Bridging the Skills Gap

posted on Feb. 13, 2020, at 9:12 a.m.

NKBA Staff

NKBA NextUp introduces the BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tour to fill urgent need for talent in design and construction professions. 

Hundreds of thousands of construction jobs go unfilled each month in the U.S., and that translates to lost opportunities for consumers and for students who don’t yet know that the kitchen and bath industry holds a lot of promise. A stagnant workforce adversely affects the kitchen and bath industry, as projects cost more and take longer to finish. According to an NKBA report released in November 2018, NKBA members indicated that 30% of their upcoming projects might experience long delays. Longer timeframes, in turn, mean that fewer projects can be completed.

While the NKBA is committed to inspiring the next generation of talent, we know there’s a considerable challenge of changing deeply ingrained attitudes in parents and students about post-high school career opportunities. Many students assume the only path to success requires a four-year college degree.

For this reason, the NKBA partnered with BridgeYear — a Houston-based nonprofit organization designed to enlighten students to the numerous career options that require less than a four-year degree—to launch the BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tour. The tour introduces high school seniors to lucrative and in-demand careers in the kitchen and bath industry that are outside the traditional four-year college degree path.

The Career Tour is the cornerstone of the NKBA NextUp initiative, which aims to recruit and empower a well-prepared workforce for the kitchen and bath industry. After launching in Houston, BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tours will expand outside Texas to reach just about 24,000 students in the next three years.

Students are active participants in Career Test Drive® stations that simulate finish carpentry, installation, kitchen and bath design, plumbing, electrical and showroom sales. The stations allow students to experience various kitchen and bath careers, while also gaining valuable insight into potential pathways they can pursue after graduation to capitalize on opportunities in the field.

For example, the Showroom Sales Career Test Drive station provides students with techniques and tips for driving sales to sustain a profitable kitchen and bath showroom business. Students who enjoy interacting with others and who have a genuine interest in improving the lives of other people will learn interpersonal communication techniques, such as listening and effective message delivery, for building customer relationships.

A BIG thank you to all the NKBA members in our Texas Gulf Coast Chapter who supported us when we launched on Jan. 10 by volunteering their time alongside the BridgeYear Career Test Drive Operators to help students learn more about kitchen and bath industry careers. As more students demonstrate an interest in kitchen and bath careers, NKBA local chapters — in collaboration with their wider network of design and construction industry allies — will light the local path to nurture and mentor them. For some highlights of the day’s events, watch the video above.

Following participation in the BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tour, students who are interested in learning more about job possibilities can connect to local full- and part-time employment and internship opportunities through the Jobs portal at These include opportunities they can pursue even while they are still in high school or after graduation.

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