Trade Jobs: A Contrary View

Quora: Why isn’t trade school respected?

Ke’Aun Afrofuturist Cosmopolitan

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In my experience, people who talk the loudest about how good the trades are, are people who don’t work in the trades.

Its never a mechanic talking about how awesome being a mechanic is. Never a HVAC worker trying to convince me to get into HVAC.

Its always some white-collar Republican trying to convince their 1.8million YouTube subscriber base that trades are great and college is for broke Marxists.

Take this guy, Mike Rowe:

Mike Rowe has done a lot to boost the profile of blue-collar work. And you know, good on him. That’s not an issue.

But Mike Rowe is not, and has never been, a blue-collar worker. And he’s very clear about this — in his own words he’s a lousy handyman. He is a media personality.

Now I don’t have a problem with Rowe, and I don’t even know his politics. And I’m not calling him specifically a hypocrite, as I think he’s just a passionate promoter.

I’m just using him as a relatively benign example of the “people who don’t hold hammers, trying to convince other people to hold hammers.”

As I said, Rowe is fairly benign (far as I know). Other people are much worse:

“Don’t be like one of those stupid cultural Marxists spending $100K on a Lesbian Dance degree. Instead learn a trade! My cousin’s uncle’s dogsitter’s best friend knows an HVAC technician, and he makes bank! Anyway, I gotta get to work; the books aren’t going to account themselves!”

The idea of trade school has basically become ammo in the Culture War. It’s hard to get a straight answer from people about whether the trades are actually worth it. Which is unfortunate. I have no issue with trade school or the trades. I do have an issue with many of their promoters.

For me, I’ve spoken with a few tradespeople in the course of my life. They were almost to a person WAY less enthusiastic than Those Who Have Never Hammered. Not pessimistic, mind you. But they weren’t fanning themselves with $100 bills on their way to the bank either.

(Coincidentally enough, I met most of them in the bank as a bank teller)

If I could sum up their attitudes, it would be:

The one tradesman I’ve met who was actually, passionately excited about his job, was a young welder. He was going to school for robotics so that he could, in his words, “make the robots that will replace the welders.”

So. Take from that what you will.


You want trade schools to be respected?

Get actual tradespeople to talk about how great the trades are.

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Like most people, Ke’Aun sees it as a class thing. Fair enough: most people, black and white, see it exactly through that lens.

Me? I’m wondering how much money you can charge, holding hammers.

If class position is of greater import to you than money, choose A. If money is more important, choose B.

“Workers big against workers. Employers big against employers.”

(Even though I see a good future in trades — fewer skilled workers — even I would recommend running a trades business and having your employees doing the muscle work.)

Of greater import to me is the physical toil of trades work. There are reasons why tradesmen, for a long time now, discouraged their children from following their footsteps.

Even mechanist work, which I extoll, has physical risks that must be managed.

So: is the tradesman being sufficiently compensated for holding the hammer?

On robots: that is a lesser worry. The robots are coming for all of us, artists and lawyers, accountants and journalists, CNC operators and taxi drivers.

A risk to be managed. Or, select a job where the robots have little or no reach.

Side note: IT remains the area with the highest salaries.

Which, indirectly, points to why the trades are pushed nowadays: shrink that government payroll.

Perhaps that push will succeed. Perhaps it won’t.

I would only say that it’s best to get off the poverty welfare rolls, as they are going to be the first to be cut when the bills comes due, far before the corporate welfare rolls (and subsidies to academia and education!) are cut.

Engineer, IT tech, trades or physician: all are in a better position when the budget axe comes down.

It is unwise to depend on the State: especially if you have little power or political pull.

Even corporations that depend on State protection, welfare gifts, and subsidies merely go into dry rot: things are good for the first decade or two, but the company grows fat and stupid, and – when the government protection is pulled – it shrinks rapidly or dies altogether.

Artificial security = complacency = death.

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