The membership of WIA will decrease by 63% over the next eight years. The majority of the professional-level wallcovering installers are between the ages of 48 and 58. They can see the exit on the horizon. We should be wondering who’s going to come up behind these talented veterans and take the trade to the next decade. Yes, this is a cry for the very sustainability of the trade association for wallcovering installers, but it’s more than that. It’s a pure desire to rise the tide for new talent while passing down, quite literally, the tricks of the trade.
Should you Share the Secret Sauce?
With such a vast gap between potential new installers and veterans, there’s more to lose by not sharing the secret sauce. There simply isn’t enough new installers with the experience to fill the demand. But we can turn that trend around. By seeking an apprentice, or Table Mechanic as it’s also called, both the seasoned installer and the new installer benefit mutually. The Table Mechanic helps keep the installer on the ladder while the seasoned installer helps fast-track fresh new talent to professional level projects. The apprentice manages all the paper on the table and in return learns how to map out a room.
Hire to Your Weakness
Ever heard of the term, hire to your weakness? Heidi Wright Mead, professional wallcovering installer and WIA member since 2011, lives by this mantra and tasks her apprentice with office work too. Again it benefits both parties. Chances are you’re better with your hands than with the books, and an apprentice hungry for a creative, challenging career will benefit from understanding how to run the business side of the operation.
The installers of the 1980s are not even close to the installer they are today. Decades of experience hanging from hallways to high-end has made the members of the Wallcovering Installers Association an increasingly rare group of experts. But admission is open and the seasoned wallcovering installer is uniquely positioned to attract a young professional with the prospect of an exciting creative and independent career. This should be exciting for the lone-wolf that is the wallcovering installer. Joining up with the WIA as a mentor could mean rewarding benefits to help grow the art.
Creatives Helping Creatives
What we are seeing emerge today are creatives interested in entering the profession like Sarah Merenda, New York City, a gifted graphic artist installer and Katie Hunt, Toronto, a leading wallcovering installer as seen on HGTV. Also emerging is the need to spread awareness that the wallcovering installation business is a viable business for the Katie Hunts and Sarah Merendas out there but that is just graduating college and even high school. Wallcovering installers with 10+ years of experience who join the WIA are uniquely situated to impact the industry, to partner up with new creative talent, and to grow professionally with an apprentice.
The Motivating Factor
The attrition of wallpaper installers is at far more an alarming rate than the growth and that should be the motivating factor. What will the seasoned wallpaper installers of today leave behind for the next generation and beyond? Right now you have an opportunity to impact the big picture.
Dare I say it, but roughly 80 million millennials, the most diverse generation, highly educated, yet in debt, will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. But anybody can go out and grab those statistics. They are the largest generation in the workforce, so if you get this segment right, you’re on your way to reaching the largest pool of the population. Then, there’s even a new generation Z that research is pouring in about and generation Z has zero idea that a worthwhile, creative, hands-on, trade exists. That with hard work and valuable training it could amount to more reward than an entry-level job anywhere else. If WIA members and prospective WIA members are willing to lend a hand to lift up the trade, the reward is two-fold. Training tech-savvy newbies out of college could mean hungry talent to take on: more marketing, technical tasks and laborious jobs like emptying the truck, and, on the more altruistic side, a flourishing trade full of practiced professionals to leave behind.
Why Seasoned Installers Are Uniquely Positioned to Attract Talent
Installers offer a work environment where an apprentice can grow, gain feedback, and have a voice in the business. Wallcovering installers offer challenging work opportunities for an apprentice to learn. The apprentice relationship with the installer is an environment for coaching and mentorship, something very appealing to the millennial generation. Above all else the largest pool of population by 2025 are seeking flexibility and employability; two things rampant with the nature of hands-on work that is wallcovering installation. It is a very tangible skill to pass down and one that is creating complete independence to work for oneself. The flexibility to manage a schedule, a business, and what projects to work on makes the installer’s work friendly to the millennial mindset for flexibility. With all that going for the niche profession, it’s a wonder why demand soars, yet new installers lag.
Ways to be Attractive to Apprentices
You’ll want to offer informal, but consistent feedback to your Table Mechanic. Emphasize sustainable practices for sourcing paper and paste that have evolved in the industry. We aren’t where we were in the 1980s with paste and paper and millennials will appreciate having an impact on specifying sustainable paper. Next, while the industry offers flexibility, provide structure. Consider being clear up front with hours expected and a full scope of expectations. Your role as the mentor is to provide leadership opportunity while offering guidance. The work can be challenging, exciting, and fun. The mentor has the opportunity to share exciting projects of the business while guiding through challenges with learning curves, paper hanging instructions, and difficult walls.
- Avoid holding the apprentice back by not assigning them challenging work.
- Avoid not listening to their opinions and giving them the opportunity to feel heard and have an impact.
- Don’t be scared if your table talent sees you as an extended family
- Don’t hide business decisions, try maintaining an open and transparent environment
- Don’t miss out on teaching the operational side of the business since this will create independence and a clear path forward to self-dependence for the entrepreneurially minded apprentice.
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