October has been an exciting month for the future of the residential door and window industry as young people from throughout the country try their hand at the trades. From Massachusetts to Oregon, educational institutions are buying in and highlighting alternative career paths for students.

Higher housing costs, increased home prices, difficulty completing projects on time and lower economic growth are all potential consequences of a lacking workforce, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). An association study conducted at the beginning of 2022 found that 85% of respondents believed worker availability and cost to be the most significant challenges in 2022.

Another potential challenge is a slowdown of the housing market. But Ed Brady, CEO of the Home Builders Institute (HBI), says a slowdown would not ease the pressure on the industry that comes with not having enough workers.

“While housing demand will slow during a downturn, there will remain a severe shortage of skilled construction workers now and after the economy recovers,” Brady says. “That is because for many decades our country has not encouraged enough young people and others to consider careers in construction.”

But some institutions throughout the country are already breaking that mold. The Madison Area Builders Association recently worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, Wis., in providing a summer program focused on the trades. Students took tours of job sites, and participated in building projects and hands-on activities.

“As the program continued, the student’s excitement grew,” Stephanie Johnston, assistant vice president of Workforce Development at the Dane County club, told NAHB.

Quincy High School in Massachusetts operates a vocational course that teaches students how to build homes.

“It’s pretty important to start out young,” QHS Building Trades Teacher Dave Bellis tells news outlet WGEM. “They get a taste of it and if they don’t like (a) certain aspect of the construction industry, they can go into plumbing or roofing or any other aspect of the construction field. It gets them hands-on.”

High school students in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have been building homes in the community since 1972 as part of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s building and trades program. Enrolled students just completed the 50th home since the program’s inception.

La Grande High School in Oregon will see its construction class take on a similar project next year with students set to build a 2,000-square-foot home. Furthermore, many of these programs are funded with the fruits of labor. Once completed, the homes are sold and those proceeds are then fed back into the programs that give young people a taste of the trades.

According to HBI, an additional 2.2 million construction hires will be required from 2022 to 2024.

“Over the long run, additional residential supply must be added,” Brady says. “For construction to expand further, more workers must be recruited and trained for the construction sector.”

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