Millennial Interest in the Trades: A Conversation With Bestbath

Bestbath and SGC Horizons recently sat down to discuss the job gap in the skilled labor force. This final segment in the 3 part series discusses the Millennial generation and what to do about their interest in the trades workforce.


Did you miss the earlier segments of our series? Catch up with the conversation:
Repercussions of the Skilled Labor Gap: A conversation with Bestbath, Part 1.
Challenges for Trade Professionals: A conversation with Bestbath, Part 2.


The following is a transcript of the Millenial Generation conversation in Part 3:

Adam Grubb, SGC Horizon: I said earlier this has happened overnight, that’s not a fact, but it’s seemingly…

Greg Wells, Bestbath: It seems like it, yeah.

Adam: It has happened overnight to where this is now a topic in the presidential race. This is a topic in our local governments. This is a topic in most association meetings. This is a topic in schools, in education sectors. Is this just starting?

Greg: I think it is just starting. I mean if you look at some of the statistics from years to come, I think the latest one I saw was 2020, they’re still expecting a labor shortage of, what was that? I think we looked at the same thing, was it a million?

Adam: I think it was more.

Greg: Was that more now? It was a bunch. I can’t even remember. The numbers are so big, I forget, but it’s significant. So I think as you look at that, that problem will continue to grow unless we find some solutions, and I think as a manufacturer, that’s in relationship to what we were talking about. The manufacturers need to continue to develop products that are easier to install, that may take less labor to do so or be faster. How will we mitigate the problem?

Adam: Yeah, because you won’t be efficient as a manufacturer. Your margins are going to shrink, and you guys are going to have issues as a company, and the builders aren’t getting the solutions they need and thus the homeowners aren’t happy with the builders.

Greg: Exactly. Yeah, it just kind of snowballs on top of each other, so as…

Adam: It does, on both sides.

Greg: On both sides, it snowballs.

Adam: Do you see a lack of interest from younger generations, kids coming up? That’s labor, that’s hard work. That seems like – up on the roof all day long in the hot sun in July, no thanks.

Greg: Yeah, I think every generation looks at the younger generation and thinks they’re lazy, and that’s probably been the case forever. So there are some very hardworking individuals coming up out of high school, but still, I think it goes back to the education. They look at it. They talk to their parents. Hey, their parents probably are going to encourage them to do more of a white-collared job. They look at that as that’s the nirvana, that’s where you want to go.

Adam: I think that the pride that comes in, and you saw at Remodelers Day, we see it at the builder’s show, it doesn’t matter. There’s a pride that comes in building homes and owning a business and being your own boss and that’s where these kids can go and a lot of generations. Most building companies and especially at Myler’s, they’re family owned, they’re generational businesses. They went from grandpa, to dad, to son, and without that interest, those die. Those businesses die.

Greg: They do, and I think part of those that will continue, some of those will pass on because maybe the next generation isn’t interested in doing that. A few weeks ago, I actually toured a local high school. They have training in place to build cabinetry. They had the woodworking shops. They taught them actually how to build from scratch all of these products to become the craftsman. It was really interesting because that teacher kept encouraging these students to understand what they’re doing. You’re leaving now with the skill set. You’re leaving with an opportunity to start a job.

He would actually encourage them to go out there and talk to other family members, or maybe the aunt and uncle and show them what they could do, talk to them about, “Hey, I can help build some furniture if you guys need something.” He goes, “Then, you do that in high school. There’s no risk. All the equipment is here. They just have to pay for the materials.” Then he goes, “Then you take that. You leave high school, your job foundation, your business has already started.” So some of those kids are seeing that. And at 18, you don’t need a lot of money. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for them to do that.

One of the highest job satisfactions is a home builder. They get to build the product. They get to see their progress every day, and then once it’s completed, they can stand back and see what they did and go, “Hey, I did that,” and they feel really good. That gives them that strong job satisfaction, and then they get to move on to the next project. They get to build it and then they see what they do. So it’s one of those things that you build out over time, and that’s why that job satisfaction rate is so high. And I think part of that is what the younger generation needs to be reminded.

Adam: Well, and not only that, when you look at just like in your business, the manufacturing business, each job is not any more important than the other. It’s a unit, right?

Greg: Yeah.

Adam: In home building, if you have a loose screw, figuratively or literally, you’ve got issues. And so you need skilled labor in all parts, from framing to drywall, to finishing, that needs to happen. I think personally, the education is there that people are there ready to teach and mentor and get people excited, but I believe that those people are there. They’re waiting to teach and there are younger people that are waiting to be taught.

Greg: There are certainly people out there interested in it, and there are certainly the people that will have the push and drive to become successful.

Adam: What’s Bestbath doing? What are you guys doing, and what are you getting involved in? And what would you…if you had an open forum to say, “Come on guys, follow us. This is important enough for all of us to get behind it, and this is not a price war. This is not ‘our products is better than your product.’ This is a ‘in order for us to sustain.’” When you’ve been in building products for a long time, once you get in this business, typically, people stay in it, right? So we’ve got the people that are ready, what would you tell them?

Greg: The overall with the industry, I think it’s just that. The industry needs to get together to move this forward and help solve the problem and train individuals. If it’s not our product versus their product, it’s really to inform people what other solutions and what product alternatives are out there. So it’s hard to put something on that specifically. I would say Bestbath as a whole, what we work on is trying to train the individuals that use our product specifically – because every product install is a little bit differently. On top of that, we try to develop the products and continue to innovate products so that it’s easier to install.

Adam: And you guys are…you’re not the only company that thinks this way, and you’re not the only manufacturer that understands this, but you do. You need support. You need support from associations, you need support from trade partners like professional builder and professional remodeler. You need support from other manufacturers, not only in your space but all across the building platforms because this could get worse before it gets better, and it’s important enough for everyone to take notice.

Greg: Yeah.

Adam: Well, Greg, it’s great, man. I appreciate you talking to us today, and it is the topic that I think needs more discussion. It needs a plan from yourself, from the best people at Bestbath and others. It’s important enough, but I think starting a conversation and having people understand that this is a problem, it’s not, as you said world-ending, but in reality, it’s a bigger issue than I think most see.

Greg: Yeah, you can’t stick your head in the sand. You got to face it and figure out what the solution is.