No matter how you cut it, the building industry is hurting for skilled labor. It's a miracle that homebuilders and the subcontractors who work for them have been able to maintain record numbers for new home starts on the shoulders of today's workforce. In fact, without Hispanic labor picking up more of the slack every year, the problem would be even bigger than it is. But whether it's our values, education, ambitions, or flat-out greed at play, we need to take a serious look at what's keeping the next generation of skilled workers from signing on in the building trades. I'm starting to call them Generation "T" for Trades.
A serious look at this crucial issue is exactly what you'll find in senior editor Mark Clement's insightful feature article "Training Day." Clement explores the sociological and systemic hurdles we place in front of young people that can make the path toward a career in construction look like a bad choice. Then he lays out efforts by trade associations, trade unions, and construction companies to recruit and train young prospects and draws the lessons from these efforts that you can use in your own company. The way Clement puts it, the legacy we've built with our hands during our work lives is in jeopardy. We all know there's a serious problem. We all have our own ideas about what causes it and how to solve it. This article pulls it all together for us in a very understandable way.
Also in this issue you'll find tool tests in categories we've never tested before: High-volume, low-pressure paint sprayers that give you the power to produce the highest level of finishes on the job or in your shop, and new laser-powered measuring devices. Don't throw away your tape measures just yet, these tools are expensive and have limited applications for contractors; but if you do a lot of estimates that require you to measure large surface areas?especially if they're hard to get at?you might be ready for one of these high-tech tools.
We also enlisted William Palmer, the editor in chief of our sister magazine Concrete Construction, to review new rebar tools "Raising the Bar", including tools for cutting and bending reinforcing steel, and new cordless rebar tie tools that I'd buy in a minute if I did that kind of work. Heck, I might buy one just because they're so amazing. So put away your hack saw, recip saw, and abrasive blades because these tools are what the pros are using to place their steel. It's tough work made easier.
Finally, check out Don Dunkley's private checklist for stairbuilders ("19 Steps to Site-Built Stairs"), Gary Katz's secrets for protecting your work when it's near completion ("Protecting Your Work"), and OSHA's rules that'll help you avoid electrocutions -- and costly fines(Power Rules").