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National Kitchen & Bath Association Launches NKBA NextUp Workforce Initiative

Jan 23, 2020

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Multi-Tiered Program Aims to Recruit and Empower the Next Generation of Talent to Fill Urgent Need of Jobs in the Design and Construction

INDUSTRY SHOW (January 22, 2020)
― The National
Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the authority on all things residential
kitchen and bath, today launched NKBA NextUp, an initiative which aims to recruit and empower a
well-prepared workforce for the kitchen and bath industry.

2026, 750,000 jobs are expected to open up in the design and construction
industry, with hundreds of thousands of construction jobs currently going
unfilled each month in the U.S. A stagnant workforce adversely affects the
kitchen and bath industry as projects take longer to finish. NKBA members
reported in 2019 that 30 percent of their upcoming projects might experience
long delays. Longer timeframes, in turn, mean that fewer projects can be

jobs in the design and construction industry may be attributed to consistent messages to students and
their parents that the most accessible path to success starts with a four-year
college degree. Four-year college degrees are one way, but not the only way,” said Bill Darcy, NKBA chief executive officer. “To attract the best talent, NKBA
NextUp will engage with a wide network of students who have interest, curiosity, or an
entrepreneurial drive that is more compatible with a hands-on career in the
kitchen and bath industry, so they are aware of the many paths to

NKBA NextUp will approach this in three ways:

  • Create hands-on experiences
    that introduce high school students to the craft of design and construction.
  • Change the dialogue about
    career paths, raising awareness that there are many pathways to lucrative and
    stimulating work creating safe, beautiful and functional spaces in the heart
    and soul of the home.
  • Connect interest to action
    through our chapters, building strong networks of local talent that will
    deliver an exceptional experience to all homeowners who want to improve their
    kitchens and bathrooms.

1. Create a Hands-On

The cornerstone of NKBA
NextUp is BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tour, bringing six interactive kitchen and
bath career simulations to high schools. Through exercises
in finish carpentry, installation, kitchen and bath design, plumbing, electrical
and showroom sales set up as stations around the school gym, high school
students are active participants in “trying on” various careers. Students gain
valuable insight into potential vocational pathways they can pursue after
graduation that are alternatives to the traditional four-year college degree

“With the elimination of
shop classes, most of today’s high school students never get a chance to
experience the craft and design involved in home building and remodeling,”
Darcy said.

NKBA partnered with
BridgeYear, an innovative non-profit that enlightens students about career
options that require less than a four-year degree. After launching in Houston BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tours will expand outside Texas and expects to
impact more than 24,000 students by year three.

In addition, NKBA
launched a philanthropic community restoration endeavor to encourage its local
chapters to engage the next generation of construction and design talent in the
hands-on process of renovating a public building that delivers vital services
to its community. The NKBA Rocky Mountain Chapter submitted the winning
proposal to renovate the kitchen at a non-profit community center in Colorado.
The Mountain Resource Center provides food-pantry access, nutrition education,
cooking classes and a wide variety of other health and human services for its
community. “This experience will help students see the real-life impact of
skills-based kitchen and bath careers and how it makes a tangible difference in
people’s lives,” Darcy said.

In a third
hands-on experience, NKBA NextUp is facilitating a “Kitchen of the Future” and a STEM Kitchen Robot competition at a middle
school near NKBA’s N.J. headquarters. The purpose is to illustrate the
intersection of technology and robotics with design, building and practical
applications in everyday life.

2. Change the Dialogue
About Career Paths

NKBA will launch a national awareness campaign this spring targeting
young adults, their parents, educators and other influencers about kitchen and
bath industry careers. The campaign builds on Darcy’s extensive advocacy about
kitchen and bath careers to date, which has included appearances on FOX
Business, CNBC and other outlets.

“NKBA NextUp is not anti-college; it is pro-career,” Darcy said. “We
seek to change the dialogue to ensure that kids and their parents know that
there are many paths to career and financial success after graduation.”

The campaign will include original NKBA research to assist in
identifying questions and concerns that teens may have about the industry.

3. Connect Interest to Action Through the NKBA Chapters

As more students demonstrate an interest in kitchen
and bath careers, NKBA local chapters — in collaboration with their wider
network of local design and construction industry allies — will light the local
path to nurture and mentor them.

It all comes
together on the Jobs portal, where NKBA is expanding the job posting
possibilities so members can post part-time jobs and internships that are open
to students even while they are still in high school.

“How will our
chapters support NKBA NextUp? A great start is to simply invite youth in, which
many of our chapters already do, through special career days at shops, studios,
and showrooms,” Darcy noted. “Now, with NKBA NextUp, our chapters will be able
to better connect with potential talent while students can learn more about how
a variety of kitchen and bath businesses thrive.”

Similarly, NKBA
has invited students from the Clark County School District in Las Vegas to KBIS
for the second year in a row. The number of participating students doubled in
2020 to 300 in total, compared to 150 in 2019. Follow-up research after the
2019 event revealed that 75
percent of the students who participated said they were more interested in a
career in design and construction after attending.

“We know we have a big job ahead of us to attract the best possible
talent that will contribute to the future prosperity and vibrancy of the
kitchen and bath industry,” Darcy said. “It’s a tall order, but exactly what a
trade association is designed to do: raising the level of professionalism by
inspiring, leading and empowering each member of our community.

For more information about NKBA NextUp, please visit


About the National Kitchen & Bath Association

The National
Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is the not-for-profit trade association
that owns the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show® (KBIS), as part of
Design & Construction Week® (DCW). With nearly 50,000 members in
all segments of the kitchen and bath industry, the NKBA has educated and led
the industry since the association’s founding in 1963. The NKBA envisions a
world where everyone enjoys safe, beautiful and functional kitchen and bath
spaces. The mission of the NKBA is to inspire, lead and empower the kitchen and
bath industry through the creations of certifications, marketplaces and
networks. For more information, visit or call 1-800-THE-NKBA