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NKBA Seeks to Inspire New Generation to "Trade UP" to Lucrative Vocational Careers in Design, Construction & Manufacturing

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HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., Jan. 17, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The National Kitchen & Bath Association today announced its Trade UP initiative designed to inspire students to seek lucrative careers in design, construction and manufacturing fields, according to NKBA CEO Bill Darcy.

"If we fail to attract new, young talent to our industry, kitchen and bath projects will inevitably take longer to complete, triggering higher costs for everyone, including homeowners," says Darcy, who adds that the NKBA has long supported such excellence in kitchen and bath design education through its Accredited Provider program and professional certifications.

According to Darcy, the shortage of skilled labor within the design, construction and manufacturing fields has become an increasingly critical issue since the end of the Great Recession. Today, an estimated three million positions in construction that do not require a four-year degree remain unfilled, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This skills gap is expanding each year, directly impacting the kitchen and bath industry.

To address the issue and overcome the negative connotations often associated with working in the trades, the NKBA announced the Association's support of a trio of new programs that will focus on closing the skilled worker gap while also promoting the value of "Trading UP" to a vocational career.


The three programs are:

    1. The Generation Next campaign from This Old House Ventures on behalf of

       the mikeroweWORKS Foundation's Work Ethic Scholarship Program;

    2. The ACE Mentor Program of America; and

    3. The Skilled Labor Fund from the SGC Horizon Building Group.

This Old House Ventures' Generation Next Initiative

Generation Next is a new philanthropic campaign created by This Old House Ventures to encourage and empower young people to join skilled trades.

Through its relationships with companies and trade organizations, Generation Next ( will support the funding of scholarships for students pursuing careers as carpenters, electricians, roofers, masons and plumbers.  Donations will support the mikeroweWORKS Foundation's Work Ethic Scholarship program. The mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity started by Mike Rowe to promote training in trade skills currently in demand, as well as to address the "widening skills gap by challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people."

Last week, the entire TV crew from This Old House and Generation Next sponsors including American Standard, InSinkErator, Masco (Behr, Delta Faucet, KraftMaid, Merillat, Brizo, BrassCraft, Liberty Hardware, and Quality Cabinetry), Carhartt, HomeAdvisor, Marvin Windows & Doors, The Unico System and the NKBA, presented a check for $500,000 to Mike Rowe in support of his foundation's Work Ethic Scholarship Program.

"When we heard about Generation Next and the mikeroweWORKS foundation, our whole team immediately wanted to jump on board," says Darcy. "We are passionate about encouraging students to join the skilled trades, and we are looking forward to promoting the Generation Next campaign at KBIS this year."

In addition to supporting the scholarship fund as a sponsor, the NKBA also announced it will dedicate communications throughout the coming year to changing perceptions about vocational careers.


The ACE Mentor Program of America

Now with 65 affiliates in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the ACE Mentor Program of America (ACE) was established in 1994 by design and construction industry professionals and companies to meet future workforce needs. Numbering approximately 3,800, ACE volunteer professionals serve as mentors to young people and as board members, providing in-kind services annually valued at $10 million.

During the 2015-2016 school year, ACE, which stands for architecture, construction and engineering, engaged 8,500 high school students — two thirds of whom are minorities and one-third, female. More than 6,000 of these students from 1,100 different schools completed the free, 15-session, after-school ACE program. Two of every three high school seniors finishing these sessions entered a college program connected to the design and construction industry.

Since its inception, the Rockville, Md.-based ACE has awarded more than $14 million to young people looking to study industry-related majors in college or enter a skilled-craft training program. In 2016, 800 students received $1.7 million in scholarship funds.

"The ACE Mentor Program gives students amazing opportunities to pursue a vocational career," Darcy remarks. "Young people should understand the tangible rewards of a vocational career — that achieving an annual six-figure income need not entail the crushing student-loan debt attending a four-year college so often demands."


The Skilled Labor Fund

This new initiative was established in 2016 by the SGC Horizon Building Group, Chicago area-based publisher of several industry trade magazines, including Professional Builder, Professional Remodeler, Custom Builder, Building Design + Construction, and NKBA Inspiration+Innovation. The Skilled Labor Fund ( intends to focus specifically on the residential construction field, with an initial fundraising goal of $5 million solicited from building-product manufacturers, home builders and remodelers, trade groups, government agencies and other companies affiliated with the housing industry, such as HomeAdvisor.

The NKBA joins the National Housing Endowment (NHE), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and the National Association of the Remodeling industry (NARI) as partners in the venture, with the NKBA's Darcy serving on the five-person operating committee that will manage the fund.

While part of the NHE, the Skilled Labor Fund will operate as a completely separate entity, which will allow 98.5 percent of all monies raised to go directly to scholarships, according to SGC Horizon Group Director Tony Mancini, who will also participate in the operating committee. Mancini adds that the Skilled Labor Fund plans to grant these scholarships to accredited trade schools and training facilities nationwide, rather than to individual students.

"We will target schools in specific local areas, so that our partners and supporters will be able to see a payoff for their efforts in their geographic regions," Mancini notes.

The sense of urgency the NKBA brings to the task of filling the design and construction skills gap is evident in its enthusiastic support of all three of these initiatives. "The NKBA has long been a leader in encouraging design careers through our Accredited Provider program and the design certifications we offer," Darcy remarks. "Inspiring a new generation of skilled professionals to embrace careers in the kitchen and bath field underscores the core purpose of our trade association, which is to help build and support the kitchen and bath market."


About the National Kitchen & Bath Association

The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is the not-for-profit trade association that owns the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show® (KBIS), as part of Design and Construction Week ® (DCW). With nearly 14,000 member companies representing tens of thousands of members in all segments of the kitchen and bath industry, the NKBA has educated and led the industry since the association's founding in 1963. The NKBA envisions a world where everyone enjoys safe, beautiful and functional kitchen and bath spaces. The mission of the NKBA is to inspire, lead and empower the kitchen and bath industry through the creations of certifications, marketplaces and networks. For more information, visit or call 1-800-THE-NKBA (843-6522).


KBIS® and NKBA® are registered trademarks of the National Kitchen & Bath Association.


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