Skilled trades, a tradesman, Carpenter, Bodyman, Mechanic, Plumber… why are these professions and titles not more revered in society? Why is there some kind of unspoken law in the mainstream consciousness that to have a “noble” profession you need a four-year Bachelor of Science degree just to get out of bed in the morning and not be doomed to the cash register at Dollar General for the rest of your life? I am not saying this to criticize working at retail jobs, or Dollar General, or Walmart, or any other unskilled job out there. There is a valuable place in the career path of someone working these jobs, and most of us have done them. I’m old enough to have pumped gas at a gas station, I’ve been a busboy in a kitchen, was a helper on construction sites, hauled shingles for roofers, and swept floors in body shops. All those low-paying jobs gave me experience, perspective, and a little scratch (but not much, which inspired me to get a better job). Entry-level jobs are a “dues paying” segment in one’s life, and part of a skilled trades vocational pathway.
Trades are noble careers in and amongst themselves that one can build a successful life upon. Without a skill you can’t be an HVAC contractor, open a tune-up shop, bodyshop, or cabinet shop. Master a trade and a business is born. American small business is the largest tax generator in this country. Politicians choose to call taxes “revenues,” but like it or not, our society runs on taxation so let’s call a thing a thing. Nobody pays more tax than small business, and small business is skilled trades. A career in a skilled trade is a way of life for the vast majority of Americans. So why is this not in the dialog of mainstream America?
The saying goes, “you are what you do.” I am an automotive technician because I repair cars, but that’s not where it ends … I’m a journalist because I’m a repair technician, video producer, TV personality, TV producer, public speaker, entrepreneur, patent holder, car designer, and skilled trades instructor … all built on the foundation of an automotive repair technician. Working with your hands does not keep you from dreaming big, and a foundation in the trades does not limit ones future. It pisses me off to see skilled trades represented as a second-class existence. Once, I stopped an argument with a former brother-in-law by whipping out paycheck stubs when I was a collision shop painter. That I was making $20K more a year than him, with his two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree, shut him right up. Skilled trades workers built this country (and every other country) and should be recognized and celebrated. Having a trade should be a logical and intelligent career path alternative that can give you the tools to move on to your ultimate destiny. Wake up, America! Wanna “make change?” Wanna change the direction of our country and this stagnant economy? Change this ridiculous stigma placed on skilled trades careers and let’s change the conversation.
Wake up, America! Wake up, politicians, and speak up if you’re a proud tradesman! My collar is blue.