“Keep Craft Alive” and the Labor Shortage

Keep Craft Alive celebrates those who have chosen to passionately pursue a career in design, building and remodeling.
By Peter H. Miller ,

Silly me. I ‘ve hired a contractor to make repairs on my 1924 Sears Four Square house, during the busiest month of a busy year for restoration, renovation and traditional building. He and his crew worked a few days, then disappeared for three weeks, on to another more pressing job. Now I’ve got a flapping tarp waking me up on windy nights.

I should have known better. There is a well-publicized labor shortage. Demand has out-paced supply…in materials and especially labor. The only thing worse than making something we can’t sell, is selling something we can’t make. That’s the dilemma of our construction trades-labor shortage.

So, it was with acute interest that I researched the Skills USA  affiliate schools program which serves over 300,000-member students and instructors each year in middle schools, high schools and colleges. Founded in 1965 and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, Skills USA has a talent pipeline of 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, the majority STEM related. More than 600 corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions support Skills USA. This is the leading organization dedicated to closing the skills gap (and the labor shortage) in the construction trades.

Skills USA members in action.

My friends at the Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Home Building, have joined forces with Skills USA to raise awareness and funding for skills-training scholarships. They call the program #KeepCraft Alive. (http://www.keepcraftalive.org/) It will award $25,000 in $5,000 increments to five deserving students or instructors who apply and win. These scholarships will be handed out at a reception during the 53 Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference on June 22, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Keep Craft Alive has an important mission: to address the disparity between the employment demands of a growing housing industry and a shortage of trained qualified labor, which, according to Fine Homebuilding Editor, Rob Yagid is “rocking home building to its core.”

According to Tim Lawrence, Executive Director of Skills USA, “Keep Craft Alive will help deserving students to continue their education within their field. Every year 100,000 Skills USA students complete their technical program, job-ready on Day One.” Career and technical education encompasses 94 per cent of high school students and 13 million college students in schools, career centers, community and technical colleges and four-year universities. These technical schools can solve problems like high school dropout rates, global competition, layoffs in buggy-whip industries, and…the building trades labor shortage.

Jon Day

The #KeepCraft Alive program is advocated in Fine Home Building, with stories about real life crafts people. The current issue features old house restoration carpenter Jon Day. He started as a New York fabrication artist, then got a gig at the Mystic Seaport restoring a wooden whale ship. Jon Day’s career evolved from fixing boats to old houses when he started Day + Age, specializing in historic window restoration, refinishing floors and giving old houses “the respect they deserve.”

“Keep Craft Alive celebrates those who have chosen to passionately pursue a career in design, building and remodeling.” That’s you and me, and hopefully soon, the old house contractor working on my Craftsman Four Square.

We support Keep Craft Alive and commend Taunton Press for spearheading this initiative in collaboration with Skills USA.

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