Training and job opportunities abound in the building industry

As young people graduate from high school and college to pursue careers, the older generations are nearing retirement. Technology has reduced the physical stress of many jobs, and it’s not uncommon for white-collar professionals to work into their 70s. Many college graduates find themselves underemployed or entrenched in low-paying internships that linger well beyond graduation. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

For decades now, many high schools have focused on “selling” college prep programs and glossed over Career and Technical Education (CTE). Newsflash! Students can have a satisfying and challenging career by following the seemingly forgotten CTE track.

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It was not unusual for bright students who were interested and suited to CTE to be talked into pursuing college instead. The implication being that college-bound kids are smarter and better prepared for life. Wrong!

Students pursuing technical careers need strong math, communication, and mechanical science skills as well as the ability to adapt quickly. Not only do technical jobs demand training and credentials, they also require ongoing continuing education to maintain certifications. Going down the path to the trades often leads to a lifetime of learning!

A serious labor shortage exists within the building and construction industry due to baby-boomers “aging out” and the decades-long misconception that every kid needs a college degree. It’s time to stop pushing college on everyone and encourage students to prepare for careers in CTE related fields.

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While technology may have made white collar jobs easier, it’s opened so many new opportunities in the trades. Who is going to wire those smart homes, LED lighting, and leverage advances in heating and plumbing?

A career in the trades is not boring or a dead-end job. There’s room to grow and change direction within the industry. Many people who start out in the trades become General Contractors, builders, and business owners, earning high salaries and respect. The possibilities are endless.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association is dedicated to encouraging millennials to pursue a career in the trades. Check out this video from KBIS 2018 to see what the building industry is doing to right this wrong:

NKBA encourages millennials to join skilled trades

Vegas, Baby… What I did on my KBIS 2014 trip

Early last year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced an agreement to co-locate the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) with the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, Nevada beginning in February 2014 under the banner of Design & Construction Week. There is a lot of crossover between the two industries, and what a great way to showcase products from both industries while saving professionals a few bucks on travel expenses.

Never having been to Las Vegas, I was also excited to see the nearby sites. I’d heard horror stories about checking into hotels in Las Vegas, but I had no problems. I’d spent a long day traveling and was looking forward to plopping down on the bed and relaxing as I waited for my travel companion, roomy, and dear friend to arrive. When I walked in, the curtains were drawn to one side, the window was open (yes! a hotel room with operational windows) and this was the view greeting me!

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You’ve probably been to a convention or two for whatever your profession is, so you might understand the excitement that is generated.

Having both shows at the same venue was a bit over-stimulating! I felt like a kid in a humongous candy store. Many exhibitors injected fun and history into their booths and their excitement was contagious.

Merillat Cabinets showcased a model mid-century kitchen that many of us could have had in our childhood homes. They kept a supply of red aprons on a coat rack nearby and invited booth visitors to pose for pictures to be featured on their Facebook page. A very smart use of social media to get designers to visit their page and learn what they’re up to. Of course, Debbie and I were game and reenacted scenes of cooking. I’m mashing potatoes and Debbie is washing out milk bottles.

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Best of KBIS

The Best of KBIS is an annual competition that showcases the best of the kitchen and bath industry. Entries were judged by the members of the Modenus BlogTour Las Vegas. Winners were selected based on functionality quality/durability, flexibility, aesthetics/style and innovation and were announced on Wednesday, February 5th at NKBA’s Center Stage. Following is a list of some of my favorite products from the show. I was thrilled to see that they won places on Best of KBIS:

  • Merillat’s CoreGuard Sink Base Cabinet features engineered polymer sides, back and floor, which are easy to clean up. The floor is slightly tilted to the front so any puddles will be easy to see. Raised ribs on the cabinet floor help keep the items stored inside dry. If you have ever had an undetected leak slowly turn the floor of your cabinet to mush, you will really appreciate this! A few of the accessory companies offer a covering resembling a giant coaster for the sink base floor, but this seems like a smart choice when replacing the cabinet.

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  • The Glideware cabinet accessory provides a convenient, sliding mechanism from which to hang items. At the booth purses, as well as pots and pans, were on display, demonstrating how you could easily use this accessory in a closet. It is always difficult to organize pots and pans with their matching lids. I love how easily you can slip the lids over the handles, provided you have the right kind of cookware. Using Calphalon pots and pans shows how strong the product is. Glideware won the silver award for the Best in Kitchen category.

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  • Elmwood Cabinetry obviously works hard at innovation, because they always have something new to show at KBIS. This year, the Elmwood booth featured wall-height cascade cabinet doors that you can use to hide entertainment equipment, a desk area, pantry, messy kitchen, whatever you like. The doors are customizable to the height you want. With the high ceilings at KBIS, Elmwood chose very tall cabinets to show as many features as possible. For discerning customers who don’t want what everyone else has, Elmwood has something unique and functional to offer.

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  • When I first wrote about the Dacor Discovery Wine Station in the January issue of K+BB, I thought it sounded like a fabulous product. When I found out Dacor was returning to KBIS, I was very excited. The booth was crowded with people when I stopped by and I could barely get near the Wine Station; I was hoping to get a glass of wine.

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Since my friend Debbie is in the building business, we split our time between KBIS and IBS. One of my favorite booths at IBS was SeaGull Lighting. The fixtures are well made and very reasonably priced. The two largest lights you see in the display case are from the Sfera Collection, an Energy Star series that would work extremely well in today’s transitional homes.

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We really liked the products displayed by Authentic Pine Floors, which featured the new Mondavi Home Collection. This unique flooring is made from wine barrels, so the staining is all natural, from the grapes that made the wine! The booth also featured flooring from their Grandpa Mac and Old Dirty Goat lines. If you stopped by the booth and had your badge scanned, you received an email informing you that a Builders’ Show sample box was available for those who requested it. I can’t wait to get my sample box and see what’s inside!

Authentic Flooring Mondavi     Authentic Mondavi Floor

We visited the IBS Outdoor exhibits on our last day at the show. We were hoping to spot Ty Pennington, but we found this guy instead.

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KBIS Sessions are Educational and Fun

KBIS is more than just a sensory overload. It is also an opportunity to attend educational sessions offered by peers and vendors as well as take NKBA certification exams and continuing education classes.

On Tuesday afternoon I attended the session: “SoLoMo – The New Acronym That Leads to New Customers,” presented by the president of my local NKBA chapter, Phil Zaleon. Phil runs a marketing and promotion company, Z promotion & design and is also a partner in The Kitchen and Bath Channel, a mobile and social media community linking homeowners with kitchen & bath and remodeling professionals.

Phil discussed how social and mobile media, as well as local exposure in TV and radio commercials all work together to bring in different types of customers. He provided statistics about which social media sites are currently the most popular: Facebook has been the top social media site for a year. Pinterest, however, drives traffic to websites and 85% of its viewers are women over 40, who happen to be the main buyers of kitchen and bath design/remodeling services. These statistics are a moving target because the popularity of social media sites changes often. It’s great to know a marketing professional like Phil is minding the marketing store so designers can focus on the business of design!

On Wednesday afternoon I attended the seminar: “Designing and Selling Using 3D Software,” presented by Scott Harris, CKD, CBD, Vice President, Chief Architect. Chief Architect is 3D design software that is used by building and design professionals. You can use it to design a house from foundation to electrical and plumbing to curtains and landscaping. Or you can design one room, my favorites being kitchens and bathrooms, specifying everything from the flooring, cabinets, fixtures and lighting to the windows and doors, as well as all the technical guts required to make all the products function.

Every designer who uses 3D software knows how valuable it can be in helping clients see what their space will look like when your design is implemented. When you show a prospect a flat, 2D floor plan you do not get the same reaction as when you walk them through a 3D, full-color presentation. Scott explained how to leverage the software’s power and appeal to the client’s emotions by incorporating their very own backyard into the design. With Chief Architect you can select the scenery that is visible when one looks out the windows of a 3D view. How cool is it that clients can “stand” in their virtual new kitchen or home and look out the window into their own backyard? I know I’m showing my geeky-nerdy side here, but this software is very cool.

Design and Construction Week was a success any way you look at it. I hope to attend next year, and maybe by then I will figure out how to balance attending seminars and sessions with seeing all of the exhibits. I know there were many wonderful products I didn’t see, but the trade magazines, NKBA website, and The Kitchen and Bath Channel all have a wealth of information and videos about the show.