In the early 1980s, America was bombarded with huge building material box stores that touted, you can do-it-yourself. Millions of folks bought into the notion and a huge new DIY retail industry was created. There seems to be a shift in that movement and the DIY industry is now waning.
What is causing the decline? Is it due to changes in culture and government building regulations?
For Americans over the age of 45, projects and chores around the house were never hired out. For most families that wasn’t even an option. Children were taught how to fix and maintain cars, do minor home repairs and take care of the yard.
Today, most children are raised in single-parent homes where there is no one to teach, encourage, or supervise them in doing home projects.
Most schools in America had mandatory shop class and other programs that ignited the DIY fire within students. Students learned basic skills such as how to use tools and properly measure and cut items — skills they could use both in the workplace and at home. Those programs were mostly discontinued because of liability issues or because of a shift in focus on classes that help students memorize and pass some government mandated test. Along with the demise of these programs was the demise of potential trades people that would be born out of them.
America is creating a generation that has no mechanical skills and no inclination to learn them. They are more concerned about the latest piece of handheld technology than doing hands on work. Heck, most young people today have never even cut grass or used a power drill. That’s a shame.
Government is the leading force in the decline of the DIY market. Thirty years ago, family and friends completed many home projects such as roofing, plumbing, siding, and door replacements. Today, because of government regulations in regards to permitting, licensing, and codes, most of these projects are illegal to do yourself. So, the consequences of these government regulations are homes in disrepair as fewer people have the ability to do for themselves.
Naturally, DIY is not for everyone and hiring a licensed and insured contractor is usually the best choice for a major home improvement project. Many home improvement shows and seminars mislead people as they fail to show that they use the best tools and highly skilled professionals to complete their jobs. However, government, with all of its building codes, is creating a class of dependent homeowners when it comes to fixing anything around the home.
Despite stubbornly high unemployment numbers in America and the fact that permits in Florida remain down 40 percent, finding skilled, mechanically inclined workers is almost impossible. As the older generation of skilled craftsman and weekend do-it-yourself warriors retires and passes away, who is going to take their place?
Unless something changes you can expect the cost of wages in the construction industry to soar and construction wait times to be extended because of a limited workforce.
What will we do without skilled workers in the construction industry? America must reignite that independent do-it-yourself fire in our young people and get them back to work.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber and Supply Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” radio show heard every Monday at noon at My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.