Need help installing that new bathtub? Get in line.
Finding a handyman to work on your house is close to impossible these days as Koreans splurge on home renovation, leaving companies rushing to train their own specialists.
Dan Ho-cheol, who renovates homes for a living, is so busy that he barely has time to do anything else. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed many Koreans to take on home remodeling projects, with some renovating their whole house and some redecorating parts of the kitchen, living room or bathroom.
The people that do these jobs, classified as home renovation workers in Korea, tend to be specialists trained in specific tasks, from laying out tiles and carpets to building furniture or installing doors and windows.
“I’ve been getting twice as much work since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s impossible for me to accept all the orders because I have a tight schedule,” said Dan. “I receive extra commissions based on the size of the furniture I install, and I’m now earning over 100 million won ($90,000) a year.”
Some home improvement tasks can be managed by any local handyman — assembling your new couch or putting up some shelves, for example — but others require specialists.
Tasks like installing bathtubs, tiling and replacing window sashes need experienced workers, but finding those people is getting increasingly difficult. It used to take less than a week for customers to find the specialist they needed, but now waiting more than 15 days to get that bathtub fitted is common.
Most home renovators work as freelancers or are employed by subcontracting firms working with home furnishing or interior design companies. After those companies receive renovation requests, the companies hire workers on a contractual basis, paying a daily wage of 250,000 won to 300,000 won on average. Those with years of experience tend to receive up to 500,000 won to 600,000 won a day.
“Home renovation workers with one to two years of experience receive 50 million won annually,” said a spokesperson for Hanssem. “Those with more than three years of experience in the field earn more than 100 million won a year.”
Local furniture manufacturers are now starting to train their own personnel as it becomes more difficult to find available skilled contractors.
Hanssem established Hanssem Academy in January to train new recruits and existing contractors. The academy will teach them how to use construction equipment and install furniture or flooring. The program will be conducted during a period as short as 10 days or up to two months. Those who finish the training program will receive additional field training, working as an assistant contractor under Hanssem for six to 12 months.
The furniture manufacturer currently has some 4,000 workers registered under its subcontracting companies, but it plans to increase that number to 6,300 by end of year through its training program.
Hanssem also introduced the craftsman system, awarding a craftsman title to its skilled workers. In April, the company named seven of its workers with some 20 years of experience as licensed craftsmen.
Hyundai Livart teamed up with Gyeonggido Job Foundation to set up a special curriculum at Hankook Construction Vocational College, training students in home renovation, woodwork and furniture and home appliance installation. The company will provide a three-week field training session for 80 students who finish the program in September.
“We have some 300 teams of renovation workers who work alone or in teams of four,” said a spokesperson for Hyundai Livart. “We plan to foster new workers so that we can increase the number by 30 percent this year.”
According to the Construction & Economy Research Institute of Korea, the interior design market was worth 41 trillion won last year and is expected to grow to 60 trillion won this year. The home decor market is continuing to develop, but the number of experienced renovators is insufficient to keep up with the rapid growth. Working with an adequate number of skilled home construction workers will determine which company secures its competitive edge.
BY KIM KYUNG-MI [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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