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Luxury Products Group (LPG) is demonstrating its commitment to the future of the industry in a very tangible way — by establishing a scholarship fund for students pursuing higher education at colleges, universities or vocational schools.
There has been a dramatic decline in the number of tradespeople in the United States, particularly plumbers. More than half of America’s trade professionals are at or nearing retirement age. The majority of high schools began discontinuing their “shop” classes a decade ago, and teenagers are not being exposed to the opportunities available for a skilled trade workforce.
And the opportunities are ripe. Beyond the current need, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association (PHCC) projects 16 percent employment growth for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters through 2026. Meanwhile, according to a survey from the Copper Development Association, only 3 percent of the surveyed 18- to 25-year-olds would consider a career in the trades. The quest to recruit and retain the right employees is a concern at every level of the plumbing supply channel.
“LPG takes this issue seriously,” said Executive Director Jeff MacDowell. “So when David Hawkins [of David Hawkins Design Group] approached me with an idea to set up a scholarship program for post-secondary students who are interested in careers in our industry, I was wholeheartedly on board.”
The result is the establishment of the LPG-Hawkins Endowment Fund. Hawkins provided seed money and the inaugural scholarship of $500 will be presented at LPG’s 2020 Expo. Applicants should be in the immediate household family of members, vendors and their employees. They must show a proven interest in the decorative bath and kitchen industry, and intend to remain in the industry following completion of their post-secondary education. The winner will be selected by the LPG Advisory Committee.
Hawkins himself has a background in construction, which he said has been a great asset in his showroom design projects. He also has very solid, conservative investment knowledge and will assist in the fund management. Hawkins recently published a book called "Ask the Mailman" that includes a section on stocks and investments.
“This is important for our future,” Hawkins commented. “My goal is that this generates communication between LPG members, their employees and families about career opportunities in the construction industry. We also hope that members and vendors will join in contributing to the fund. As it grows, we will be able to fund the scholarships from dividends it generates without touching the principal. We hope to build a fund that is large enough to support multiple scholarships annually in the years to come.”
MacDowell noted that through this and other initiatives, LPG is preparing members for the future and encouraging a new generation to become part of the plumbing industry.
“LPG is taking the lead in launching programs that provide a greater level of support for its members and vendors,” he said. “The growth of our membership over the past year is a reflection of those efforts. Having an active educational fund will complement our other initiatives and may lead to even more interest in being part of LPG.”