Laurence Carolan and John Ratzenburger
Laurence Carolan and John Ratzenburger

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies predicts that demand for remodeling is strong and will continue to increase, well into 20191. Annual growth in homeowner remodeling expenditure is expected to remain above 7% throughout 2018 and into the first quarter of 2019. Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies explains, “Upward trends in retail sales of building materials and the growing number of remodeling permits indicate that homeowners are doing more—and larger—improvement projects.”


Faced with increased demand, one of the greatest challenges for remodeling contractors has been to maintain production crews capable of keeping up. And it looks like the problem isn’t going away!


In response, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has been ramping up its efforts to build the remodeling industry’s workforce for several years. The national need was highlighted in 2016 by Atlanta remodeler, Judy Mozen, of Handcrafted Homes—as a special emphasis during the year she served as NARI national president. Initiatives started during that year have come to fruition in 2018, and they continue to be expanded. This year’s NARI Spring Business meeting, held April 18 - 21 in Charlotte, NC, highlighted those efforts and provided a forum showcasing successful programs developed by NARI chapters around the country.


Raising Awareness


The opening Keynote was provided by John Ratzenberger of Cheers fame. He has been passionate about the trades and developing skilled labor. His show, Made in America, toured the country highlighting great examples of talented craftsmen. He was recently appointed to the President’s Apprenticeship Expansion Task Force and has been working to make apprenticeship opportunities more available to young people who want to enter the trades. At the end of the conference, the closing keynote featured Kayleen McCabe of HGTV, and now spokesperson for the skilled trades, with her inspiring story of how a woman can make it in the trades and how she is inspired by the many young people she meets who work or are training for work in the trades.


Outreach to Schools


Attention then focused on NARI’s Education Committee and the work that they have been doing related to workforce development. Foremost was the development of a toolkit for NARI chapters to facilitate their outreach in schools and at career days. The toolkit consists of a PowerPoint presentation that displays the opportunities available in the remodeling industry and provides space for the chapter to add in their specific program information. The toolkit also has two flyers available for download; one flyer is tailored to the student audience and the other for parents and the school administration. Both flyers present the opportunities that can be found in remodeling and how to pursue them.


Ongoing Attention to the Problem


Next on the agenda was the first meeting of NARI’s newly-minted Workforce Development Committee. In recognition of the importance of workforce development, NARI leadership felt the need for a standing committee dedicated to spearheading the effort. It is charged with oversight in the development of NARI workforce development and outreach programs. These programs will promote careers in the remodeling industry, identify organizations that NARI should work with to foster outreach, and develop programs to support the outreach efforts of NARI chapters. The meeting was standing room only. Laurence Carolan, CR, GCP, UDCP, the committee’s chair, described the role the committee will take and invited all to join. Much work remains to be done; but this committee will make it happen!


Partnerships, One Solution


 Friday afternoon Mike Waite, the Executive Director of NARI’s Charlotte, N.C. chapter moderated the forum “Partnerships in Workforce Development.” The panelists on the forum had formed a partnership in the Charlotte area that brought educators, building industry associations, local government, and Boy Scouts of America –Explorers together to create an Explorers post that focused on residential construction trades. They have been successful, despite facing numerous challenges: such as overcoming the bias of parents and guidance counselors, locating training venues, working through the logistics of onboarding, overcoming the negative image of the industry (i.e. construction is “hard work”), and finding funding.


Exposure and Training


Following the panel discussion, there was the opportunity to see how the Exploring program has worked out in real life. Dr. Diane E. Thornton, National Director/President of “Learning for Life” and “Exploring” provided an introduction to the BSA Exploring program and how NARI chapters can be involved. She pointed out the program focuses on five areas of emphasis: Career Opportunities, Leadership Experience, Life Skills, Citizenship, and Character Education. She explained how Exploring helps by preparing young adults to transition from school to the workforce. It also develops responsible and caring adults for the future. Mike Waite of NARI Charlotte then introduced several of the Explorers who had participated in their pilot program.


Problem May Be National, but Solutions Are Local


The meeting ended up with local chapters around the country describing what they are doing for workforce development. Kansas City NARI established a “Futures Fund.” The purpose of this fund was to be the educational and charitable arm of the Kansas City NARI Chapter and to engage in educational programs and activities for the benefit and enlightenment of the public with respect to home remodeling and improvement. Last year they gave local schools over $10,000 of trades related equipment. The Omaha NARI chapter formed a team to partner with local organizations and educational institutions to promote construction and remodeling career opportunities, change the negative image associated with trade career pathways, and grow the conversation--bring together businesses, students, educators, parents through mentorship and career expo programs. They have developed a Builders of the Future program to locate, encourage, and educate the next generation of construction trade specialists. The NARI Milwaukee chapter had promoted competitions as a means of raising awareness and building skills. Four technical colleges now compete annually for Interior Design. They are also working with SkillsUSA and have started the Wisconsin TeamWorks Carpentry competition. The winner of this program will to advance to SkillsUSA’s national competition in Louisville KY.


Dan Taddei is Director of Education and Certification, National Association of the Remodeling Industry


1. “Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity” (LIRA), published by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.