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Making a case for the skilled trades

I know that I usually offer business tips in my blog, but as I’m making progress on my dream of creating online training for the skilled trades, I’m going to preach about the value of skilled trades.

In the early days of the United States, being a skilled tradesperson offered a lot of prestige. Maybe you were the town’s only blacksmith and the whole town relied on you for your particular skill. Over time, we needed fewer blacksmiths and more plumbers, but a skilled tradesperson could still make a great living and have a major impact on his or her community.

At some point – I’m not a historian, so I’m not sure when or why – the skilled trades became an unpopular career choice. In a blind questionnaire given to thousands of high school students across the United States in the early part of this century, various job conditions were described and students rated them according to how well they’d like working that mystery job. Although the wage rate for skilled trades was high, nearly 80 percent of students indicated they preferred a job that allowed creativity and frequent human interaction but required being on your feet all day (a hair stylist) over any of the high wage with – let’s say challenging – working conditions a skilled tradesperson might encounter (nests of spiders or rodents, clogged toilets, bad weather,, live electrical wires – you catch my drift).

On top of less than cushy working conditions, there’s a nasty rumor floating around that there’s no future in skilled trades; that robots/robotics will take the place of humans. Why go into a field where you’ll be displaced by a machine?

I’ve got good news about robotics and unpleasant working conditions. The word “skilled” as it relates to trades means, among other things, assessing all the factors related to a problem and making a qualitative decision about a solution.

A machine can’t figure out how to get baby ducks out of a sewer. A machine with a camera attached can be sent down into the sewer and maneuvered by a human who will, when the ducklings are located, come up with a solution to get them out. The machine with the camera, no matter how advanced, cannot solve the problem. It can make solving the problem easier, but you still need the human to save the cute, fluffy, peeping-for-their-mama ducklings.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The machine has majority of the interaction with the unpleasant working conditions (the sewer). The machine is programmed and controlled by a human. A human may have to go into the sewer, but now that he or she knows where the ducklings are, it’s the human who determines the best course of action and spends a reduced amount of time in the unpleasant working conditions.

The need is great and the time has never been better to build a career in the skilled trades. Keep your ears to the ground, your eyes open and be on the lookout for more news about my digital school for service techs so you can join the exciting (but not full of as many ducklings as you might think) world of the skilled trades.