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  • Sean Connolly

Where Have Our Craftsmen Gone?

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

Last week I attended an informative lecture presented by the Building Enclosure Council entitled: Project Enclosure Problems from the Contractor’s Perspective. This was an open forum discussion panel for all attendees. The host showed slides of inferior workmanship during the presentation, which lead me to think about the overall quality produced by our industry's trades. At the end of the lecture, a renown, local architect opined holding feet to the fire on the issues regarding quality. Others noted valid points regarding the flawed system of modern day construction:

Homeowners place a higher emphasis on the cost of construction verses the quality.

Contractors too often neglect quality to accommodate tight budgets and still make a profit.

So, where have our Craftsmen gone? How do we maintain quality control?

From a contractor’s perspective, I have first hand experience of the industry's dilemmas. In generations past, apprentices learned how to become quality craftsmen from a master craftsmen. This knowledge was often passed down from father to son and the apprentice worked for little to nothing while under the apprenticeship. Traditions changed and trained technicians took the place of apprenticed craftsmen. Today, the industry is plagued with unqualified laborers in all trades, from carpentry to specialized mechanical trades. These unqualified laborers demand high rates of compensation while delivering low quality workmanship.

I have reviewed hundreds of resumes and managed employees from South Florida to New Jersey and as westward as Kentucky. The dilemma is the same. Respondents claim fifteen plus years of construction experience. However, the reality is that most of these individuals have one year of real experience and fourteen years experience in doing the job wrong. There are too many laborers simply looking to make a quick Friday paycheck rather than to make a personal investment in themselves.

Likewise, few companies invest in their employees with re-training or new training opportunities. Expectations must be taught, training promoted, certifications required, and industry and material standards updated. If both employer and employee take pride in the quality, the company will grow, and the rewards of profit can be forwarded to the both.

The formula for successful apprenticeship or training requires three important variables; a loyal apprentice employee who is willing to accept reduced pay during training and an employer who values the apprentice as more than cheap labor. Successful implementation of this formula produces quality productivity with higher employee attrition and retention rates for the employer and a lifetime of developed skills and better wages for the employee.

Companies can now collaborate with vendors and manufacturers to offer affordable employee training opportunities. These collaborations offer promotional opportunities for manufacturers while training tradesmen with proper use and installation guidelines.

The third necessary variable is to retrain homeowners. Homeowners who put cost before quality are almost always disappointed in the end results. Knowledgeable craftsmen can provide detailed specifications on quality products and proper practices. This retraining delivers quality workmanship over value price that will last for decades.

I applaud true, quality workmanship, as demonstrated by companies like Dream Home Woodworx of Charleston, SC, which upholds the traditional title of master craftsmen.

I look towards this example and to those few local companies that maintain quality control as paragons for our company's growth and development.

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