeling profession so painful. Among others:
According to the U.S. government’s latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among Americans aged 12 and older:
• 8.7% had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication
• 7% had used marijuana
• 30% of men and 13.9% of women reported binge drinking (five or more drinks on the same occasion) within the past month
• 11.1% had driven under the influence of alcohol at least once within the past year
• 6.5% had alcohol abuse problems
Remodelers say that workers laid off during the housing crash moved into other careers and won’t be coming back. “The guy who did all my millwork and trim went back to school in the medical field,” notes David Moore of Moore Construction, in Collierville, Tenn. “He said, ‘I’m done.’” “Over the last couple years, we accumulated quite a few résumés,” says Bill Borchert of Borchert Building, in Washington, Mich. “During the employment process, we revisited them and found most applicants were currently employed — which was different from two years ago when unemployment was very high in our area.”
Tighter immigration controls and tougher laws in states such as Alabama and Arizona have reduced the number of undocumented workers available for hire.
Competition makes it tough to raise wages high enough to lure back skilled workers.
Drug use and alcohol abuse remain problems for a subset of the U.S. population. This issue looks likely to worsen, as several states have decriminalized marijuana, but many owners of remodeling companies contacted for this story say that they still regard marijuana and alcohol abuse as a firing offense. Most even forbid smoking at work.
Attendance at any trade show will confirm that the vast majority of remodelers are white non-Hispanics, and most will tell you that they tend to look first for workers among people they know. But America is changing color. The number of children under age 5 is split almost exactly today between minorities and non-Hispanic whites, and the minority share is expected to take the lead within a few years. Researchers say it’s common for employers to hire people who look like them. For white remodelers, that group’s proportion is shrinking.
All those trends are unlikely to change, but another one is: After years of relative inattention given to trade schools and skills education, several campaigns are under way to promote trades work once again. This trend should help remodelers because many already have despaired of finding skilled workers and say they are much more likely to bring in trainees.
Among programs taking shape:
• In Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence has proposed increasing vocational and skills training in high school.
• Michigan’s legislature is debating bills to let credit in career and technical education courses replace an algebra requirement.
• Near Tacoma, Wash., a vocational academy has set up a satellite campus at a high school where 75 students take classes in engineering, construction, and welding.
• In Louisiana — where a workforce group estimates a need for 86,300 skilled workers by 2016 but only enough educational capacity to train 64,000 people — pressure is mounting on the legislature to boost vocational ed spending.
One way to help promote this trend in your area is to support Build Your Future, a program by the National Center for Construction Education and Research that aims to shift attitudes about construction jobs, promote training in the field, and remove barriers for job seekers.
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