Drawing on insights from economist Tyler Cowen and NAHB assistant VP Roe Quint, Builder editor John McManus explores one of the residential construction industry's biggest pain points: the lack of skilled labor. Quint dives into a recent NAHB poll that shows that only 3% of young adults are interested in a career in the construction trades. It's not about the pay, which is actually better for carpenters, a job that typically only requires a high-school diploma, than it is for, say, bio technicians, a job that typically requires a bachelor's degree in biology. It's far worse than you may have expected: For more than two out of every five 18 to 25 year olds, you couldn't pay them enough to enter the trades.

If it isn't the pay, what is it? It's tempting to draw the conclusion that today's young adults are just lazy and don't want to work in a physically demanding field. But it's likely more nuanced than that. The most intriguing answer: McManus points to Daniel Pink's analysis showing that "autonomy, mastery, and purpose" are the real reasons people strive to work harder and ultimately are what make a job desirable. That young adults don't see the potential for autonomy, mastery, and purpose in a career in the building trades really is a perception problem, because that exists for many building professionals. Why can't we "sell" that message better?

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