Kuiken Brothers gives high school students a taste of the LBM industry.
One of the key challenges facing our industry is an aging workforce and a lack of sharp young people to bring onboard. As with any challenge, we can wait and hope that the situation solves itself, or we can come up with creative ways to get tomorrow’s workforce interested in our industry. Fair Lawn, N.J.-based Kuiken Brothers Lumber & Building Materials, a LBM dealer with eight locations serving the residential and commercial construction market, clearly prefers the latter option.
For the second year in a row, Kuiken Brothers invited a group of 16 students to tour and learn about the operation in hopes of sparking interest in possible careers in the LBM industry. The students, attendees from Sussex County Technical School, Sparta Township, N.J., along with their Computer Aided Drafting instructor, Thomas Makris, learned about Kuiken Brothers’ 101- year history, and enjoyed a tour of the showroom filled with window, door, decking and moulding displays.
“We’ve given plenty of tours to people in the industry that really know their stuff, and are familiar with best practices,” says Matthew D. Kuiken, vice president of Operations. “Walking students through the facility makes you break things down a little further, and analyze your operation at the ground level. The simplicity of the industry is fascinating when you don’t let yourself over-complicate things.”
The idea of drawing interested students to Kuiken Brothers started not too long ago when the company began to offer open invitations to local community colleges, technical schools and continuing educational programs during its customer events. The first group of students, who toured the yard in 2012, got a behind-the-scenes look at a lumberyard, and a taste of the training that Kuiken Brothers offers to its customers.
“We were impressed then with the level of interest and focus the students had, that we didn’t hesitate to invite the school back to our facility,” Kuiken explains. Just recently, the students—each enrolled in the school’s CAD and Design Technology program—not only toured the 16-acre lumberyard, but they were also introduced to cabinet designers who educated them a bit more about the custom design process when building or remodeling kitchens. The experience allowed the students to gain a stronger understanding about the retail and distribution aspect of the business, outlining the process for shipping and receiving materials, juggling inventory demands and customer service.
“We thought it was very successful,” Kuiken says. “We hope the students learned a little bit about what we do at Kuiken Brothers, and the LBM industry. From my perspective, it was encouraging to know that there are inquisitive, bright students out there who just may have an interest in joining this industry someday.”