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Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ?

james e mcgrew  Member

Website: mcgrewwoodwork.com

Reading thru BLS for Bench carpenters was both helpful and disappointing. We a need a skill force coming up from the High schools who can do math and have some hope for a career


9/13/20       #2: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
Patrick S Gilbert

All manufacturing is becoming more and more automated.

As witnessed by a dearth of activity here this also applies to woodworking.

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9/13/20       #3: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...

I think that with CNC equipment, and the fact that, for those companies that have it, the vast majority of job planning and layout is done in the office, and the vast majority of the cutting is done by the equipment, the concept of a cabinetmaker seems to have been reduced to that of being an assembler.

Do you give something difficult to a jorneyman cabinetmaker to take care of, or do you invest the time in figuring out how to do this with a CNC, such that most anyone in the shop can then assemble it?

Many shops are big on "crosstraining" towards their particular project needs, versus investing in the development of a journeyman cabinetmaker. There seems to be less need for a journeyman cabinetmaker, and perhaps the younger generation are wondering what this job will look like 20 years from now, and as such are leaning more towards learning something that is more transportable and has lasting employment value.

The money does not seem to be there for a bench person; I was making more on a bench 20 years ago than is the average wage now, and I had benefits as well.

For those of us with four decades in the trade, and having seen the evolution of the trade in that time, would you recommend this line of work to your child?

Its not like it used to be, and it seems that only so many people are needed in a mid-size shop that require the knowledge and skill that a cabinetmaker required 20 years ago.

If I were making a career chioce today, I would not get into this line of work. Would you?


9/14/20       #4: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
Mark B Member

To me the unfortunate part of the situation is beyond the shop floor/assembler position, this is one of those trades/jobs/careers where individuals have to have both a desire and a bit of an aptitude for it. You can have a young person with all the passion in the world who is just mechanically flubbed, or you can have the ones that are decent with their hands but are duds and have no drive/desire. Then of course all thats in between. Its a non-stop hope and pursuit for a decent mix (forget about the perfect mix) but Im honestly not sure its a "career" your going to court a lot of young people into as opposed to other options. The STEM programs were/are very uplifting to see but Im not even sure they are rolling like anyone hoped.

I try very hard not to be pessimistic and cynical and with every person that comes through the shop and pour all my hope into them if for nothing else so ten years down the road when what they chose not to absorb while they were here, the lightbulb lights up, they got something out of it (a scenario Ive had many return visits from past employees talking about).

I dont honestly know that exposure in the grade schools or higher pay/better benefits is truly going to attract a lot more high caliber individuals to the trade but anything is worth a shot. More than a job, at the bench level seems to me its more something you are good at or enjoy and getting a paid a good wage is just a bonus. But then of course you have to have a consumer mindset that will also support those shops.

We have courted the local high school vocational programs and honestly the level at which most of these young people are accustomed to living wont be satisfied by a lot of the higher starting wages kicked around.

Beyond industry moving to automation a large part of society has just moved beyond working with their hands and then further compounding the situation all the wants and desires of daily life often times doom a 30-40k a year job where you have also really must use your brain and apply yourself. So then its back to compensating mechanics and carpenters more commensurate with doctors and lawyers and that drum has been beaten since the 70's and never changed and brings you right back to the consumer.

9/14/20       #5: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
Patrick S Gilbert

Plumbing jobs are projected to grow 14% in the next 10 years

Code writers are projected to shrink 9% in the next 10 years

Book publishers are projected to shrink 4%

Same as cabinetmakers...

The US has become a service country but remains a close second in manufacturing volume China = 2 trillion US=1.867 Trillion

Home sales are going to be up for the next 4 years

There are 140 million existing homes in the US, they will always be cheaper than new homes.

New homes create more jobs as they require all the trades

The future is created by the individual creating his future more than anything else.

9/14/20       #6: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
Mark B Member

What you, and your numbers, fail to acknowledge is that the cost of all of that has gone up but the cost to the consumer has pretty much remained the same. The home builder, the plumber, the HVAC guy, electrician, on and on, have been able to raise their rates only slightly over the past 20 years which barely covers overhead, all the while having to install lower and lower grade product supplied by the corporates, and having to stand behind, spend time educating, defending their bid submissions, on and on. Thats all expense that the builders, contractors, suppliers, will never be reimbursed for, and they will wind up often times just going with the end users cheaper option with the sole intent of just walking away but in the reality of it all they will wind up trying to, or having to, stand behind the neverending drive to cheap.

You can slice it and dice it anyway you see fit. I "did" the homebuilding thing for 35 years fighting against the steady degradation in quality of goods the entire time. Sometimes often times winnings, a few times losing. The "commodity" building market your numbers speak to are already supplying the dog poop which again means zero for the "small shop" other than a potential back side remorse, we shot ourselves in the foot, job, which is yet again a loser that wont be paid for.

The market has simply changed. The Mcmansion thing has been beat to death here. The wealthiest neighborhoods in my area park their Aston Martin right next to the Honda Civic at Walmart every week. Your numbers speak to shops grovelling for low margin scraps to get a piece of the lowest hanging fruit.

There is not a spec' home, or a semi custom new home, within 40 miles of our shop that will try to source quality semi custom locally made cabs. People just dont shop that way any longer.

So now its left to builders, architects, interior designers, and the shops themselves, to try to market a product to a client that is drunk on the perceived bargain and simplicity of corporate purchases. Which is where the "maker movement" has thrived. A movement of individuals who are working for a nickel on the the dollar attempting to pay into a possible powerball ticket if they hit 100K subscribers or get an HGTV deal showcasing their horrific workmanship.

I honestly cant think of the last new home built around, or builder Ive come in contact with, that didnt use the lowest end production cabs and interiors (light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, valves, switches, well pumps, roof shingles, windows and doors, you name it.

There are the exceptions and the areas catering to the wealthy but again.. even in those places you will see husky buckets, blue hawk, on and on...

The times have changed... its not to say give in, but just be smart enough to adjust.

9/14/20       #7: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
Patrick S Gilbert

Cabinets are Expensive

Ikea appeals to a lower budget

Areas that have more money value the prestige of custom cabinets that accommodate the rich guys ego

Not sure that is a new thing

Admittedly the numbers reflect the aggregate data not the geographic or demographic cohorts

9/15/20       #8: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...

The home builder, the plumber, the HVAC guy, electrician, on and on, have been able to raise their rates only slightly over the past 20 years
That has not been my experience in my area (North Cty, San Diego) My plumber went from $55/hr to $110/hr in the span of 4-5 years. Sparkies I use, even more. I'm sure geo location has alot to do with it.

9/15/20       #9: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
Kostas Member

it is inevitable evolution.

doesn't mean we have to like it.


9/18/20       #10: Jobs and only 100 k in the USA ? ...
David R Sochar Member

The woodworking industry (read: fragmented, disorganized, slow and dull-witted) is splitting apart. The bulk of workers are just that - workers, not techs, not craftsmen, not skilled workers. CNC operation is a skill, but not limited to woodwork. Evolution separated the hourly workers from the craftsmen that perform work well beyond cutting up bunks of panels. The workers will be 90% of the industry. The other 10% will be those that work with wood, but do not make cabinets of the usual sort: Boatbuilders, aircraft builders, custom furniture makers, carvers, recreators, sign makers, etc.

So Woodweb will evolve also, and owners and mangers will be the only respondents for the most part. The workers, what of them that can be found, will be largely plug and play, as interchangeable as autoworkers or other evolved 'jobs'.

The work we do daily is complex and demanding. Being a 'worker' will not cut it in most cases We need people that can think, that have a fire, a passion, people willing to live their work. This does not mean 60-80- hrs a week, it means looking up 18th Century fence designs for a client, making 3-4 sketches of different designs to help a customer decide. It means you have to make a machine to make curved wooden rope molding. No one will tell you how to make the molding, much less the machine.

So....I'll still be here looking out to my colleagues across the landscape for help, or offering and sharing when that is needed. But I have no interest in what has become 'cabinetmaking' or the management of same.

So yes, my world is large and busy and interesting - growing in fact. It may be the segment of the industry I am in, or location, or combinations of... No matter, I am making hay whilst I can, and enjoying it all.

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