Despite the fact that the industry is in full recovery mode, there are still threats that impact pool and spa professionals on a daily basis. We’re very familiar with most of them: online retailing, negative publicity, safety concerns and a long, harsh winter.
But there’s one obstacle that may be the greatest threat of all. It affects companies in the pool and spa market as well as thousands of businesses across the construction trades.
I’m talking about the lack of young, qualified workers entering our industry.
There is a massive shortage of young staffers in the architecture, construction and engineering trades, with construction alone looking at a deficit of 2 million employees by 2016. Today, five workers are approaching retirement age for every one person who enters the industry, according to the Hartford Business Journal.
It’s crazy when you think of it. Tradespeople all across the country are making a nice living while new college graduates struggle to find employment at Starbucks.
Why is this happening?
It seems that the primary reason is perception. Many people hold negative ideas about the construction industry, seeing it as manual labor for less educated people. And you can’t blame them. How would an average young person know about the level of expertise, design, technology and operational ability that goes into building a pool?
Though efforts to reach out to young people are being made by some pool and spa organizations (APSP’s Wave Network comes to mind), there’s no coordinated outreach program that utilizes the resources of numerous groups.
It’s imperative that we come together as an industry, combine strengths and devise a series of tactics to target young people.
My son has a friend named Josh, a smart, sweet kid with no idea what he wants to do in life. When his mother said she’d kick him out if he didn’t find a job, Josh began, with great reluctance, to work at his uncle’s Roto-Rooter franchise. Admittedly, he’s not crazy about snaking drains, one after the other, all day, but it’s given him a new understanding of what’s possible. “You know what?” he told my son. “Plumbers, they’re like the stealth rich people! You have no idea how much money those guys make!” Today, he’s thinking about becoming a plumber or electrician.
I like Josh and, with a little seasoning, I could easily see him as the owner or manager of a successful company. I only wish his uncle had been in the pool business.