LAS VEGAS — “NextUp,” an initiative aimed at recruiting and empowering a younger, better-trained workforce for the kitchen and bath industry, has been launched by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
The jobs initiative, unveiled at January’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, will see the NKBA work closely with educators and students interested in pursuing careers in the residential design and construction industry, which is currently experiencing a significant dearth of qualified young workers, the Hackettstown, NJ-based trade association said.
“Unfilled jobs in the design and construction industry may be attributed to consistent messages to students and their parents that the most accessible path to success starts with a four-year college degree,” said NKBA Chief Executive Officer Bill Darcy. “Four-year college degrees are one way, but not the only way.
“To attract the best talent,” Darcy said, NKBA’s NextUp program “will engage with a wide network of students who have interest, curiosity or an entrepreneurial drive that is more compatible with a hands-on career in the kitchen and bath industry, so they are aware of the many paths to success.”
According to the NKBA, “hundreds of thousands” of construction jobs are currently going unfilled each month in the design and construction trade. A stagnant workforce “adversely affects the kitchen and bath industry,” as projects take longer to finish, and longer timeframes “mean that fewer projects can be completed,” the association noted.
The NextUp program, according to the NKBA, will approach the problem in three ways:
- Creating hands-on experiences that introduce high school students to the craft of design and construction through six interactive kitchen and bath career simulations that feature exercises in finish carpentry, installation, kitchen and bath design, plumbing, electrical and showroom design. Also featured will be a “Kitchen of the Future” and a STEM Kitchen Robot competition at a middle school near NKBA headquarters.
- Changing “the dialogue” about career paths students can pursue after high school graduation that are alternatives to the traditional four-year college degree path, (thus) “raising awareness that there are many pathways to lucrative and stimulating work creating safe, beautiful and functional spaces in the heart and soul of the home.” The message, said NKBA officials, will be communicated through a national awareness campaign targeting young adults, their parents, educators and other influencers.
- Connecting “interest to action” through NKBA chapters charged with building networks of local kitchen and bath design talent.
“We know we have a big job ahead of us to attract the best possible talent that will contribute to the future prosperity and vibrancy of the kitchen and bath industry,” Darcy said. “It’s a tall order, but exactly what a trade association is designed to do: raising the level of professionalism by inspiring, leading and empowering each member of our community.”