I loved watching Dirty Jobs hosted by Mike Rowe. The show is no longer on the Discovery Channel but it had a good run. One of the things I loved the most about the show was how Mike showed great support for the skilled trades. His major tag line was “Regular men and women, doing the kind of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us.” Mike would go from town to town doing different jobs from a Pig farmer to cleaning sewers. His command of the English language and sharp wit made me laugh even after a really bad day! I did have a slight concern that he had an obsession ranging from Bovine excrement to human flatulence.
The whole structure of the program really focused on the skilled trades. What are skilled trades or skilled labor? One of the better definitions I have found is from Wikipedia, “A tradesman is a skilled manual worker in a particular trade or craft. Economically and socially, a tradesman’s status is considered between a laborer and a professional, with a high degree of both practical and theoretical knowledge of their trade.” The list of trades is quite long. A few examples are Butcher, Electrician, Janitor, Machinist, Welder and everything in between.
In the past 20 to 30 years we have seen a shift from basic labor to skilled labor with the amount of college careers remaining fairly steady. The days of shoveling ditches as a career are disappearing. The really alarming part is the lack of skilled trades people. Skilled trades were around long before universities came on the scene. What happened to these masters of flowing electrons and floating cement? I believe a few things occurred.
Maybe many of you who were convinced by our parents and other to go the college prep route during high school. Down the road somewhere in a segregated building lived the “vocational people.” These were made to be the outcasts of education that could not become college graduates. I remember those days. It seemed that a stigma was attached to “Vocational School.” Those people were dirty, the jobs were nasty and everyone else wanted a cushy office job. So add it up; stigma, most people wanting to go to college and those just expecting to go to a manufacturing job putting part A into part B and retiring on a fat pension after 30 years. Now we have a shortage. I encourage you to watch the short video of Mike Rowe testifying about the skilled trades:
So, I believe as Career Coaches in Workforce Development or parents or teachers is to encourage our young folks or adults in retraining to look at the benefits of the trades. Mike has a great site dedicated to the trades with a lot of information: Mike Rowe Works. Of course as with anything else, look closely at the different trades and what is involved in those lines of work. You may decide to become a plumber and then find yourself knee deep in poo wondering to yourself, “What kind of fresh hell is this?!”