Steve Turner says he can’t grow his auto upholstery business in Rye, New Hampshire, because not enough young people are interested in learning the craft.
He’s not the only one. Electricians, plumbers and other tradespeople in the area are also worried that a shortage of skilled workers could stifle their success and cause prices to soar.
“I turn down more jobs than I can take,” Steve told local news website Fosters.
Steve owns Turner’s Upholstery, which he opened shortly after graduating Portsmouth High School 30 years ago. He, along with employee Ryan Burke, focus on restoring high-end vehicles.
Although Steve’s shop is successful, he wonders how long he can keep its doors open. He says too many tradespeople — including trimmers — are nearing retirement age, and that their businesses aren’t worth very much if there’s no one willing and able to take them over.
To call attention to the shortage of skilled workers, Steve printed “Bring Back the Trades” across the front of a hat and wore it around town.
The hat immediately garnered a lot of attention. In fact, a contractor friend saw the hat and ordered 12 for his crew. Not long after, an electrician ordered some with his trade seal added to the design.
Encouraged by the response, Steve launched a website selling hats bearing the message, along with seals for a range of trades: auto professionals, welders, electricians, plumbers, contractors, etc.
Within 30 days, Steve was selling hundreds of hats for $25 each to skilled workers in 28 states. Best of all, he was doing it for a good cause.
“Our goal is to donate a portion of (hat) sales to a scholarship program in which individuals can gain access to the trade education of their choice and ultimately gain employment in that field, which is vital to the growth of our nation,” said Steve.
He knows his hats won’t solve the shortage of skilled workers, but it could help draw attention to the issue. If he sells enough, he might even be able to fund the education of a few young trimmers.
Now that’s a cause we can get behind!
To support Steve’s mission to “Bring Back the Trades,” visit his website and Facebook page to buy a hat.
martin healy says
things are going to get worse before they can get better…with all the wyotechs closing i dont know where else offers an upholstery program…
Bob Roush says
McPherson College still offers auto upholstery.
Eddie Barrett Stryker Automotive & 73 Cycle says
We are always batteling the same struggle. Looking for talented upholsterers , body men, fabricators. and mechanics. We have been dabbling with seminars go try to accomplish the same thing. Figure if we bring some excitement an attention to our trade we might excite the younger generations into the frills.
Steve Gross says
I thought Steve was an upholster? Has no Trade hats for Upholsters ?? Sincerely confused
Steve…i thought the same thing. Perhaps they’re out of stock? Great article for all to think about. This country stopped making things wholesale back in the early 1990’s and it’s snowballed. Without manufacturing and production, the garment/textile/upholstery industry took a massive hit. From the age of 14-22 i spent all my summers buggy-lugging sewing machines from plants to our shop that went out of business or moved overseas.
As a result sewing machine operators, seamstresses, tailors, & technicians lost their jobs. The upholstery industry is making a little comeback, but 30+ years of expertise has now aged, moved, and/or retired. It’s a difficult mountain to climb.
There’s so many layers to this conversation and i’m glad there’s someone shedding light on it.
Anna Shier says
I wanted to get into the trade in Ontario, Canada and found it difficult to find a shop to take me on as an apprentice. I decided to attend training at Mobile Technical Training in New Jersey and have since decided to start my own shop, which has been a slow process. I would have loved to worked part time at a shop to learn the ropes and grow my skill set before going out on my own, but I am not working and have to pay the bills somehow. I love this trade but starting out is difficult when everyone is too busy to take you on as an apprentice to carry on the trade for generations to come. Maybe we should start another section in the job area for shops wiling to take on apprentices for those of us who would love to learn from an experienced trimmer.