SEMINOLE, Fla. - "They were still telling you that the only way to be successful is with a college education and I'm here to tell you that is not true," says Kayleen McCabe, a former DIY Network TV host speaking to a wood technology class at Osceola Middle School in Pinellas County.
It wasn't that long ago that kind of talk at a school would be blasphemy. But a skilled labor shortage in Florida and across the country has educators and industries scrambling to correct a trend.
"The entire system said we need to go to college, and that's not a bad thing however the shift was so dramatic that everybody left the trades to go to college," explains contractor Doug King, whose remodeling company has had to turn away business because the industry has gotten so busy, with not enough people to do the work.
"We are at a severe shortage of labor and the reason behind it is schools have pushed so hard for kids to go to college we have kids graduating from college with huge debt and no job," adds King.
That's why King and other remodeling contractors associated with National Association for the Remodeling Industry (NARI) have sponsored McCabe to travel the country to try to convince students to forgo college and get into the construction business instead.
"We have to make it cool again, get the word out it is cool to be in construction. You can make a darn good living," says King.
In a recent industry survey of Florida contractors, finding good, qualified workers was the #1 issue contractors said they had as they head into 2017.
McCabe's visit to Osceola Middle School was filled with an inspiring message and a pragmatic one as well.
"We're three million people short on filling the need for the skilled labor," McCabe said to the students Friday. "I'm here to tell you I do not have a college degree, I work in construction, I'm very successful, and I'm very very happy."