Trade Work and the Economy

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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
This is something that's been roiling in my brain for a couple of years now ever since I contracted to build n addition to my house two years ago.
The company I contracted to do the work did good work but it was very slow. The two people he had working for my house had great overall skills from framing to finish work, but I would get frustrated because they'd get pulled off for other jobs.
I found out from the owner that the problem was that he tried to get more teams going but could only rely upon those two who were both hard-working and reliable. I found out the same thing from a friend who is a very successful owner of a construction company.
This man stated that he literally cannot find young men to come work for him. He wants to hire them but they are not interested.
Immigrants from South America know this and they are able to be paid $40-$50/hour in the greater Northern VA area because there is such a demand for people with good skills and a good work ethic. By mentioning area of origin I am not making a nationalistic judgment on this trend. They are incredibly reliable and hard-working people. I haven't seen that level of hustle and consistency in other work I've had contracted.
Fast forward to the other day. My pellet stove broke after 20 years and I needed a new one. I went into the showroom almost a month ago and couldn't get an appointment for someone to come check measurements until last week. They were booked through May because he has so much work. It was the owner of the company who came out. He's at least in his mid-60s and he's doing the work because, again, he cannot find anyone to work for him.
Parts of America are in a home residential "construction boom" both in the need for new houses and people improving on their homes as thousands have left urban areas. The cost of materials has not only doubled but they literally cannot get the lumber in many cases to finish projects. Manufacturers of hot tubs, for instance are 6 months behind demand.
The owner of this company said that some are making money by calling their old customers and buying their old hot tubs, refurbishing them, and selling them to new customers at original retail price.
I'm not sure what my overall point in this post is except that (in my region at least) there are jobs to be had in trades and it's almost impossible to find workers even as people are complaining about not having work. We've gone to such a knoweledge economy that I wonder what it's going to look like in a decade or two because so many of the general contractors and owners I meet are middle-aged. Who is going to actually build things in the future?
Maybe what I'm saying is that if you have a kid who's not really into the academic life that steering him into a vocation like carpentry, plumbing, electrician, HVAC, etc will be a very lucrative vocation. your mileage may vary based on where you live but if you're in an area where there are plenty of suburban homes then there will be plenty of work for people who do good work and can find hard-working people to work with them who are reliable.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Feeds into the "overproduction of elites" theory of American woes I've been hearing so much about lately.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Incidentally, at a sister Church, I was talking to a young man who works for a local Arborist company (tree work). It was started by a firefighter who hired fellow firemen in their time off. He told me that a large percentage of people who do that work use drugs because many Arborists do not do the work safely and they take drugs because it's so scary. They do it safely and still hire firefighters and others in their spare time and can't keep up with demand.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Feeds into the "overproduction of elites" theory of American woes I've been hearing so much about lately.
Good point. At our youth group, some of the kids attend public schools and they hear all the time that they will need to be leaders in society. If everyone is supposed to change the world, who is left to actually fix the toilets? We don't have a system in most localities to train people for vocations. You are either going to be a world-changer or you just fall into something.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am encouraging my children to work with their hands and to have real-life marketable skills: around here it's whatever has to do with boats and boatbuilding. So carpentry, fiberglass work, rope splicing, etc. There's far too many engineers who tap at computer models, and far too few people who can build the models in real life. There's work in these parts for anyone with any sort of enterprising spirit.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
There's lots of work here for anyone who knows a trade and is reliable. Much work. And it pays well.

My own son is in college and only half enjoying it. We've told him we'd be pleased with him for learning a trade if he wanted to do that instead of college, but he hasn't really wanted to consider it. A week ago he did note, however, that a high school buddy who dropped out of college to become a welder is making good money after just a few months on the job.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Good point. At our youth group, some of the kids attend public schools and they hear all the time that they will need to be leaders in society. If everyone is supposed to change the world, who is left to actually fix the toilets? We don't have a system in most localities to train people for vocations. You are either going to be a world-changer or you just fall into something.
Well a world without functioning toilets would certainly be "changed." Just not, I suspect, for the better. :D
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, it is remarkable. Even during Covid local manufacturers are struggling to find skilled workers. This past year I've had three felony clients buck up and go to welding school. The boatbuilders here hired all of them as soon as they got their certificates.

So, we went from three incarcerated individuals costing the state money to three now-happy workers making $60K+ and buying houses. They know if they stick with it, they will be upper middle class in a few years.

Imagine the head start an energetic high schooler would have.

I learned several trades in my high school years and always was happy to use them to fund my higher education.
 

toledomudhen

Puritan Board Freshman
There's lots of work here for anyone who knows a trade and is reliable. Much work. And it pays well.

My own son is in college and only half enjoying it. We've told him we'd be pleased with him for learning a trade if he wanted to do that instead of college, but he hasn't really wanted to consider it. A week ago he did note, however, that a high school buddy who dropped out of college to become a welder is making good money after just a few months on the job.
We told our kids that honorable work was available without going to college, but that we would support them no matter which path they chose (college/trades). I think what we're seeing in the USA right now is that people think you don't need farms because we have grocery stores. Everything comes so easy to us and I don't think we appreciate how it all came to be.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
Younger millennial here. Ten years ago when I was graduating high school, I was working for my high school newspaper (about 2000 kids in a suburban southern town). I wanted to write a feature on trade school to encourage people to take that route if it made sense. My dad went to trade school and didn't have further education, but made a good living, and had always encouraged me and my brother that that was a good option. For me, I was more academically inclined and I'm glad I went to college. My brother ended up doing a trade for a bit (arborist) before going back to college and is now in graduate school.

However, I think our school and our generation's parents really hammered the need to go to college, as I could not find a single student in our 400 student class going to trade school. There were some people who were going into the military (probably the closest), some who were taking a "gap year" of some sort, but pretty much everyone else ended up going into college. However, it appears now a lot dropped out of college (some didn't even make it a semester) and many went to trade school or otherwise ended up in trades. And from what I can tell, many of those same folks are doing better than those who graduated college in some majors.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It is good that Rich brought up this topic. There are many ways to tease this out.

I think that it is important than people, especially men, be willing and able to do what needs to be done. That includes things across the blue/white collar spectrum. He must be willing, if need be, to get his hands dirty. While he may not need to do things himself he shouldn't be so clueless he cannot be of assistance to someone more competent. At the other end of the spectrum, he must also be willing, to some degree, be conversant in basic technology. One should be able to locate and be able to fill out applications, respond to inquiries, maintain contact information, organize email, read or even bang out something basic stuff on Word or Excel. You'd be surprised at how many men can't do extremely basic things on a computer and when they don't have a wife or girlfriend doing it for them many doors are not even open to them.

Having said that, girls are going to have to be willing to date and marry these guys. It's clear most here have no objections them doing so but there will be fear among those that don't. There is an entrenched and powerful pull on many young people to 'better themselves' despite coming from families who, by all reasonable estimations, have a nice life. The archetype, proud immigrant says, "my grandson got accepted into Harvard Law!" and not "my grandson finished welding school" even though the latter may provide an adequate, even rich family and community life.
 
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VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Having said that, girls are going to have to be willing to date and marry these guys. It's clear most here have no objections them doing so but there will be fear among those that don't. There is an entrenched and powerful pull on many young people to 'better themselves' despite coming from families who, by all reasonable estimations, have a nice life. The archetype, proud immigrant says, "my grandson got accepted into Harvard Law!" and not "my grandson finished welding school" even though the latter may provide an adequate, even rich family and community life.
I appreciate the information because it shows how diverse the demographic is. I'm sure that thinking is out there, but in my region it sounds very foreign. Mothers here would love to have their daughters marry millwrights or mechanics.

Anybody around here that goes for any training past high school is thought of as "college educated."

Just one example of the hierarchy of values: One of our oldest local pharmacies is owned by a youngish woman with a doctor of pharmacy. She is well-liked and respected. But, her husband is the one really respected: he is an accomplished fishing guide with a H.S. diploma! He does own many boats and is quite successful.
 
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jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
My youngest two are both crazy about aircraft and the way things work. We took them on a visit to PIA for certified aircraft mechanics. If Mom here has her way, they'll get their certifications, start working, then go to engineering school. They'll have a ticket to earn whatever happens.

It appears that many industries are recognizing they have to develop their own workforce. I saw a program the other day that trains trade folks so they can work at the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Conn.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
As one who used to bang nails for a living today's market is a lot better than it was 40 years ago in the construction industry. One day it was 104 degrees, and I thought to myself, I have to get out of here. I was gone within a week working in a hospital...in air conditioning. :)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
As one who used to bang nails for a living today's market is a lot better than it was 40 years ago in the construction industry. One day it was 104 degrees, and I thought to myself, I have to get out of here. I was gone within a week working in a hospital...in air conditioning. :)
I remember a similar experience in 2003, in Kuwait, 110 degrees and no air-conditioning.

I remember thinking: "No wonder people kill each other over here!"

Flying up to Iraq in a CH-46 was fun as was seeing the ruins of Babylon that year:

i-3DcQ65q-XL.jpg
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Plus, these are the kinds of jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.


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