After a couple weeks at wood industry conferences, the message is clear: employment is the number one challenge in the industry. Though U.S. unemployment remains on the high side, the secondary wood products industries - along with others - are missing that pool of capable workers.
Look at these comments:
Your article, April 2013, "Where to find Woodworkers"...was just what I needed to hear (read)!!! We have been looking for a seasoned woodworker for two and a half weeks, and darn it, no luck. After reading your column, it all made sense to me.
Our company was a small wood-shop for residential years ago, and expanded overnight. Labor shortages in the industry make our jobs very difficult...almost like a snowball effect. Thanks for your prospective.
- Tara Palazzotto-Helms, Director of Operations, McGrew Architectural Woodwork, AWI-QCP, Commercial Interior Millwork
When ever I read articles like "Recovery brings Worker Shortages" this no one ever mentions the low wages companies pay for entry level workers. The "skilled" workers are out there but are becoming more and more unemployable. And as companies become hammered by ObamaCare they will turn to independent contractors. - Bill Rouse, GH Millwork
This is good stuff. Thanks for shining the light, Bill. How would one get involved with the WCA? -Corbin Clay, Azure Furniture, Denver
It's interesting that the pay being offered for skilled woodworkers is ignored yet again, when discussing worker shortages. I am a professional cabinetmaker with 25 years of experience, and I walked away from my last job because of this very issue. Good luck finding a temp, or someone fresh out of school that can do what I do.
- John Herasymiuk, Waterwalker Woodworks
These comments, posted at WoodworkingNetwork.com, reflect the general area of concern we heard expressed in sessions at Stiles Executive Briefing Conference, at the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn. Convention, at the Wood Industry Conference, at the Architectural Woodwork Institute Spring leadership Conference last week: that wood industry business managers are struggling with finding, training and retaining workers.
Education figures big in the life and future of the woodworking industry. It's the reason companies like Blum, Stiles, Festool, and others have placed so much emphasis on it in their business strategies.
We have a historic problem getting students to patronize woodworking classes in high school and college - the work isn't seen as the skill of the future.
Like other business sectors, we are challenged by the expense of healthcare, and by the availability of immigrant labor - one which, I believe, wood manufacturing and installation companies are are dependent. Healthcare and poorly executed immigration reform both threaten our businesses by making labor both more costly, and less plentiful.
The solution is bigger than our industry. But we are the one's that should go ahead and address it for ourselves.
More on this next time.