At NARI’s Spring Business Meeting in Fort Lauderdale last month: Kayleen McCabe spoke to the attendees – industry leaders – about vocational education, which she strongly feels is underrepresented in American schools and even worse, undervalued in American culture.

Kayleen is a 30-something female contractor who landed her own home improvement television series back in 2008. Men and women in her family were handy, and no one raised an eyebrow at the calloused hands that also had long, painted fingernails. But over time, she realized that the viewing public clearly saw her, a female contractor, as against the grain.

In addition in realizing how sorely women are underrepresented in the trades, she also came face-to-face with how sorely the trades are underrepresented in society. So many people have attended four-year colleges because it’s the so-called respectable thing to do – only to change their minds later and become a contractor or electrician or plumber. Sometimes this trial and error cost them a lifetime’s worth of student debt. It’s an expensive cultural lie that’s not only hurting individuals, but hurting America’s labor force.

Her goal today is to fan the fire that burns down the “college is better than trades” mentality that persists despite so much evidence otherwise.

NARI’s Spring Business Meeting gave her a stage for this. She saw the nods of company CEOs who are short on qualified labor and who are tasked with approaching schools with curriculum requests just to get the labor they need. And the sad irony is that these are respectably-paid jobs! They shouldn’t be so hard to fill in an economy where grads with Bachelor’s Degrees are facing a one-two punch of joblessness and astronomical student loans. Could the push toward the trades be any more logical?

Look forward to the revolution about to take place – a revolution to reintroduce vocational education as a viable, respectful choice for our nation’s up-and-coming workforce. You can help Kayleen do her part in making this happen by following her as she tackles her next chapter: Overseeing a dozen high schoolers in the construction of a 7,000-square foot short-term stay facility for families dropping off loved ones at Spanish Peaks Veteran Community Living Center in Walsenberg, CO. Stay on top of their progress, and other news, by subscribing to YouTube channel – or by visiting Kayleen’s website – Series premiers in August.