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We need more women in construction: Cindy Stumpo on skills gap

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Founder of C. Stumpo Development, Cindy Stumpo is a renowned developer and luxury residential home builder. She joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to discuss the housing market, her vast experience in the industry, and encouraging women to follow a career track in construction.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, we have been watching a lot of the figures from the housing market very carefully. And we're joined now by Cindy Stumpo. She is C Stumpo Development founder. She is also a sometime host on HGTV as well as on the radio and podcast. She's joining us as part of our Women in Money segment brought to you by USAA.

Cindy, I want to start with you with what is going on in the housing market. You're a builder, a builder of luxury homes in particular. What are you seeing here, and how much are people-- I know building in some areas has been deemed an essential service. What's going on with your company right now?

CINDY STUMPO: OK, so we have been-- and by the way, hi, Julie. Nice to meet you.


CINDY STUMPO: We've been jammed. We've been busy. We haven't stopped. So yes, we were essential from day one. So we're running around with masks on and doing it the proper way.

What am I seeing? I'm seeing right now in Massachusetts, in Boston that the generation between the ages of 33 to 43 with children want to come out of Boston to come into the burbs. So that's what I'm seeing. I'm seeing single-family homes are high, and the condo market I'm just starting to follow to see if it's going to decrease, and I think it's going to.

And again, I play in the high-end market. So I've been building for 33 years here, so I've seen many different markets. I've never seen a pandemic market yet.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Hey, it's Adam--

CINDY STUMPO: We're not seeing a slowdown. I'm not seeing a slowdown here.

ADAM SHAPIRO: It's Adam Shapiro. And I've got to ask you, so I appreciate you're in the luxury end, but there's got to be a ton of money to be made in that middle sector because these young millennials with young children who want to be in the burbs-- there's already a housing shortage, isn't there?

CINDY STUMPO: There's been a housing shortage now for probably about nine years. Since we came out of '08. So once '11 hit, in '12. '13, by '14, '15, we're in a housing shortage. But when you're saying middle-end market, what's middle-end market to you?

ADAM SHAPIRO: It depends where you live, right? Like Boston, I would imagine, is going to be more expensive than, you know-- I don't know, Akron, Ohio.

CINDY STUMPO: So if you're coming-- let's give you an example. I'm sure everybody knows Boston College.


CINDY STUMPO: Most people know Boston College. So if you're coming out of Boston and you want to live near Boston College entry level in Newton, Boston College, you're going to spend $2.4 to $3.4 million-- million, right? My high-end market runs between $5 and $10 million. So you're asking--

ADAM SHAPIRO: I'm going to Akron, actually, at those prices.

CINDY STUMPO: OK, so you either want to go further out. You can get-- you know, keep jumping towns and cities, and the numbers are still up there around in Boston.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Sandy. Rick Newman here. What's happening--


RICK NEWMAN: What's happening-- by the way, a Boston College grad. I know that area well.

CINDY STUMPO: Congratulations.

RICK NEWMAN: What is happening with beach properties? I'm interested. A lot of people want to escape to the beach, but now we're also told that can be a dangerous place to be as well. You have to stay apart-- away from everybody.

CINDY STUMPO: You know what? I can't-- I really can't tell you what's going on with beach properties. I will tell you this. Nantucket's high. The Vineyard's still high, OK?

You've taking a beach. You went to Boston College. Who would ever think that Revere Beach would pull the numbers Revere Beach is pulling in condos-- before this pandemic, by the way.

RICK NEWMAN: So I can't even afford a place on Revere Beach?

CINDY STUMPO: You might be. Maybe [INAUDIBLE].

RICK NEWMAN: Horrible news.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Go to Old Orchard.


ADAM SHAPIRO: Old Orchard Beach, Maine. You can afford that.

CINDY STUMPO: Yes you can. But again, those prices have inflated too over the years. Nantucket and the Vineyard, forget about it. As we say, forget about it.

JULIE HYMAN: That's what we say down in New York too. I want to-- I want to switch gears and talk about another interest of yours, and that is getting people into your business, and in particular through vocational schools, right, because I know that's something that you have focused on. And in particular, I'm curious how you get more women into the business because you're kind of a pioneer in that way.

CINDY STUMPO: Yeah, pioneer means old, but actually, yes, 33 years in building. It's actually funny. I have a running joke, and that is I once owned a construction company. Now I own an adult daycare center, and now I'm the police mask. So I'm running a lot-- I'm wearing a lot of hats out here right now. Wear your masks. Do your job.

33 years ago when I started this business, men were out there at 6:30. They had their hard hats on. They had their coffee. Up and running. 7 o'clock those machines were going, and we weren't skipping a beat.

Today you're calling guys on the phone going, where are you? It's 10:00. So the next generation doesn't work like my generation did or my parents' generation.

And so we're running into what they call the skill-gap problem, which by the way I've heard on the media for, like, the last six years. I had a TV show on HGTV. We were talking about in '08, '09. I said when we came out of this recession we were going to have a skill-gap problem, and we're in it, and we've been in it for six years now. We don't have enough good labor force, nor females nor males.

And this is the part that pushes me back because it's all stigma related here. If you know who your kid is and your kid is not college material, why not alternative education? We don't even have to call it vocational school if that bothers some parents. If you know your kid's a tinkerer, send them off. Let them learn something they can do with their hands to make a living.

Not every kid makes a living with their brain. Some make a living with their hands. I'm 33 years in construction, guys. I was a C/D student. I ran a multimillion-dollar company today 33 years later. Why? Because I learned a trade.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Well, what about, you know, alternatives like my mother from Portland, Maine, who went to Pine Manor in your neck of the woods when it was a two-year--


ADAM SHAPIRO: Not necessarily, you know, a [INAUDIBLE]-- my mother is quite smart. No offense. You know, you don't need to get the four-year degree, right?

CINDY STUMPO: Right, but when your mother went to Pine Manor-- and I live on Yarmouth Road, which is right next door to Pine Manor, OK?


CINDY STUMPO: So that being said, Pine Manor back then was an all-female school. So that tells me that her parents wanted her then-- wanted their daughter to have an education. All-girls school, pretty easy school back then. Let's call it what it is. And it's pretty easy school now, OK? But Daddy wanted his daughter to have an education or Mommy did. So they went to Pine Manor. They went to Mount [? Ida. ?] So you're very-- you're all familiar with Boston. I love it. Go ahead.

ADAM SHAPIRO: My mom's a lawyer. She'd whip you in court, but that's another story.

CINDY STUMPO: There you go. See, so she went off from Pine Manor. She made a career with herself-- for herself. Thank you. But, no, we need--

JULIE HYMAN: This is a great--

CINDY STUMPO: --more women. We need women. You know why? Ask me why we need more women in construction.

JULIE HYMAN: Why do we need more women in construction, Cindy?

CINDY STUMPO: Because we are so multitaskable. We can do everything. We can have two kids, one on our leg, one in our arms, and that's why I worked the 33 years. Listen--

ADAM SHAPIRO: And drive Storrow Drive.

CINDY STUMPO: What's that?

ADAM SHAPIRO: And navigate Storrow Drive.

CINDY STUMPO: And navigate Storrow Drive while you're putting on mascara, OK? So there you go, OK, with two kids.

No, it's just a great field. I wish the stigma would just leave and just say, hey, look it. When my parents-- I grew up Dudley Road, Newton, OK? Came from the north shore of Boston till I was 13. So that was a culture shock. Your mother went from Maine to Chestnut Hill too.

But at the end of the day, this is, like-- I love what I do every day. My parents used to say, yeah, my daughter's a builder 33 years ago, and they were very proud to say my daughter the builder. Why do parents have a problem saying my son the plumber, my daughter the electrician? Everybody wants to see my son the lawyer, my daughter the doctor, my this, my that. You've lived your life. Now let your kids live their lives.

Now as parents, it's our job to guide our kids into what we can help them. If we see that our kid's a tinkerer and not an A/B student, why are we sending them off another four years, have another couple hundred thousand dollars worth of college debt, depending on the school they go to. And then they're coming out of school and they're making $15 an hour.

A laborer in my business-- a laborer, somebody that knows nothing about construction-- is making $25 to $28 a union-- $25 to $28 not being in the union. Go in the union, it's more than that. Go get a job at Bloomingdale's. It's $15 an hour. So where's the bad advice? [INAUDIBLE]

JULIE HYMAN: Cindy I love this message, and it's a good reminder that the skills gap does not just exist in IT, which is what we tend to talk about. We got to leave it there.

Cindy Stumpo, thank you so much. It was a great pleasure [INAUDIBLE].

CINDY STUMPO: Thank you for having me.

JULIE HYMAN: --and have you on the program. Cindy Stumpo is C Stumpo Development founder. We'll be right back.