The remodeling industry is growing quickly, creating opportunities for young adults who have had difficulty finding great jobs
For Millennials, who grew up mastering online tools and social media, the idea of swinging a hammer for a career may seem as foreign as a cassette tape. Today, however, a skilled set of hands and a trusty tool belt may be one of the best paths forward for young workers still struggling to find a solid paycheck.
More than 15 percent of adults ages 18-29 were out of work in June, according to Generation Opportunity, a think tank based in Arlington, Virginia. The Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce estimates that Millennials make up 40 percent of the unemployed.
Construction and remodeling are booming — but young workers have either missed the memo or are scared. After all, they came of age during the Great Recession, which was exceptionally hard on the industry.
Now, though, the housing market is back on its long-term growth trend, and pent-up demand is outpacing the ability of remodeling companies to keep up.
“This is a problem for many in the construction industry right now,” says DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen President Doug Dwyer. “Some workers are beginning to trickle back into the industry to do work they love, which pays surprisingly well, and new recruitment strategies are constantly being initiated to draw them back.”
Dwyer says some lead carpenters with DreamMaker earn as much as $70,000 a year.
Kermit Baker, who heads the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, says that for Millennials who enjoy working with their hands and who enjoy craftsmanship, the remodeling industry is a tremendous opportunity.
“Demand is coming back, and it’s coming back very strong,” he said. Kermit also notes that remodeling offers a strong wage opportunity for Millennials, many of whom have struggled to make economic headway in a weak job market.
He thinks many young people may not realize construction and remodeling is a viable option.
“There are a lot of folks who never really thought about this being a career path for them,” Kermit says. “And it pays a lot better than flipping burgers.”
Doug Dwyer, of DreamMaker, reiterated the point.
“These are blue-collar jobs that offer great wages and benefits, and the worker shortage has created a major demand for workers,” Doug says. DreamMaker’s average franchisee revenue grew more than 23 percent — more than seven times faster than 3.1 percent industry average in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
A creative career path
Jarrod Gilbert is a great example. The 21-year-old is a student at State College of Florida, where he is studying construction management. His father, Ernest, owns DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen of Manasota, in Bradenton, Florida, which he started in 2006. Both Jarrod and his brother, Evan, are part of the family business and are planning to make it their careers.
Jarrod is a carpenter now and says he enjoys the work.
“I’m a hands-on type of person, and construction is very hands-on,” he says. “I’m good at physics and math, but sitting in a classroom practicing equations is hard for me. I like being able to build things and see a project from beginning to end, and see that I have created something new. It’s really fulfilling.”
He says he thinks some people are missing an opportunity.
“Sometimes people seem to see working in construction as a low, menial job, and I honestly don’t see it that way,” he says. “Most people are pushed into college and encouraged to go get a big degree and make a lot of money. Are you going to make as much as a doctor or a lawyer? Probably not, but you can enjoy yourself and make good money.”
Carving a new path for young remodelers
Darius Baker (no relation to Kermit Baker) owns D&J Kitchens & Baths in Sacramento, California, and has been working to create opportunities for young people to learn not just about construction and remodeling, but also about a host of skilled trades.
“One of the biggest mistakes that has been made in the past 30 years is removing most vocational education from public schools,” Darius says. “By eliminating things like shop class, schools have gotten rid of an opportunity young people had to discover talents and passions that can lead to great careers — and not just careers in the trades. Plenty of kids would take a vocational education class and discover a love for building, which would spur them to study harder, go to college and become an architect, or go to an auto mechanic shop and realize they could become an automotive engineer.”
Without vocational programs in public schools, Darius says most of the young people entering the trades are like Jarrod — they already have a connection to the industry, know what’s possible and have someone to show them the ropes.
Without those connections, most young people vastly underestimate what you can accomplish as a skilled tradesman.
“Give me four kids who are freshmen in high school in Sacramento. One graduates from high school, then graduates from college. One graduates from high school, then drops off the radar. One drops out of school after his/her sophomore year. The fourth kid was lucky enough to know someone in the trades, he had a mentor and he was able to take off right out of high school working as a plumber,” Darius says.
“What does life look for them at 21 or 22? Well, the first kid has $100,000 in student loan debt, the second kid is still off the radar, the third kid is probably either in jail or making minimum wage, and the fourth kid is now making $80,000, has his own house and car and is making a nice life for himself.”
How today’s Millenials can get the skills they need
Darius says that technical colleges offer one of the best avenues for people who would like to enter the profession. Many technical colleges offer certifications in construction, carpentry and remodeling.
Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, is just one example. Students in its School of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology can take a 32-week course that ends with a 75 percent success rate of immediate job placement.
How good are the jobs? In 2013, the median wage for a carpenter was $40,500 — about $19.50 an hour — and for the top 10 percent of carpenters, the national average climbed to $73,100. And the projected growth for those jobs? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are expected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022 — “much faster than average,” the agency says.
Learn more about how DreamMaker is leading the industry
DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen is a remodeling industry leader that is working to address trends affecting all remodelers, as well as working to help franchisees build thriving businesses. To learn more, fill out a form to download our free franchise report and start a conversation with us, or give us a call at 1-866-734-7006.