Promoting & Supporting the Future Builders of Wisconsin

At Wisconsin Builders Association member meetings and undoubtedly other housing industry events throughout the country, there’s one troubling question on everyone’s minds: how do we deal with the growing labor shortage in the building trades?

With the current workforce aging and the market recovering, many builders are finding themselves without the necessary skilled laborers needed to carry out the task of building a home. This is already a problem affecting the industry, and one that could have far more serious implications for the health of the housing market in just a few years’ time as retirements increase exponentially.

Many have speculated about the factors that have led to the current labor shortage, noting the devastating effects of the 2008 market crash, the cutting of trades education in K-12 schools, a dogged emphasis on traditional 4-year college degrees, and even generational differences magnified by the increasing pervasiveness of modern technologies. However, no matter the cause, the effect and what must be done about it is clear: there’s not enough framers, plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters, and HVAC technicians to meet the demands of a new generation of home owners, and we need to fix that.

As a result, the Wisconsin Builders Foundation (WB Foundation) has set out to address the labor shortage problem in Wisconsin.

Founded in 1999, the WB Foundation was formed as the charitable arm of the WBA. Builder education has been an important part of the foundation’s work since its inception, and, now—with a newly streamlined direction and a logo to match—the WB Foundation will be tackling head-on the unique challenge of encouraging young Wisconsinites to join rewarding careers in the building trades (and give them the needed support to be successful).

The Foundation seeks to achieve this goal, not only by providing scholarships and grants for individuals in building trades programs throughout the state, but also by promoting the importance of education throughout the industry. Recently, the WB Foundation raised nearly $10,000 at its annual golf outing, and this fall will be inducted into the 1866 Cornerstone Society of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Foundation in recognition of its lifetime gift of $25,000. It will also be co-sponsoring the Better Buildings: Better Business (B4) Conference for the third year running this spring. The Foundation is also online: filming was just wrapped up on some new DSPS-accredited online courses to add to the current courses available for Wisconsin builders through its Home Builders University, and a new online donation link is now available on the revamped WB Foundation page (visit wisbuild.org/wb-foundation).

The WBA’s local home builders associations are equally part of promoting and supporting future builders in Wisconsin, too. They are able to donate to their established donor advisory fund (DAF), receiving the tax advantages of a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and, with trustee approval, can also direct funds as they see fit to promote the building trades. For example, the La Crosse Area Builders Association’s Tools for Schools program is one such program funded by the Foundation’s DAF incentive.

Through these continued efforts—and our many members working tirelessly for them—the WB Foundation will not only combat labor shortages, but will also unlock the potential of the next great generation of Wisconsin builders.(Read original with images in Badger Builder, Pages 6-7.)

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