I happened to bring along, Vinnie, a new carpenter on our crew, to EM NARI's February membership dinner and talk. He had no idea who Tedd Benson was. As Benson began to talk, I saw our newest carpenter’s eyes light up as his imagination, curiosity, and eagerness for knowledge was ignited, kindling a flame of excitement about our profession.
The Noble Profession
A major theme in this talk, and Benson’s life, revolves around a culture of training and education that is vastly missing now from our industry. Our profession, specifically carpentry, was once viewed as a vocation which was only achievable through a dedicated apprenticeship and training program. If you’ve ever worked with an old-timer, you know this type of carpenter.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Even though several of the trades — such as electrical and plumbing — retain formal training programs, the “majority of those currently working in residential construction,” Benson says, have “no more than a high school level education, no formal training in the work they daily perform, [and] training and supervision are often performed by those with few skills and little training themselves.” Benson points out that even “stylists and barbers have a MUCH higher standard” than carpenters.
Benson’s life’s work has been about the improvement of our industry. He was instrumental in helping to create apprenticeship programs for revitalizing timber-framing as an art. Although Benson’s companies, Bensonwood and (his newest addition) Unity Homes, focus on new construction, the idea of higher expectations in our field is the driving mandate behind the culture of carpentry lived by the employees/owners of Bensonwood & Unity. This sense of the carpenter as an experienced master craftsman informs the nature of the work done by everyone who helps to create the Bensonwood products.
As Benson points out, what more noble profession could we be involved with? We create the space in which the world lives. Our commitment to excellence is every bit as important as better healthcare, fresh air, and education. In the end, it falls to leaders such as Benson, such as us - the members of NARI, to carry the commitment to excellence to our employees and our clients. Our engagement with excellence helps ensure that the world in which our clients live, and the space in which our carpenters work, is a noble place to be.Justin Zeller is Owner & General Manager of Red House Custom Building, a design/build and home improvement company.