When it comes to building a luxury custom home, it takes a team of highly skilled professionals with various fields of expertise to make the dream home a reality. From carpenters to plumbers, electricians and tilers to masons, the experience and artistry of seasoned professionals makes all the difference in the finished product. The architect helps the homeowner dream the perfect home, and works hand in hand with the custom home builder to complete the project. Yet, perhaps the most important task is to pool the right group of artisans and professionals that are expertly trained to handle and manipulate the specific materials required to execute the design.
In 2015, ManpowerGroup’s annual talent shortage survey revealed that 32% of US employers are having a difficult time filling job vacancies due to a talent shortage, with 48% acknowledging that it has a medium to high impact on their business. Lack of applicants, lack of experience and lack of technical competencies top the list of reasons employers are facing this shortage of skilled laborers. It is worthy of note that educational costs per year for a 2-year technical college average 50-65% less than a 4-year state college. And many skilled trade jobs compare to salaries of those that require degrees. What’s more, demand for brick masons, electricians and plumbers is growing above the national average for skilled labor demand of 14%.
In centuries past, ironworkers and carpenters were more highly revered than actors or accountants. The industrial revolution created an irreversible trend in the skilled artisan guilds, as Eli Whitney pioneered the technological advances of interchangeable parts, which was designed to be skill-replacing. Whitney described the objective of this technology as “to substitute correct and effective operations of machinery for the skill of the artist, which is acquired only by long practice and experience.” Riots famously ensued in the early 18th century as skilled artisans rioted, destroying weaving, spinning and threshing machines, believing new machines would make their skills redundant; they were absolutely correct, as the artisan shop was replaced by the factory and later interchangeable parts and the assembly line.
With the advancement of textile machines, steam engines, iron manufacturing and, later, electricity, following the industrial revolution, society began to shift from a traditional cottage life and industry to an urban industry. Artisans were forced to seek work in factories as demand for their product decreased with mass produced and less costly alternatives. The learned skills and trades through generations of an apprentice system built on advancing to master-craftsman was the foundation of the cottage life, which provided the raw material and transformed it into a finessed product sought out by the urban tradesman. What this means today is that a gap was created, lost generations of skills learned and refined, hard to replicate today.
The emphasis today on a 4-year college education or even further education, based on the ever widening gap between highly educated wage earners and uneducated minimum wage-earners is simply creating a glut in the marketplace for over qualified and overeducated potential workers, yet lacking the basic skills needed for the jobs that need to be filled. A report released by the New York Post last year stated that as many as 50% of recent college graduates expect to be supported by their parents for at least two years upon graduation, and only 25% of parents expect their children to have a job in their chosen field after graduation.
The modern Master craftsmen do exist today; some with family history in their chosen trade, but many who developed an appreciation and passion for their work. There is a great deal of pride associated with these skilled artisans, with proven mastery of their trade to even enter into their guild or organization, and they continue to be in great demand by discerning custom home builders. The modern master craftsmen range from bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, masons and cabinetmakers.
Any discerning home owner should recognize that each of these expert artisans provide a crucial role, and the greater the talent, the more exceptional the work, the easier for the architect and builder to accomplish the client’s dream home. While housing demand and construction labor needs may ebb and flow, there will always be a high demand for skilled labor and artisans, and four years of college and decades of debt are not part of the program. Experience and skill is all that is required.