Rebranding the Trades: Irony

“Do well in school or you’ll end up working on a construction site,” say parents to their highschooler, while flicking on a light as they enter inside their house; a house someone built for them that use to be a construction a site.  Irony becomes even clearer when you see ‘drop out’ Johnny ten years after graduation.  He owns and operates his own welding business making over six figures, while you’re pouring lattes at a coffeehouse paying down a lifetime of student debt waiting for a job to open to employ your degree.  But you were an AP student?!

(That’s Advanced Placement or as they call it now: Advanced Place-mat… for your parent’s dinner table since you have no job!  Burn. )

Here’s an idea that’s not my own:  What if tradespeople required royalties every time you flushed a toilet, turned on a switch or used an appliance?  It’s a funny thought, but actors and politicians get them.  Hollywood producers get them.  Oil companies get them.  We put our blood and sweat into building the systems and structures society depends upon.  Don’t we deserve a kickback or at least the adulation of Hollywood stars and producers?  Yes!  Why the hell not?

If only there were songs out there that went like, “A Working Class Hero is Something to Be…”  Oh, that’s John Lennon?  Well then, there should be more songs about our ‘unsung heroes.’  My question is, with a lame duck congress, a glorified Hollywood, and a growing disparity of income between the 1% and the rest of us, why aren’t there more people getting into the trades?  Why do we take the trades for granted?

Do you know the amount of skill it took to build your house from foundation to finish?   You have roads you travel on every day, fresh sanitized water at your fingertips, an immediate waste removal system, fresh air in your buildings, a chain supply of natural gas/oil for your heating and cooling needs, and an endless supply of electrical energy to give you light and power for your appliances.  That’s cool.  Without it modern civilization would collapse as we know it.  The men and women who are part of these processes should be celebrated and admired.  Their stories should be broadcasted on TV and movies made after them:

Tough Toilet Times:  A Plumber’s Timeliness.  Who doesn’t want to watch that??  Your service is a testament of real value.

The trades have gotten a bad rap because somewhere down the line, it turned into an issue of class.  “You’re too smart for the trades.”  Ah-hem, who do you want building that school housing our children, a highrise that employs 25,000 people, or a bridge that handles over 102 million cars a year?  You better hope whoever is doing the construction has some brains behind those tools.

Thankfully, the trades are all inclusive and requires training for a set of skills that transcends class.  So it doesn’t matter if you didn’t graduate high school.  It doesn’t matter that you did jail time.  It doesn’t matter you’re all tatted up.  We take you as you are.  Intelligence isn’t standardized.  We don’t fit in those boxes, we build them for you.  If you want to learn and you pull your weight AND you can think critically on your feet, you’re GOLDEN.  Trades’ work could care less what class you come from; there is a place for everyone.  The question is do you take pride in your work?  Can you take direction?

And yes thankfully, it’s OK if you’re the academic who made the poor choice of getting an unusable degree and you’re sky high into debt.  You can still be a skilled tradesperson too, and pay off your debt!  There’s work to be done.  But first, you’ll need to learn how to throw a hammer right.  And don’t worry, there’s someone to teach you.  Apprenticeships are the life lines of the trades bringing vitality and value through individualized training no matter who you are.  That’s cool.


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