As I look forward to this new year, I want you to know that I bring you both good news and bad news: Our economy is booming, and our economy is booming. No, that’s not a typo.
The good news? We are still on a record-setting pace for the number of installs in the foreseeable future. 2019 was one of our strongest years economically, and that momentum will carry us well into 2020. As I talk with engineers and architects and learn about their planning cycles, there is no sense of any slowdown. Across regions, there is an increased backlog in the work faced by our building planners.
The bad news? But for all of the growth we are experiencing, we are not seeing that same growth with our pipeline of workers choosing to go into the building trades. How many times is the average high schooler asked, “Where are you going to college?” The question is seemingly innocent, but it presupposes college as the only path rather than one of many. Rather, why can we not change the question to, “Have you considered an apprenticeship in the trades? Sure, it’ll be hard work, but you get to work with your hands, meet interesting people, help run a small business, and a skilled craftsman will always be in demand.”
Our goal, in this association and in our society, ought to be helping our young people to find the right path in their lives. We could have excellent tradesmen and tradeswomen already in the pipeline helping with the increase in work, but as Mike Rowe is fond of saying, “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist.” College isn’t always the answer.
My challenge to each of you is to spend some time with your local high school, offer to talk to the students about your work, and why you pursued it. Show them the values and rewards you get from the work you do each day. Consider taking on students as interns during the summer to mentor and show students what is possible in the trades. We learn best through role models, and you can be one for our next generation.
Part of our unprecedented economic growth is due to the policies in place at our local, state, and national levels. 2020 will witness a new presidential election along with many at the state, city, and county levels. I urge you to do your research on all of the candidates on your ballots and keep in mind that growth-oriented policies have brought us the good news of our economy. Your voice matters at every level, and the success of your company and our industry depend on making the choices that will keep our economy and building industries growing strong. Here’s to a happy and prosperous New Year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ted Wills is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the American Fire Sprinkler Association.