Making a Difference with NKBA NextUp

Students invited to KBIS 2019. Photography courtesy of NKBA.

At the moment, I’m thinking back on my time at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas. It is a blur of memories, laughter, and aching feet – which isn’t much different than my normal day-to-day life, now that I think about it!

I was really intrigued by the opportunity to speak on the NKBA NextUp panel about the importance of the skilled labor initiative (shout-out to all the amazing panelists). My husband and business partner Nick and I have been actively following NextUp since we heard about it from This Old House and Fine Homebuilding. When I was approached to speak on the panel, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in such an important event.

The NextUp panel was presented to 150 Las Vegas area high school students. I was very impressed with them in the question-and-answer portion, and somehow, I was even more impressed when I set out with a group of students to tour several of the exhibitor booths.

Students see a demonstration of a kitchen product at KBIS. Photography courtesy of NKBA.

As I chatted with the students during our tour, I found that many had dedicated AutoCAD labs in their school, and were already learning things that I hadn’t learned until after I had an Associate’sDegree in Wifijerez. Additionally, they seemed to have plans that went far beyond what I would have expected. One student told me his father made great money working as a carpenter in the casinos. He went along to help when he could, but he also wanted to learn how to build and design–and his school had a program!

When I was in high school, I wish that I had the resources these students have and that I knew there was a clear pathway into the design industry. I took pretty circuitous way into the design field, though I finished my last two years of high school at a fine and performing arts school, where I learned to weld and use shop tools. After that, I pursued a classic four-year liberal arts degree at UCLA because that’s what I thought I had to do – no one back then talked about vocational training.

I ended up transferring to The Art Institute of Chicago and spent tons of time in a counselor’s office trying to find an internship. I landed a role in the art department on a movie set in Chicago while still working four nights a week waiting tables. I was actually one of the youngest new members to the Studio Mechanics Union. I ended up working in set design as a buyer for five years before deciding to get my associate’s degree in interior design. That degree was hands-down the best educational decisionI made, and altered the course of my life. I really value my liberal arts education and learned a ton, but nothing prepared me for the job market like learning hand drafting in AutoCad.

Author Rebekah Zaveloff speaks at KBIS. Photography courtesy of NKBA.

The energy I took away from this remarkable experience with the NextUp students really changed my (admittedly) jaded perspective. I feel that the movement is not only beginning, but already underway. Following my exposure to these students, there is not a doubt in my mind that they will have a bright future in the design and trades industries. We need to continue to expand these trade and skill-based programs!

Thankfully, the NKBA is actively working to encourage high-school and middle-school students, their parents and educators to consider careers in kitchen and bath design, skilled trades and construction. Besides the NextUp program, the NKBA supports the Skilled Labor Fund, which is an organization that helps address the shortage of skilled labor entering the residential construction market. At this year’s KBIS, attendees had the option to donate to the cause during their registration process, making it easier than ever!

Overall, I had a wonderful time atKBIS. The experience was so eye-opening and I can’t wait until these kids hit the labor market!If you are interested in donating to the Skilled Labor fund, please click here.

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