The problem: our perception. The solution: our perception.
In case you didn’t know, there’s a shortage of skilled labor right now. In other words, companies are saying, “Hey Millenials, we have job openings that we’re willing to pay money for!” and not enough people are taking them up on it.
Why is that?
I mean, aren’t college grads in need of jobs to pay back all those student loans? Well, in this article I’d like to take a stab at answering the question of why Millenials aren’t interested in the trades, by and large.
Who’s to blame? Maybe our culture’s skewed perception of the trades.
While I’m sure there are a number of factors that play into the labor shortage right now, there’s one I want to propose and address in this article:
Our culture has been taught and is passing on, a poor perception of the trades.
Let me give a few examples. Here’s bad perception #1…
“Vo-tech is for dumb kids.”
The trades have had a bad reputation for far too long. And for many of us, it started back in high school.
Think about it: when you’re a little boy (or girl) you get toy hammers or tools and pretend to build and create things. Nobody looks down on you or thinks less of you because you want to work with your hands. But then you get to high school, and suddenly the culture changes.
You’re expected to learn like everyone else: cramming (sometimes useless) facts into your mind, so you can regurgitate the answers back up to your teachers in a multiple choice test. You’re expected to do this over and over again, and those who do it exceptionally well are called “smart”. For a long time, the expectation was: do this well, so you can get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job, and earn a good income.
But what if you weren’t wired to learn this way?
What if you learned best by doing, and you were gifted with a different intelligence that allowed you to create and put things together more mechanically? Well, for you there was vocational (vo-tech) school.
And here’s the thing…
I can tell you from personal experience that when I was in high school (in the early 2000s) the stereotype was that attending the local vo-tech school was for the less intelligent kids who couldn’t hack “regular” school. That is, that they were less intelligent, or troublemakers, or just wanted to get out of testing.
But think about how destructive that mindset is.
For some reason, building and working with toy tools is OK when you’re little, but now it’s time to grow up, learn to study and memorize things, and learn the same way as everyone else. If you can’t, or don’t want to, you’re looked down on.
Now, I’m not saying that every single person in every single high school across the U.S. sees the vo-tech school, or the students attending it, this way – but it certainly has been a stereotype for years now.
And this mindset goes hand in hand with bad perception #2:
“You better study or you’ll end up like him…”
Have you ever heard that before?
Maybe you’ve said it yourself, or maybe you heard someone say it to you. A parent and teenager are walking by a janitor, or driving past a construction worker on the highway, and the parent says: “that’s why you need to study. So you don’t end up like him.”
What do they mean by that?
Many mean this: “that work is hard (= physical and not in air conditioning) and not as glorious or important as other work. You should study and go to college so you can get an important job… not a menial one like that.”
First of all…
– “that guy” could be making more money than you are.
– he might be really happy working outside and with his hands all day.
– he might be providing really well for his family, and have a great work-life balance.
– and he might be healthier than you, with your sedentary work that’s literally taking years off your life.
Second of all…
When the culture talks like that, it produces a bias against the trades in the minds of our youth. It carries all sorts of implied messages that some jobs are less important than others, or that anyone who holds that type of job is less intelligent, or less hard working, or less ambitious.
And of course, none of those things are necessarily true.
But negative messages like this aren’t the only thing that may be contributing to a poor perception of the trades in our culture. Positive and well-meaning messages can also have a negative impact.
“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
This is a common saying that’s kind of thrown around loosely these days.
I understand why people love it though. The idea is – if you find something that you so enjoy and that you’re so passionate about, it won’t feel like “work”. Instead, it will feel fun and enjoyable every day. And so, you’ll never “work” ( = experience frustration, toil, disappointment, etc.) a day of your life.
The problem is, real work is always work. Even people who love what they do will tell you that there are days when they want to give up, wish they would’ve stayed in bed, are tired, and that it’s hard.
Now apply this to the trades. Doing electrical work all day, crawling up in hot attics, isn’t super attractive. Framing a house in 90-degree weather is work. Construction is tiring and challenging. But many contractors and small business owners will tell you: they love what they do. Is it hard work? Heck yeah. Is it frustrating at times? You bet. Do they ever “work a day in their lives”? Yep. Every day of their lives. But there’s fulfillment in it.
You’re providing real services to solve real pains that people have. You’re keeping their house (and family) warm. You’re making it so they have clean running water. You’re building a home where they’ll raise a family for the next 25 years. You’re building the roads they’ll take to work for the rest of their lives. You’re literally building the physical world people inhabit.
The trick is to find joy and fulfillment in meaningful, honest work like that. That’s what we should be teaching the youth in our culture.
But when we tell the next generation “find something you love so you’ll never work a day in your life!”, we’re hindering them. Because that advice is likely to be taken the wrong way. We mean well, but we’re not making clear that every job has its challenges, and that joy and fulfillment are found in helping others and doing meaningful work with all our strength, and putting our name behind what we do.
And that’s one clue as to how to fix this labor shortage problem. A faulty, broken perspective is (at least partly) to blame for where we are. So fostering a healthy perspective should be one of the steps we take to fix it.
In other words, the trades have been viewed in an unhealthy way for years now. And the only way to really fix the younger generation’s view of skilled labor is to put forward a healthier, more honest perspective.
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Changing our culture’s perspective of the trades.
Here are a few basic steps I’m humbly suggesting, that might begin to address our culture’s broken view of skilled labor:
1- Value work that provides real value and solves pains.
We’ve already sort of touched on this one, but it bears repeating. We need to start praising work that provides real value and solves real pains. This is in contrast to work that is self-serving, un-loving, or that sells things people don’t really need or want.
With our culture’s obsession with tech and startups, everybody wants to be the next Facebook, Instagram, or Uber. People are creating apps, services, and games that are virtually useless (pun intended). They don’t really solve a pain or problem of society, they’re just another service to be addicted to. Please understand, I’m not saying all these services are bad or unhelpful. We make good use of apps like Instagram for our own business.
But what I am suggesting is that we need to stop glorifying tech startups that acquire millions of users and aim to take over the world, but are irrelevant in a few years with only millions of spent VC money to show for it. Instead, we should start giving more praise to entrepreneurs that start small businesses that provide real services to real humans with a real need.
When we start putting a value on work that provides services that others need and derive benefit from, and start seeing someone like a general contractor in the same light as someone who creates a problem-solving app – we’ll start to fix this wrong perception of the trades.
2- Teach youth to find joy in working hard and creating something tangible.
Again, I’m not hating on the engineers who code all day long. They build awesome projects they can be proud of to. But in our unbalanced obsession with tech, I fear that we may have begun to sort of de-value an honest day’s work, where you can look at a jobsite and see what you created.This one is sort of happening on its own. And that’s not really a surprise since we’re all human and in the end… tactile beings. We like to touch, feel, create, see, taste. In fact,
But slowly, this is changing. And that’s not really a surprise since we’re all human, and in the end… tactile beings. We like to touch, feel, create, see, taste. In fact, Millenials are already flocking to craft brewing, high-end coffee roasting, craft furniture making, farming, and the like. They’re increasingly realizing that there’s something really nice to seeing what you created at the end of the day. So let’s start verbalizing that as a benefit of manual labor and working hard with your hands.
Movements like Young Blood Worker on Instagram are doing just that: encouraging a younger generation to be proud of the work they do.
3- Stop telling youth “you don’t want to end up as a janitor”.
This should go without saying, but we need to break the mindset that manual labor jobs are for a different class of people, who are less intelligent, less driven, or less skilled than others.
4- Show more success stories.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you enter the trades, you won’t make as much money as you could have otherwise.
In fact, it just might be the other way around. Millenials feel like they need to go thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars into debt, to come away with a degree and hopefully land a job paying them $50,000 – $60,000 a year. They’ll be paying off their debt for years to come, while the person who entered the trades, learned fast, and worked hard started making $40,000-$60,000 a year instantly and put away savings.
If you don’t believe me, check out this success story of a landscaper who – working by himself – paid off all his debt, and is now a millionaire in his 40’s. You don’t hear this type of success story enough!
5. Respect the entrepreneurship in the trades.
While tech founders are (rightly) getting a lot of praise for what they’re creating, it feels like our culture has stopped seeing starting trades businesses as “real entrepreneurship”. Which is crazy, because many Entrepreneurs starting residential construction companies, or specialty contracting companies, are providing well for their families, have a team of dedicated employees and are making good profit.
Some are even learning from star Entrepreneurs like Gary Vee, and applying business growth and marketing principals to their own trades companies. For a perfect example of this, follow guys like Nick Schiffer on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean. Nick is working to build his company’s brand, and to be known as one of the top contractors in the world who raised the bar- all while getting to do what he loves: building.
It starts with a mindset change.
Coming to the end of this article, I realize it might seem anti-climactic to some of you.
There are no “actionable steps” – no quick fix solutions to get more Millenials to enter the trades. But all the bribes, perks, salaries in the world won’t be effective in solving the skills gap until youth start to see trades work as valuable, honest, important, meaningful work. Talk to most any Millenial, and they’ll tell you they want to do meaningful work. They want time to travel, to have experiences, to spend life how they want it. The trades offer all these things, we just need to change the way we talk and think about them in our culture.
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I was raised as someone who should go to college for architecture, and I did, but was also taught carpentry and contracting at a young age. It was extremely beneficial for me and I loved carpentry. I am also a CNC machinist since architecture is no longer needed above engineering. In my time in the trades I have noticed one major reason why millennials refuse to become tradesmen. The companies do not, and will not, pay the employees what they are worth. No offense but a lot of the guys I have met in the machining industry, barely passed high school and that even reflects in their mindset at work. As a 28 year old who has been a cnc operator for three years, I just recently quit because $15.76/ hour after two years of service was not enough to compensate the medical hazards, our cut medical benefits or the increase in state minimum wage. In my state they just raised minimum wage to $13/hr for a fast food job. I started off two years ago at $12/hr as a machine operator, with a bachelor’s degree from University at Buffalo, my CNC machining certificate, and I was on the Dean’s list for Milling while in the Machining program. The point I am getting at here is the main reason the millenials do not want to work the trades is because the trades under-pay, and under-appreciate their workers in a dangerous environment. With all of my education, I learned twice as fast as other workers who were “higher” on the chain than me, but they were still getting paid more and working less, with little to no knowledge of what they were doing. Our CEO just merged our company with another world wide medical manufacturer and then retired. He received $800,000 retirement and cashed in $1.5 million in stocks. They closed 5 shops, cut our medical, pushed back our “merit increase” and got rid of our Christmas bonus. Then they expected us to catch up on all the work that was backed up from closing the other 5 local branches and consolidating. The trades are dead, not just because they’re looked down upon, but because the companies that run the trades do not care about their employees.
You hit the nail on the head.
What you wrote right there hits the bull on the head. The reasoning behind all of this is because of competition. There are companies across the world that are making the same products and if you happen to be in a country such as the US you are in deep shit. 12 dollars – 20 dollars an hour is literally what other companies are paying their employees in other countries (in their own currency equivalent) for the same work. However though this is the shitty part for people in the US, it’s that the people in other countries earning the same salary as people in the US for the same work, have enough to own a nice home, have an abundance of food, live depth free, start a family etc.. You can argue that those countries have a higher crime rate, have a lower standard of living etc.. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL TRUE! LOOK AT URUGUAY HAHA! There are many countries like them. It’s not about paying what the person is worth necessarily, it’s giving them enough money to live and to experience life well and retire one day with a nice pension.
America is underrated.
There is always someone to blame if you look for others to provide you with your jobs. I spent many wasted years doing contract work through the big box stores remodeling baths and other things. I simply didn’t think you could stay busy enough without a large company feeding you your jobs. Fast forward until I had no joy working and being used as the saving grace once the customer had a bad experience with another crew so I left and without ever formally advertising I have consistently remained both busier and wealthier for the last 7 years simply by customer relations and quality work. The work is actually second after the ability to determine your customers wants and deliver it All scheduling issues ended all material back order issues stopped,and the accuracy of the bid is always better when done by the person doing the work. Even done this in the Carpenters union and it couldn’t compete to being self employed
I have been machining for 36 years and Still machining. 90 percent of machinist can not make a morgage payment on Machinist pay unless you have a second income in your house hold . Not worth it. Stay away from skill trade. It will wear you out. Especially in the right to work states. CORPORATIONS WILL LIE TO YOU.
YUP! They will lie because they know if they do they could at least get a couple of years or maybe 6 months out of you then allow you to just quit, then lie again to the next guy. It’s called corporate greed. PLEASE LOOK AT ONLINE REVIEWS!
I have a skilled trade, and I average $150,000 per year. I have full benefits, 401k matching, stock program…..
…..millenials just don’t want to work. I watch them come and go. They don’t want to get up at 5am, they don’t want to get their hands dirty, they don’t want to travel (unless it is to take selfies on a beach somewhere), they don’t want to work in the elements.
It is their loss as they have convinced themselves that the office cubicle rat race for $35,000 per year is the place to be while they juggle their $40,000 college debt. Ridiculous.
What do you do?
Kevin is lying about his salary there is just no way a trades man can make 150k unless he gets bribed. I would report this man to the police.
I can tell you that he probably isn’t lying. If he has worked hard and has become a skilled craftsman in his trade, taken on some field supervision responsibilities and knows how to manage the schedule, labor hours and material usage budget he very well could be making well over 100K a year and have benefits, a retirement plan, bonuses and enjoy the satisfaction working with his hands every day. We have a ton of people like Kevin making over 100k a year with room to grow!
The simple fact is that starting out at $13-17/hour won’t even pay you enough to be able to afford to show up to work unless you live in your car. At the end of the day, it’s not the job’s fault though. The cost of housing pretty much means that if you’re not earning $30/hr or more and getting overtime then you simply cannot afford your bills and to save any appreciable amount.
Go ahead and set me up with an interview for $150k a year, I’m a master technician in the Automotive sector. We make $50k if we’re lucky.
Top of scale in my trade is 45/hr better than anything I was making after graduating with a degree in econ. Best decision I ever made was to finally join a labor union more so with the decent money I make know and no debt I can invest the spare capital into appreciable assets
That is untrue. Scale in my area, DC/Maryland/Virginia, for pipe fitting/ hvac is $44/hr, electricians are $48/hr and elevators are around $55/hr. ( everything after 40 hours is double time for elevator) That is the minimum a person is allowed to get paid plus all the benefits that are included in your package. I know lots of technicians making 150k-200k a year.
He’s not lying, but trades work is very hard on a person’s body. Skilled trade’s men often eventually move into the office as planners or supervisors. He may be paying some of that 150k in required union dues also. To be highly valued as a tradesman you need to be a near-artist at your craft — with a welding torch, or a backhoe, or a wiring diagram, etc. You cannot be average or lazy, like Kevin says.
You’ve got a bad opinion of us millennials, but if you ever actually met some you’d think differently. I’m a welder and a blacksmith and before that I was a carpenter. I am college educated (because that’s what I was told to do) and I work 40 hours a week like every other Joe Schmo out there. I actually really love my job and WANT to work. I’d be devastated if I didn’t have something to put my energy towards. I don’t make anywhere near as much money as I’d need to make a mortgage payment on even a condo, much less an actual house.
Don’t judge us, we’re not that lazy.
I’m a millennial who studied IT, and I’m actually getting “tired” (but not necessarily lazy) of staring in front of a screen, and typing away work. But I need to move and get my hands dirty, and I’m feeling healthy and active enough to want to get into skilled trades.
Been in the trades for over 40 years, average 80K per year with overtime. Work hard sometimes, and easy sometimes. But, is a good feeling to walk by a house, or a building you have had a part in making. Nice to be able to do things most people cannot do. Yes, it is dirty, hot, you get banged up, cuts, and lots of sweat. But trades are what makes our life and comfort possible.
Love this. What do you do?
I’ve been an electrician for about 11 years now, and I have managed to pend most of my time as a licensed electrician working at my local university. This means I am a state employee with fantastic benefits. Not the best pay in the world, but I’m able to provide all the money my family needs. This means that the money my wife makes and the considerable money I make in my business on the side is all gravy money going into our savings. I’m 36, and I hope to be able to retire in ten years. I’m sure I’ll be doing electrical work forever, even when I don’t need the money, because it feels good to help people build and repair their homes as they want them.
I got a degree in graphic design in my early 20s, and realized soon after that I hated sitting at a desk all day. Not only do I get to work with my hands and build electrical circuits (it’s always very cool when you turn on some big new project for the first time and it runs perfectly), I get the satisfaction of seeing my work in front of me. I love this article! Well written with a powerful message, everything a great blog post should be.
Reading your post is like looking into a mirror. I got a degree in graphic design as well. An was working as a designer too, however it was not for me. So I changed. It started slow but after that first year there was no looking back. Being an electrician means I have mo fear of unemployment. I currently work for my transit system here in Atlanta GA
Thing is the trades are very difficult to get into. Almost everyone wants 3-5 years experience. I used to work at a shipyard on the gulf coast. They were hiring everyone they could get their hands on, even recruiting from Puerto Rico. That allowed someone fresh out of trade school like me to get a job. But after a little more than a year they had a downturn and Laid off most of the workers who had not earned the promotion to 1st Class. Everyone I kept in touch with had to find a new career. There were jobs everywhere in the area for our trade. But none for our level of experience.
I’ve been in the trades for 10 years. It is no surprise that nobody wants to do this type of work. The pay is shit, followed by long hours in the heat and cold. I mean why wouldn’t everyone want to wake up at 4:30 every morning for the privilege of busting your ass to make someone else rich. Do not listen to any recruiter moron who tells you how great it is.
I can tell you that i started pipe fitting over 37 yrs ago back than we had apprenticeship programs all the ship yards in the area recruited the high schools for their apprentiship programs, and we already new how to read a tape because we used rulers in school.
Just thought I would throw in a comment somewhere in this article. I am a college education small businessman who has worked 80 hours per week for 40 years. I’ve had a good life and done things my own way and done well. My brother is the opposite in terms of work. He wanted to be a farmer but that’s another story. He was lucky enough to get into the Pipe Fitter’s Union in New York State. He worked his butt off, like many here have said, getting up early, travelling all over the country when work was slow in his area. He even lived in a little trailer with a wife and couple of kids for a while in Texas and Arizona. He bought his own house by the time he was 22, always had a new car and truck, put his kids through college, has NO debt at all and now has retired to Florida, living in a resort area just south of Daytona Beach close to the ocean. He plays golf every day (when he’s not fishing) and has a pile of money in the stock market. You can do it both ways if your work hard and apply yourself. At the same time, I have to agree with some of the guys here. There has been a major change over the past few years due to massive illegal immigration. Wages have stagnated or even gone down. I live in Santa Monica, CA. You cannot see a white guy on a construction site. Everyone, from laborers up to carpenters and electricians are Mexican. It started with laborers and each year that went by more and more higher skilled guys were Mexican. Now, even the companies are owned by Hispanic guys. It’s a dog eat dog world no matter how you slice it. Companies want cheap labor. The Democrats want voters. It won’t get better until we have a rational immigration system, get rid of the illegals, end anchor babies and chain migration, etc. My brother started in the trades back in the 1960’s. He couldn’t do what he did now. My father was a heavy equipment operator and that field is even worse. The unions have all been crushed and wages have fallen. I’d be happy to hear any comments about my post here.
I’m 26 and I’ve worked my butt off, and you’re right… the wages have gone down. I will never own a house. Meanwhile I’ve defied every millennial “bash”. No cell phone, no payments, no debt. It doesn’t matter. You don’t get paid enough to save anything.
There are many business owners that take advantage of their workers. But it is also your responsibility to explain to your employer why you are worth more money. If your not bringing value, then dont expect to be paid much, and if you dont ask for an increase dont expect to recieve one. There are always other options, and there are also a ton of good business owners that will pay well for good workers. I am in the pipe fitting industry and have never had problems. With that being said, I’ve only had 2 employers so far in my career. When you are hired into a company, you and your employer enter into an agreement, and nobody forced you to accept low pay. If you dont like the terms of that agreement, find someone else who will pay you for the value you bring.
What a load of garbage propaganda. And the astroturfers arent fooling anyone.
Millennials aren’t taking up skilled trades because they aren’t stupid. Not ‘not stupid’ as in ‘ha ha you have to be stupid to take a trade job’, stupid as in we aren’t going to take an obvious dead end no future career choice that refuses to pay a living wage and falls further and further behind each consecutive year as the purchasing power of the dollar is consistently eroded while wages stay the same.
I would MUCH rather have a job where i can use my real tangible skill sets I developed through my years in the ARMY, than this garbage tech and marketing crap I’m currently stuck with. But not so much that I want to halve my pay and my family time.
But the jobs don’t freaking pay, the path I would have to follow in order to get the certificates, and get the time under the belt to where I could potentially eventually after years, make a more decent living is unsustainable, and if I had that kind of money and time to blow, I wouldn’t be looking to waste it in the skilled trades service as a cog in the machine.
Quit your whining and pay people what they are worth. You get what you pay for.
Same feeling here! I prefer working hands-on and using my head. However, I’m not gonna give up my future for that…I know that if I lose a coveted white collar career as I age then I can always fall back to the trades…they are desperate for anyone smart (but not enough to pay them what they deserve).
I partially agree with this article. I myself have viewed both sides. I started out with jobs in administration when I finished my Associate’s. After 2008, I struggled to find a job in anything you can think of. I decided to change careers and opted to do electrical work to pay the bills. College instructors have the idea that vocational training or “Trade Jobs” is not an option for many students. Some people can even agree that menial jobs are “looked down upon”. You can’t blame them. Many [instructors] have PHD’s and have never even considered working in the construction industry. Hard work is part of any job even running your own business. As for electrical work, the money is great but so are the dangers involved. Millenials are trendmakers. They don’t like to settle. The trades can be boring and mind numbing not to mention the favoritism that goes on. Having to prove yourself every time you take on a project or job can be exhausting both mentally and physically. One can get complacent with the higher salaries but anyone that tells you its sustainable is lying through their teeth. I am not happy in the trades. People out there try to convince themselves that it’s a good job. Working in the elements is brutal. The reason it pays so well is because working in those conditions(turnarounds) & elevated work is dire and no one wants to do it.. Millenials are not stupid. Education is not valued in construction they want you to be an expert in the trade but will always downplay education.
Stay away from the trades kids. It’s been 30 years. Just stay away. Go make something of yourself.
As a millenial myself, I can tell you why I wasn’t interested in the trades even though I think working with my hands is quite rewarding. These jobs are not what they used to be. For one, most of them are very cyclical, as soon as the economy goes downhill so do most of the trade jobs as new construction and remodeling demand plummets. This makes it very difficult to find stable, long term employment.
Secondly, your much more prone to injury and accidents versus most other occupations. I’ve seen countless times where employees were injured and had to live off measly social security, long term disability, and work injury payments. Most employers don’t adequately reimburse for work related accidents. That back injury you acquired after 15 years of hard work for the same employer…good luck getting reimbursed for that or proving it’s not a chronic condition and that is 100% work associated.
Now, lets look at pay for most of the trades. If you look at carpentry for instance, carpenters used to be respected and make more than your average nurse. Today they are lucky to make half of what a nurse makes, because cabinetry is built and imported from China. I would love to do carpentry but jobs around here pay $20 an hour in this field. As a RN, I average about $53 in a low cost of living area. And, yes I paid $24,000 for my degree but its paid off now thanks to my high salary. Many other trade job salaries are also heading downward. Try finding jobs for tile layers, drywallers, remodelers, or handymen that pay well. They might pay $20 an hour, at most, if your lucky. Master plumbers or electricians are the only ones making any decent money any more, but many of these jobs don’t have good benefits unless they are unionized.
Master Automotive/Diesel Craftsman for over 44 years. Avoid the trades. Wages do not match skill sets. When wages/benefits meet needs of those willing to do the work, you will willing get people to do the work. Until then, find another career young people. Most of you are smart and college degreed. Lots of jobs to use the tools you learned at college. Don’t sell your services for less than there true worth. They need you more than you need them. Think and act independently for your benefit, not theirs. Trades take a beating on the body. Your time line is short in the trades. By 50 your body is done. Knees, joints, back, etc will be a problem the rest of your life. Find your passion and work for you. You owe them nothing.
I’ve been in construction going on 20 years. My advice for kids wanting a career in contruction: DON’T DO IT!!!!
The construction industry is a sack of shit.
-Pay is terrible
-work is not steady or reliable
-Workers are not appreciated
-The services we provide are always devalued by potential clients in an attempt to get a cheaper rate, if I had a dime every time a potential client told me he can’t justify paying me X amount for a job that « He can do himself »
-back breaking work for little pay or respect
-there’s always someone willing to work for peanuts, these people undercut everyone else’s bids and take jobs away from more qualified companies and workers
I can go on but the list is too long.
If I could go back in time I would’ve stayed the fuck away from construction, not worth it.
What if I am not a good fit for trade like landscaping?
Like I am not physically strong and get tired fast and the heat makes me weaker?
And I am not also good at the financing parts for business?
Yes please tell all these kids to stop going into the trades! its only making the price of my labor rise! As an Electrical contractor I have been able to support myself and my family pretty well. In my state over half of the Electrical contractor licenses are held by people over the age of 65. What happens when they all retire and no one fills the ranks? Well the basic economic principle of supply and demand will make my price skyrocket! The best part is it is not just my trade it is all the trades. You think you paying allot for a licensed & insured professional tradesman to come out to your house or business now. Wait until there is half of them in the next ten years and see how much it costs!
There is a severe lack of youths interested in skilled labor. This is a problem. Can the trades be “Hard”, yes. Can they be low paid, depends on the skill level and license required. Can customers tryto cut down your price, absolutely! But i wont come down on my prices and if your good at what you do and you’re honest in doing then you will always have work.
So where does the lack of interest come from? It is probably because all the high schools are in cahoots with the collages, and collages the with the banks. So by telling every kid they need to go to collage for that useless degree only perpetuates a never ending cycle of government backed debt.
Wrong. It’s people like you who prevent new talent from coming into the trades. I’ve seen the job posts. You guys won’t hire anybody unless they have 3+ years experience.
I got a college degree and then ended up becoming an electrician. If I wasn’t in a union getting premium pay and good benefits there’s no way I’d do this as a career though. Between the hazards and toll on the body and lack of work every time there’s a recession you’d think that alone would justify higher pay, but, to be the guy who keeps his job when a round of layoffs comes along you have to be a pretty smart and hard worker. A lot of guys don’t have the chops for it. With that being said the employers really struggle to find the guys capable of understanding and remembering how to do there job. One problem is you’ll toil as an apprentice for years of low pay while often being pushed to perform at the level of a journeyman, and generally they understand that probably won’t happen, but they constantly complain there aren’t enough qualified workers (what they’re really saying is competent cheap labor). What they mean by that is there aren’t enough smart sharp witted hard working guys willing to work for a mediocre wage within the context of all the other somewhat extreme negatives of the job. Not that the trades can’t be highly rewarding, but I’ve talked to too many old timers telling me what they earned decades ago and when you extrapolate the wage increases and compare to the cost of living changes over those years it’s obvious pay in the trades hasn’t kept up. That’s a huge part of the problem. Increasingly over time they keep insisting on suppressing wages so that smart people really should be getting other better paying jobs. There is no shortage whatsoever in the number of people willing to work in the trades given that I’ve heard there have been plenty of apprentice applications over the last few years, but what I keep hearing is that they’re finding they have to reject the vast majority of them for barely being able to read and do basic math for learning code and theory. We need educated people but the industry doesn’t want to pay what it’ll take to get them. I don’t know if it’ll actually happen but it really feels like something is going to break one of these days.
It’s good to work in trades when your in 20’s and 30’s. After that your body has a hard time dealing with it and you’ll probably won’t be able to do it by your 50’s. If you young people to plan to get into trades don’t plan on staying in them for the rest of your life. Have a plan to switch careers down the road. Nothing worse then being in your 50’s with a broken body and not enough money for retirement.
Working in the trades is not most people’s first or second career choice. I find that the people who end up working in trades do it because they have no other option.
The jobs with the most brutal work condition will always be the last to be picked.
Plain and simple, make yourself valuable. You have little control in life, but one thing you can control is your effort. If your situation sucks, change it. Usually the reason your life sucks is because you fail to act and that’s no one’s fault but your own. You’re where you’re at because you want to be there…or you’d change it. I started this job picking up trash in the ditch for 14$ an hour, now I run the electric shop, maintenance shop, and automation controls shop…all self taught…95k yr.
The reason there are so few Millennials in the trades is because unless you can get into an apprenticeship, nobody will hire you. They all want people who have 3-5 years of experience. I like working with my hands, I’m intelligent, educated, disciplined, reliable, drug-free, and I know my way around a shop environment and a set of tools, but I don’t have 3-5 years of professional experience, so no jobs for me.
Exactly. Nobody is willing to hire. This whole trades shortage is bs. The whole advertisement that there are many companies that are hiring is bs. They’re not even interviewing us. They take a look at your resume, don’t see that experience number and just give a hard pass.
I dropped out of collage in my last year. I did this to start building power lines. I make 58hr and I did 212k last year with overtime. Wish I would have never wasted those three years in school.
I have an AA in Business Administration, a BA in Business Management, a published book, and I have 8 years experience as a financial analyst (finance/accounting) for a major aerospace company doing cost estimates for naval ship work (i was in the military for 4 years as well). I was accepted into an electrical apprenticeship (union) and it’s my 3rd day on the job. I decided to go the trade route because I can see automation coming and the damage it will do to those without technical skills. My gut says with college degrees becoming more and more common and lackluster combined with many people aging out of the trades and the advances in automation technology there will be a serious NEED for tradesman, especially those that aid the process of automation – ELECTRICIANS. I am 29 years old and currently have a few offers from Bank of America and various local institutions to continue working as a financial analyst. I don’t know for sure yet, but I think I made the right decision. I turned down a position in Shanghai for this opportunity. It is a challenge but I feel that I will gain a valuable skill that won’t be threatened by the changing economy. And for those that think Kiosks is the end of automation….you are in for a rude awakening. Everybody that sits behind a computer for more than 3/4 of their workday is at risk and i do mean EVERYBODY.
Sure its different from the office environment but there is a sense of purpose that you feel at the days end. I’m not saying I will do this forever but I can say I do feel good about it. At the very least i know I will be able to be employed or be self-employed through my own talents instead of balancing some rich mf’s checkbook.
Life is what you make it. Nothing is forever. Everything counts.
Yes, the best career, if you can even it ”a career’, in areas like financial services which isn’t being automated as we speak, is that of a discretionary proprietary trader.
And that’s because even computers, machine learning algos included, can’t see the future.
If you’re a prop trader and among the 10% who can make it. year after year, then you’re not on this forum but writing for own ticket as you’ll be in constant demand by both prop firms and hedge funds.
Otherwise, I’d say either go for health care or some licensed trade like being an electrician.
I graduated from a 16 month business school and am now doing dental assisting. If you research the pay range I’m making the minimum of $13 when I could be making $20. I didnt expect this pay, and I want to do something else. I didnt grow up getting my hands dirty like my older brother who loves cars and wiring, or my step dad who was a bricklayer. I want to get into the trades. I just want to have practical skills that I can apply outside of work and get paid good. I cant use anything from dental assisting outside of a dental office.
Trades and the experience of working in the trades varies from place to place. You can make decent money, or you can make crap. You ALWAYS start in the dumpster with wages, but with time, you can learn and earn more. There are certifications out there to help advance.
Everybody wants to be a chief, but doesn’t want to be an indian first. Unless you own your own business, you probably won’t get rich in the trades. You’ll need to work overtime. That’s when the work life balance comes into play. The trades are hard. I’m sore EVERY SINGLE DAY. What I’ve learned…. most millenials are soft and impatient. They are also connected to a cell phone 24/7. I don’t speak for all of them, but for most of them, the thought of getting sweaty and dirty…i.e. uncomfortable, is beneath them. That’s fine, when it costs 1000 dollars per call in 10 years, because they can’t figure out on YOUTUBE how to fix it, tradesman will smile.
Hopefully more come into the trades, or those of us in them will work ourselves to death.
Top 10 reason to not go into the trades:
1. If you work in tech, your starting pay will be $80k/yr. If you work in the trades, your pay will be $80k/yr … by the time you retire 40 years from now.
2. If you work in tech, you can create products and services that dramatically improve the world. If you work in the trades all you’re doing is hurting the environment by building with no thought to sustainability as you contribute to urban sprawl.
3. If you work in tech, you can work with other people of your generation who will respect your talents, share your values, and encourage your success. If you work in the trades you will be surrounded by toxic masculinity beer bellied trump loving neo conservative racists who will bully you and treat you like garbage and high-five each other for doing it. (Just look at the comments above.)
4. If you work in tech, you will benefits and insurance that will make it feasible for you to start a family, go on vacation, keep in shape, and enjoy a work/life balance. If you work in the trades you can look forward to injuries, extended loss of work, permanent disabilities, and a retirement that means nothing because your body can’t do anything anymore. The trades will not take care of you. If you suffer, they will toss you out on the street and hire the next person.
5. If you work in tech, your lifestyle is supported and appreciated. You will adventure when you’re young and mentor when you’re older. If you work in the trades you will sacrifice your entire youth to dirty work. Do you want to retire and still have some mobility, or do you want to end up like the guys you see in the trades right now? The reality is the people who work in the trades don’t want you to enjoy your life. They will look at your dreams and your desire to lead a fulfilling life and they will scoff at you. They do not understand today’s generation and I don’t think they really want to. You are a threat to them. If you succeed, you make them look like chumps. They can’t stand that.
6. This is important: tech doesn’t really care about you. But the trades downright hate you. In tech you will probably run into some sexist corporate culture, but that can be changed. You can change it. In the trades, any attempt to challenge authority is met with unyielding retaliation. Are you a woman who likes to wire a building? Be prepared for endless harassment from men, and be prepared to be fired, blacklisted, and further harassed if you report them.
7. Building a tech start-up requires relatively little investment, but significant contacts. If you’re reasonably connected, you can do it. You can build a product whose earnings go directly to you and your small team. Building a trade company is 100x harder. There’s more capital investment (more depreciation), more competition, and less room to innovate. Trade companies only grow when the economy grows. In trades, you will never work with someone at your level. There is no room for disruption in the world of building houses or trenching fiber.
8. If you work in tech, there is no glass ceiling for you. You goes as far as your brain takes you. In the trades, you will almost never cross-over from being a laborer to being a leader. If you’re good with a hammer, then it’s because that’s all you’re good with. Having great math skills won’t get you hired at the apprentice level, and it won’t get you hired at any other level because the trades don’t value your education and potential. (See the essay above.) You’re just a tool to them.
9. The trades say they’re hurting for labor and that they’ll hire anyone. The truth is the trades are hurting for labor that’s already like them. You know that kid you go to school with who like to taunt the immigrant students by chanting “build the wall” behind them? That’s the guy who will be welcomed with open arms into the trades. He won’t have any skills, but he’ll fit right in.
10. Finally, the reverse. Would someone who works in trades be able to move over to tech? That’s a good question. Tech has a very low barrier to entry. People from all over the world work together in companies. One day in tech you might work with Dhruv in Mumbai, and another day you might work with Kate in Dublin. If you’re coming out of the trades, do you have the chops to succeed in a multi-cultural environment? Tech increasingly means you need to behave yourself. Do you know which behaviors are appropriate? Can you be the first one to apologize when you commit a micro aggression? Can you foster understanding instead of tearing people down? Tech is a constantly moving field that requires constant knowledge acquisition. Do you know enough that you can write a book about your area of expertise? Are you comfortable knowing that your skills might be out of date in three years unless you push yourself to keep up? And, then, of course comes the almighty question: do you even know how to rotate a PDF?
Karen, all great points. I’ve been with a HVAC/Plumbing company for 2 years and I’m done with the trades. I’m actually going into tech myself as its one of the best environments to work in unlike one of the worst ones I’m currently in. I’m grateful for the experience though because now I know exactly what I dont want to do and what I DO want out of a career. Dangerous, dirty work with demeaning bullies for low pay for a long time and no life, no thank you. Best of luck to them.
Agree with almost every point. Especially the bullying culture in trades.
The one point I strongly disagree with is about innovation and disruption in the trades. Apply technology to the trades, such as software/hardware development, AI/ML, 3D printing, robotics etc and you are looking at some of the most lucrative businesses of the future. Do succeed here, requires both trades and tech coming together.
I should have gone to university after finishing high school, however I was kicked out of home so needed the money to survive. Not everyone can afford university or has the support system around them. I started as an electrical/electronics dual trade 18 years ago working in factory automation and the process industries, then built my education up myself, achieving an Advanced Diploma and then finally a Bachelor in Engineering. I only did this because I could afford to, since I started a business in my mid 20s, in Industrial Automation and Communications, which I sold at the age of 28 for about $2M. The thing is, I was a self-made multimillionaire before 30, mainly due to my trade background. There is catagorically no way I could have done this the other way around, getting the degree first, I simply would not have had the real world experience.
Now I work in technology and have invented cyber-physical control systems for the electricians to use in industry, controlling equipment over the internet. My point here is that trades and tech are not as separate as you might think and the convergence of computers and technology will make its way into every field. This may also back up your point to, looking at it from the angle that a lot of my work will make the electricians and mechanics almost redundant soon. But who then understands how to improve this software and technology, with a generation without any hands on skills or mechanical aptitute..? Food for thought.
You must have read “Society and Technological Change” by Rudi Volti – you summarize that book with your 10 point essay. I just want to add: COVID 2020 has sealed a new generation in place – a Tech Gap.
But the Trades are essential. They may get AI and automation in 2050. But you’ll still need a plumber to fix, tweak and check a leaky faucet. That doesn’t require rotating a PDF but rather a wrench – a Trade.
I detect a social commentary to your 10 point argument. But, the guys who are supposed to be reading your 10 point Manifesto – probably don’t read much. Don’t visit websites much unless it’s guns and ammo or porno (I generalize) since you mentioned Build a Wall chanting behind immigrants.
Anyway, Trades are never going away – even on Space Ships – you’ll need mechanics on Space X. Yes, we’ll need the Tech’s to create the interface and app that monitors operations. But Tradesmen with their beer bellies and ass cracks are the one’s who’ll crawl under the sink and wrench the spindle to fasten the buckle.
It’s just evolution – I appreciated you laying out your points. And I agree with most of them. But there is a fork in the road that will eventually merge on the interstate (internet.) And we need to learn to “trade” and not “blockade” because we all have different brains.
Yeah, no. There are plenty of us that are entering the trades. The problem is that YOU WONT HIRE US! You guys are greedy. You want 3+ experience or more! How do you guys expect new guys to come into the trades if you kept rejecting us?!?! You don’t give us a chance at all! Hell, you guys are so awful, that 3+ years experience you guys kept posting as a requirement in your job ads, you are only willing to pay minimum wage! There’s fresh new guys that just want to get out in the field and are willing to negotiate to the point of accepting that minimum wage yet you won’t take them because they’re TOO GREEN.
Karen has some points, a large percentage of trades people will die broken, in pain, and living in their car. But the “swinging a hammer because that is all they can do” ivory tower comment is elitist at best. If there is one thing I learned in my life, it is never underestimate anyone. Used to work with a guy from Mexico who “swung a hammer” and barely spoke a word of english. He spent his free time learning electronics, not just repair, but math, circuit design, and dabbled in investing in stocks. He started installing and designing secret compartments with trick secret electronic locks and actuators for cars and homes. He later left “swinging a hammer”, and started a business doing it. Business took off, his investments hit, he had his first million by 30, and was a multi millionaire at 40. Went back to Mexico to retire. One of the smartest guys I have ever met, even though on paper he had an 8th grade education.
Most people on here are under the impression and misconception that the trades are all about the building trades. Sure, your body can start giving out in your 50s after years in construction related trades, and building is cyclical, and you can work for/with some pagan rogues (same in any occupation). But there’s manufacturing trades like welders, metal fabricators, machinists, millwrights, tool & die makers/mold-makers, and multi-craft/electro-mechanical maintenance mechanics. I’ve seen plenty of teachers, bean counters, Ad-mins, managers, PAs, computer jockeys, chefs, government workers, journalists, and other white-collar workers unemployed in economic downturns, and often for long hauls or indefinitely. Been there and done that myself. I’ve yet to find a machinist or tool-maker who’s ever been unemployed, even in economic down turns, and I’ve been around for 64 years now. I’ve also seen machinists who are still working well into their 70s. Unless a machinist is a drunk, a drug addict, a dolt, or has head issues, he/she will always have a job. That’s an empirical fact.
It’s also an empirical fact that manufacturing trades and blue-collar hourly workers make their bank off overtime and production bonuses if given. You save that, invest in a self-retirement IRA or annuity (never trust an employer for anything!!), invest in a home or property, etc. You don’t run out and finance a $40K vehicle, a boat, or on something frivolous.
Everyday, I both call on, and deal with, industrial accounts in my day job who’re crying for skilled welders, skilled machinists, skilled metal fabricators, and skilled multi-craft maintenance mechanics. Many have aging out workforces, and no one to step in and take over. Wages + benefits+ OT + profit sharing and production bonuses are mostly competitive in modern clean and safe facilities, yet few if any takers, or people who want a job at all, yet want to work. Sad, but true.
“Everybody should go to a university” is the educators scam and mantra. Look at all the duped millennials (and even some older folks) who are tens-of-thousands of $ in debt with worthless degrees.
How to get into the trades when the job ads simply aren’t there? What 1 or 2 job ads per trade is a boom? Compared to baby boomers time with large commercial industrial investments where u can Homer Simpson walk into amazing pension benefits jobs that they death grip onto beyond retirement age where after the job disappears. Unions have a small slice of work nowadays, the non union pays no pension of benefits at quarter the wage. If u still manage to find a job ad and defeat nepotism hires, your chances at getting a apprenticeship are slim as that automatically goes to the bosses sons or it simply is too much effort for the company to be able to produce their side of the paperwork to apprenticeship. All the while expect to be asked to also work through holidays, evenings and weekends without overtime. Sounds like slave labor or work environments pre 1900s, yet many millennials still who are inclined for working with their hands have to put up with todays conditions handed to them by more privileged generations. If only there were more job ads