According to the 2019 NWFA Industry Outlook Survey, nearly 70 percent of contractors are having problems finding the right people to hire. On top of that, nearly every contractor has turned down work recently because they didn’t have enough labor to meet the demands of adding another job to the schedule.
Couple the current labor shortages with an expectation that up to 31 million baby boomers will retire in the next three years, as well as a long-term trend away from careers in the trades, and the wood flooring industry can expect volcanic pressure on labor needs moving forward.
We have to do something!
The NWFA supports the efforts of groups like the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) as they continue to lobby the Trump administration to shore up the Perkins Act, providing Americans with technical education and career support, as well as putting pressure on education programs to offer non-college careers. While this advocacy is important, it’s even more critical that the NWFA aligns with these construction trade organizations to create a professional career path in the residential construction market for the wood flooring industry.
In March, after three years of work with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the NWFA now has a federally approved Wood Flooring Specialist Apprenticeship program. The NWFA Apprenticeship program is the only path to approval with the U.S. DOL, and one our industry leaders are ready to build and support. Why?
The first and most important reason this program has been established is to create a competitive advantage in the labor market. Fewer people are entering the trades, and a recognized apprenticeship allows our industry to offer similar paths to those of an electrician or plumber, as well as the funding incentives that come with it. We have to be able to offer advantages that other industries do not, and also recognize the special skills necessary to succeed in wood flooring that may not exist in other floor coverings or construction jobs.
The approved program also provides consistency across the industry and a path where new labor can earn as they learn, working while completing their apprenticeship with financial assistance. While it is a federally approved program, funding varies by state. Depending on your specific company designation, the federal government or the state where your company is based may be able to offer the employer and/or the employee financial support through workforce development grants, the GI Bill, and more. We will be working with every state to help you identify and develop a pipeline of talent where you live and work.
Having a professional accredited three-year apprenticeship puts the wood flooring industry on par with other trades that are vying for the same talent in a shrinking pool of applicants. And with the added incentive of potential funding at the federal and state level, aligned with the NWFA’s well-defined path of online and hands-on training, this program offers a competitive advantage for attracting new skilled labor.
In the end, our goal as an association is to create a labor pool with consistent skills, where individual workers feel valued for their accomplishments. The whole industry wins, with fewer callbacks, replacements, and touch-ups because the labor pool is trained from the beginning in the industry.
For someone entering the workforce who does not want a college degree (and for some who go to college and still don’t want office work), construction jobs actually pay better than most other industries, according to the AGC.
But this does not happen without a trained skill – the AGC notes that depending on the skill level and geographic region, entry-level residential construction workers make anywhere from $12 to $20 per hour, and that can easily double or triple in the first five years. Nationwide, average hourly earnings in the construction industry are $28.55 per hour, a 2.2 percent increase from 2016. To attract labor, we will have to compete with these kinds of salaries, and with an apprenticeship program, we can bring some of the brightest, most well-trained people who have a love and passion for wood into the industry. With their help and your support, we can build a better, brighter, more sustainable future, both with product and with talent.
Find out more at NWFA.org.