SanneBerg / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Contractormag 11650 Happy Hard Hat

Making Trades Work Fun Again

Sept. 14, 2018
A college education is not required to attain a rewarding career in the trades.

Go to college and get a “good” education said everyone in charge in our nation’s high schools. Work smarter, not harder and no doubt you have all seen Mike Rowe’s send-up of that poster we all saw in our high school student guidance counselors’ offices. One of my favorite posters is the American Standard poster with an image of a plumber, pipe wrench in hand, with the title in bold print proudly proclaiming: “The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation.”

We, you and I, already know a college education is not required to attain a rewarding career in the trades and that Rowe’s poster with the image of a trades person with its title “Work Smart and Hard” speaks to the truth we all know. Top that off with the fact that once you have mastered a trades skill, you cannot be replaced by a robot and have job security the majority of college graduates do not enjoy. Meanwhile, your high school friends are racking up hundred-grand in college loan debt accruing at 6% annual interest only to end up in a job that pays median five-figure salary. During the same timeframe, a dedicated tradesperson has the potential to be earning more than the college grad.

We all know a critical shortage already exists for skilled labor. According to Rowe, more than 6-million jobs will be going begging by 2020. Until folks beyond our own trades boundaries begin to pay attention and our politicians sit up and take notice, not much will change.

Meet Dorothy Royal from Surf City, North Carolina, owner of Surf City Guns and Ammo, mother of two wonderful children, ringmaster of a herd of miniature ponies and an avid member of the Surf City Writers Group and Topsail Book Club. From out of nowhere, Royal wrote an article that has been shared more than 25,000 times over social media. I don’t often click on “share”, but her article was more than worthy.

From the start, Royal grabs the reader’s attention (reprinted with permission from Dorothy Royal):

If you want a reason to panic, other than global warming or unisex bathrooms, let me give you something that will, without a doubt, affect each and every person out there in the next decade.

There is a great shortage coming, not of .22 ammo, though that was terrible and luckily is over, but of something that each of us may need at one time or another in our lives.

We are a society of instant gratification and if people are no longer around to make sure the simple things, like cold air, hot water and toilets that flush, we are really going to be in a jam.

Tradespeople. Yes, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, truck drivers. The days of apprentices and summer jobs that would lead to a life time career seem to be dwindling. When was the last time you saw a plumber with a young person that was learning how to do the job? When was the last time you tried to find someone to do a job, even a simple addition or adding an outlet, and were told, “Sorry, we are booked up right now.”

This is not going to end. This is time to panic people – this is time to reach down deep and contact everyone you know and beg that those high school kids start to pay attention and to learn, not just computer skills, but real life skills. What if your pipes bust from the cold? What happens when your outlet stops working and you can’t charge your smart phone? The time to panic is now.

Now on a different note, I plead with you young people, please don’t waste four years or more of your lives on a college career that won’t really take you anywhere. Is this harsh? Sure, but so is $100,000 college debt you will be trying to pay back while working as a cashier.

How about learning a trade first, then you can go to school to live out your dream as a British Lit major, plus you can make money to travel the world to understand what all those authors were writing about.

How will this great shortage affect you? Easy. In your pocket. If there are only three electricians instead of 20 you will pay higher prices – plain and simple. Supply and demand. If the framers hired to build your home learned from a YouTube video, you might want to buy a level.

We are a society of instant gratification and if people are no longer around to make sure the simple things, like cold air, hot water and toilets that flush, we are really going to be in a jam.

Remember knowledge is power, a tradesperson can’t be replaced by a phone app, and it’s time to worry or time to learn, it’s your choice.

And that, my friends, is a punch-to-the-gut slap-upside-the-head WAKE UP CALL! The beauty of it is this wasn’t a tradesperson preaching to the choir, but rather, someone outside looking in who clearly sees the looming crisis and whose article has captured a huge audience. I urge you to share Royal’s article, which can be found on social media.

Are politicians sitting up and taking notice? Without the fanfare it deserves, and quite possibly because it was signed into law by President Trump, Trump signed the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2018 on July 26, 2018, which Congress had almost unanimously passed just days prior. This law will funnel almost 1.3-billion dollars into vocational and career path educational opportunities.

Meanwhile Rowe, through his Mike Rowe WORKS foundation, for the fifth year in a row, is giving out scholarships with but one hitch: the successful applicants must sign a S.W.E.A.T. (Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo) pledge.

Robert Bean, our great industry friend from Canada, has been sounding the alarm regarding the skilled trades labor shortage for many years. Here’s a few excerpts from part 1 of a 4-part series Robert’s Industry Observations:

·    According to American studies, the average age of a construction worker is estimated to be 47 and over.

·    More than 240,000 skilled tradesmen retire each year in North America.

·    The disconnect - One group having the skills is retiring away from the world of mechanical system, the other without skills, is retiring into the home with the mechanical system.

With the momentum that’s building that is shining new light on the rewards of a career in skilled trades, I am becoming hopeful there will be a resurgence of young men and women entering PHVAC careers.

Dave Yates material both in print and online is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must have the express written permission of Dave Yates and CONTRACTOR magazine. Please contact via email at [email protected].

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Contractor, create an account today!