Nearly 6,000 Houston-area students got the chance to “test drive” lucrative design and construction careers through a program from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), an industry trade group representing the $158 billion residential kitchen and bath industry.

Half of the students attending the BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tours expressed high interest in one or more of the careers, while more than 90% of the participating students reported positive views about the occupations. 

These findings echo new NKBA research among a nationally representative sample of US high school students showing that the long-time stigma associated with the skilled trades is lessening. 

About half of the students NKBA surveyed said they were receptive to at least one of the skilled trades, while fewer than a quarter expressed concern that parents or peers would view such careers negatively. Almost all said they have at least a few friends who are considering skilled-trade careers.

Key findings: 

  • The top perceived benefits of kitchen and bath careers are the opportunity to be the boss, to build a business, help clients, and to create plans and designs;
  • Interest is nearly equal between male and female students. Females demonstrated a higher interest in careers where greater design work is involved. Males are slightly more interested in the potential for business entrepreneurship; and 
  • Smart home and AV/security specialty trades rank near the top in appeal among all the skilled trades.

"Our industry depends on a strong pipeline of craftspeople to survive and thrive," said Bill Darcy, NKBA chief executive officer. "Our national research, combined with our BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tours experience, tells us our data-driven approach is working to attract the new talent our industry needs.” 

Perceptions of Kitchen and Bath Careers

  • Early exposure to skilled trades would be beneficial to most students. About half became interested prior to high school, with the other half becoming interested during high school. Many of the latter group said they wished they had earlier exposure.
  • High school classes, social media and knowing someone in the skilled trades are the most common ways kids became interested in design and construction careers. 
  • Concerns about these careers centered around the impact of physical labor on their long-term well-being. 
  • In general, a better understanding of career paths would help attract more students, as only about one-quarter feel very informed on either topic. About 40% said they need a lot more information, including how they would get training if they want to run their own business. Students said the following activities would be helpful:
    • Field trips to local businesses;
    • One-on-one “day at work” visits with local skilled tradespeople;
    • Career days;
    • Field trips to technical colleges; and
    • Opportunities to meet and talk to kitchen and bath professionals.
  • The survey was conducted between March 23 and 30, 2020 with most respondents under stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 epidemic. Even at that time, however, more than three-quarters agreed with the statement that these skills would “always be in demand.”

“We launched NKBA NextUp after feedback from our members revealed that finding skilled labor was the number-one concern for their businesses,” Darcy said, adding that even in the most recent Kitchen & Bath Market Index (KBMI) conducted in April 2020, lack of skilled labor still ranks as a business concern among members.

“The current economic climate notwithstanding, the pipeline for skilled trades has been in decline, largely due to the elimination of shop classes and vocational training at many high schools in the US. In that same time, the industry has evolved to attract young people who are tech-savvy, as well as more females. 

“Based on how much home DIY activity is taking place now, we anticipate a post-pandemic surge in kitchen and bath remodeling activity when economic conditions ease,” Darcy continued. “After all this time spent in our homes, families are keenly aware of improvements they want to make and our members will need the human resources to bring those dreams to fruition. 

“Therefore, NKBA NextUp will be mobilizing our membership to provide information and introductions to our industry, including mentorships and internships.”

NKBA NextUp aims to recruit and empower a well-prepared workforce that will contribute to the future prosperity and vibrancy of the kitchen and bath industry. NKBA provides BridgeYear/NKBA Career Tours to schools at no cost and will expand to markets beyond Houston over the next two years — and possibly add virtual options — with the goal of impacting more than 24,000 high school students. For more information, visit