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View Full Version : The Trades in a New Economy and "Mike Rowe Works"



Pat Germain
04-01-2009, 11:12 PM
Surprisingly, I've recently heard a few positive comments considering the future of the trades in the US. In one story, a radio commentator was beside himself because his nephew decided he didn't want to go to college. He called his nephew and connected him with a professor of economics. The commentator wanted the profressor to straighten out the nephew.

I was amazed to hear the economics professor consider the situation and say, "Sounds like you're nephew is doing fine. He's working as an electrician and moonlighting as a bouncer. Those are jobs which cannot be shipped overseas. I know a lot of lawyers, but I don't them wiring my house." Gee, good points, I thought.

I also came across a web site by Mike Rowe, the guy who does the TV show "Dirty Jobs" on Discovery Channel. Rowe's site promotes the trades. Much of it still under construction but there's still some good content there. You can find it here:

http://www.mikeroweworks.com/ (http://www.mikeroweworks.com/)

While the US job situation seems to be tanking, I've heard a few snippets of news suggesting there is still strong demand for some blue collar skills. Sure, there is much bad news for traditional labor, but it's nice to hear some positive info as well. According to the service manager at a nearby Firestone service center, his top mechanic made over $90k last year. At first, I was skeptical. But maybe it's true. :confused:

On the other hand, I'm think all the folks with MBA's may have a hard time for a long time in the future.

Mitchell Andrus
04-02-2009, 12:05 AM
I've been saying for years... The next class of millionaire will be smart electricians and plumbers.

I know a few with vacation homes in warm places.
.

Greg Cole
04-02-2009, 9:37 AM
I've heard the same thing from various sources and it makes good sense, as in the uncommon common sense.:D
I have a 7 year old boy, and we talk about what he wants to be when he grows up. He has no idea and we talk about it for fun more than anything.
Were he to grow up and word as an electrician, carpenter, stone mason.. I would be just fine with it. It more important to enjoy (at least not dread) what you do and be the best you can be at what ever it may be.
Perfect example, one of my uncles has done nothing but work in the woods his entire life. Felling trees, selling lumber, firewood & timber for pulp etc and buying and reselling the tracts of land he cuts timber off. He's employed 4 other people at the most at one time. He wears jeans and a flannel shirt every day of the year. He's a millionaire about 7 times over "or so".

Cliff Rohrabacher
04-02-2009, 12:50 PM
Every tradesman I know is busy.
All the licensed ones are super busy.

If your kid is disinclined from education steer 'em toward a licensed trade.

Rod Sheridan
04-02-2009, 1:52 PM
I agree.

My friend is a master plumber, and cannot find apprentice's at present.

The old image of trades people as not being very smart is simply not accurate.

Trades people now work in a world that's far more technically complicated than decades ago.

It can be a lucrative, portable and interesting career, however guidance people in high schools seem to regard it as a last choice career.

Regards, Rod.

Belinda Williamson
04-02-2009, 4:31 PM
Let's face it, not everyone is cut out to be a college grad, or wear a suit and tie. We have a couple of "alternative" high schools in the area that are basically tech schools for students who are academically challenged, or choose not to take a traditional path. We have a young man working for us currently who just doesn't process written material well, and school was a challenge. He is remarkably skilled at repairing machinery - any machinery. He's great with his hands. He spots potential problems before they become problems, and he's great at solving problems if and when they do occur.

Everyone having a college degree and working a white collar job is like opening a box of animal crackers and finding only giraffes. You need all the other animals to make the idea work.

Jerome Hanby
04-02-2009, 5:28 PM
Everyone having a college degree and working a white collar job is like opening a box of animal crackers and finding only giraffes. You need all the other animals to make the idea work.

But the giraffes are sooooooo good! Plus they are the only one of the shapes that taste like the real thing.......j/k

Mark Bolton
04-02-2009, 8:49 PM
Let's face it, not everyone is cut out to be a college grad, or wear a suit and tie. We have a couple of "alternative" high schools in the area that are basically tech schools for students who are academically challenged, or choose not to take a traditional path.

Belinda,
While I am sure you dont intend it, and the internet is a tough medium to accurately convey ones thoughts, your post reads (to me) exactly as the trades were viewed when I was coming up.

Trade, Vocational, Technical, schools were viewed as the places the dumb kids, dopers, not so smart, went. I personally was jeered many many times in my teens for going to trade instead of traditional high school by people who felt I could have "done more". I was no rocket scientist but I, and many of my classmates, easily went through college prep. courses. This was in the early 80's when computers were just taking hold. In the years that followed kids in machine shop, auto tech, electronics, worked with computers as much as they did with wrenches.

Quoted adjectives like "alternative", academically challenged, traditional path, and not everyone being cut out for college, are the very things I heard about the school I attended which, at the time, served approximately 1000 students coming from 13 towns. It was no small affair. Many of us did infact go on to further education even with full scholarships just as those in "traditional" schools.

I dont mean this to in anyway sound defensive though I am sure it will. But I think the stigma of working with your hands is still thick in our society but advances in homes, vehicles, and technology are raising the common folk to a level closer to that of a lawyer, banker, doctor.

Given he was oriental and raised in a different culture, I went to the doctor once because my back was bothering me pretty bad from a life in the building trade. During the exam he asked me what I do for a living and I said "I build houses". He paused and stepped back and said "you can read, write?... have high schoo dipwoma?!?" I replied "Oh yeah, for sure, and more." He says "You get better job." I walked out of the office wanting to ask him about how many overweight, hypertensive, executives, with herniated disks from bending over to tie their shoes, he sees on a weekly basis, but I just left.

To the original post, I would agree that times for those who work with their hands have likely never been better however I couldnt count the conversations I have had with older tradesman who would love nothing more than to hand their business off to a young person willing to work hard and learn. Many have told me they would almost GIVE their business to the right person however there are slim to none in the way of takers.

I for one am not optimistic with regards to the future of the trade though things can easily change. I fear many will come to the trades because they need to rather than because they want to.

Mark

Joe Mioux
04-02-2009, 9:36 PM
This is a very interesting thread.

I have read threads here from people who left the "white collared" world to start working with wood. some continued and some went back to a regular pay check.

I am also thinking about three of the four high schools in my county. The three that I am most familiar with all have a buildings trades program. The kids start in their jr year and start building a house, by their sr year it is complete.

Two of the high schools have woodworking. I am proud to say that one is a private school that my boys attend and that I am on the school board. We work really hard for money to keep the doors open. I went to the same HS compared to when I was there Shop classes are different but there are actually more Trades being taught today than 30 years ago.

Michael, my oldest, isn't interested in that sort of thing, he would rather draw the instructions and problem solve on paper.

Nicholas, is all outdoors and definitely not into books. The kid is smart, even though we see a lot of poor report cards, he scored very well on a Pre ACT test.

I can't imagine Nick working in an office or Michael working in the sun. Michael is headed to University of Illinois this fall and Nicholas is headed towards learning how to build house this fall and next spring.

The funny part about it is, I have unanimous comments from friends that says Nicholas will be the most successful out of my four kids.... the kid with poor grades but a great personality and a desire to pursue a career that makes him happy.

joe

Belinda Williamson
04-03-2009, 8:06 AM
Belinda,
While I am sure you dont intend it, and the internet is a tough medium to accurately convey ones thoughts, your post reads (to me) exactly as the trades were viewed when I was coming up.


Quoted adjectives like "alternative" . . .

I dont mean this to in anyway sound defensive though I am sure it will. But I think the stigma of working with your hands is still thick in our society but advances in homes, vehicles, and technology are raising the common folk to a level closer to that of a lawyer, banker, doctor.
Mark

Mark,

First, you are correct in your initial assessment of my post. I did not in any way mean to offend, sound condescending, or in any way "put down" anyone working in the trades, or anyone who didn't take the a so called traditional course. I work with my hands every day, and that puts food on my table.

Let me take a step back and attempt to get myself back in your good graces. I put the word alternative in quotes because that's how everyone around here refers to the schools, you can almost see the quotation marks hanging in the air when some folks speak of the schools. Not to go too deep into the discussion and take this thread in a different direction, but the time may be coming when those who are skilled with their hands will be the ones who survivie. I don't have a college degree, and don't begrudge those who do. They worked hard to get the degree, I just worked hard in another direction. The point I was attempting to make about the employee in the post is that he is a real asset to the company.

I should learn to keep my big mouth shut or, in this case, my fingers off the keyboard.

Greg Cole
04-03-2009, 9:36 AM
Spend some time in Europe, working trades & skilled workers are much on the same level of societal respect as doctors, businessmen etc.
A welder in Denmark is not looked at as a dumb dumb who couldn't get a "good" job and had to settle for a working mans job.... back to that stigma Mark mentions.
What one does for a living has little reflection on intelligence.

Steve Jenkins
04-04-2009, 6:49 PM
I'm pretty sure that at some point i have told this story.
I was working on an antique sideboard in an office and the man at the desk was watching so just to make some conversation I asked him what he did. In a fairly condescending tone he told me he was " a consultant of sorts". Then continued on that "some of us work with our minds and some of you have to work with your hands". Rather than ripping off his head I simply replied " true and some of us can do both". Needless to say he turned pretty red in the face and went back to his paperwork.

Josh Davis
04-04-2009, 7:20 PM
I am one of the ones who hated school. I never saw a reason why I needed to sit in a boring class room and learn about things that would never apply to me. At the age of 16, I had enough, I went and got my GED and went to work. Everyone at school told me I was screwing up big time. They all went on to college. They all are still working dead end retail jobs, living at home with their parents. At the age of 24 I bought my house and got married. at the age of 26, I am almost 3 full years ahead on my home loan, Own two vehicles free and clear, married, and have my first child on the way. The friends, still living in their parents basements.

My wife shocked one of her friends a few months back. Her friend asked her "is Josh going keep screwing around playing in the dirt, or is he going to school and make something of himself." Her husband works at a bank, so he must have an important job, right? That girls jaw hit the floor when my wife told her I make around $100,000 in a good year, and still have 3 months off. Sure, last year was slow, but I still did damn good. So keep sending todays youth to college so they can get their degree. Ill keep making good money, and by the time they own their first home, I will own my own business, making even more.

All the trades are facing future shortages of labor. I am in the International Union of Operating Engineers, local 324. Right now our average age is 48 years old. About 8 years ago I went in for the apprenticeship test we have. We had over 500 people at one location, and around 200 at another location. That year we took 20 apprentices. Fast forward to this year. We are taking 80 apprentices, we had less than 150 people show up for the test. Everyone wants to work in a nice office, or with computers.

Around here, I know Plumbers and pipe fitters, carpenters, insulators, laborers, and most other trade unions are in the same boat. The ones that really seem to be hurting around here are Millwrights. With the situation the auto makers are in, Millwrights are not in a huge demand. Yet they have a high age group like us. Its a catch 22 for them, they dont have work for apprentices, yet if they dont get some, I really see their skills and trade going by the way side.

travis howe
04-04-2009, 8:13 PM
It's nice to know that I'm not too abnormal!;) I got good grades in HS but it wasn't my thing, boring.... I wanted to dig in and do something w/out learning all the nuts and bolts up front.

I ended up joining the United States Navy, working in computers/networks/secure communications. I grew up on a horse and cattle ranch and learned to work hard early and respect people.

I left the navy 4 years later and started in the Information Security / Communications (Trade as it be), 2 years later I was making over $100k. That was 10 years ago and I'm still at it, facing more challenges and making more $$. The thing with computers, school and especially security is that by the time your 2nd term comes around what you've learned is out of date. In all my years, I've only worked for one person that had a degree and ironcially was an Air Force Officer.

Gotta laugh, there was an older fella I spoke to when I was leaving the Navy and when I told him what I wanted to do he told me "it was a bad idea because technology was going to make everything secure in the near future."

Non-the-less if I could make a living doing woodworking, I'd be there!;)

Cheers,

Travis

Peter Luch
04-04-2009, 10:47 PM
Might as well add my $.02

Graduated from H.S. in 75
Only good advice my father gave me was to get a trade if not going to collage and I was not going......;)

Joined the carpenters union as an apprentice, went to four years of apprenticeship classes and became a journeyman.

Fast forward to now.
Retired and living in Hawaii, actually retired at 47.

All those white collar people have nothing on someone who can work with their hands.:D

Aloha, Pete

Carlos Alden
04-05-2009, 11:42 AM
This is a great topic.

I grew up with that definite mind-set about college vs. non-college people. I truly felt that higher education made one better.

But with some more life experience I saw that tradespeople had solid skills, good jobs, and were a valuable part of society. I also learned that many of them I encountered were highly educated and chose to do what they were doing.

The real capper for me was when my kids entered the educational system. There is so much emphasis on raising the educational levels for everyone, and that all kids should be able to go to college to compete in the world job market. Of course this makes little sense when broken down into real terms. What, we need to push more standardized tests on our kids because some other country has kids that perform better on math standardized tests?

I now firmly believe that we need a wider spectrum of educational experiences and options for kids. There is nothing wrong with having a young person decide, while in school, they want to go into the trades and start getting education toward that end. As is being pointed out, not only are these lucrative jobs, they are honorable and crucially needed professions in this world, and I wish our educational system would afford them the respect they are due. We don't need a world full of lawyers. (Insert favorite attorney joke here.)

Carlos

Mark Bolton
04-06-2009, 8:49 PM
I should learn to keep my big mouth shut or, in this case, my fingers off the keyboard.

Belinda,
Please don't do that!!! As I said, I knew your intent was not to demean the trades.

I apologize for being late getting back to the thread, work, work, work, but please don't cull your posts on any account.

Mark

Mark Bolton
04-06-2009, 9:14 PM
I am one of the ones who hated school. I never saw a reason why I needed to sit in a boring class room and learn about things that would never apply to me. At the age of 16, I had enough, I went and got my GED and went to work.

Josh,
I would agree that there are definitely those who can make it out there without HS however in today's society I think its becoming more essential than ever. There, at least to me, seems to be less and less motivated young people out there who are apt to succeed on the path you did.

It seems what we see more and more are young people that have to be carried along for a major part of the way if they ever get their feet under them at all. While I have never worked union I have been around a lot and it seems more apparent there than anywhere else.

For an average kid (not the exceptional one) I look at the HS diploma as a badge that they were willing to eat poop for 4 (or more) years and toughed it out. It in no way means they are smarter or soaked an ounce of it in but it means they rode the bus, showed up, and realized that you don't always get to do what you want.

I agree that it is absolutely possible, and in fact easy if you are willing to work, I am just very skeptical that many have what it takes today. As I mentioned in another post, what I personally worry about in these times is that people will come to the trades because they need to rather than want to. These are the times when you see every pickup truck going down the road with a ladder on it or a bunch of lawn mowers and weed eaters. All the guys who think that because they built fido a dog house they can put a roof on, do some landscaping, or paint houses.

Mark

Pat Germain
04-06-2009, 9:42 PM
Hey, this is turning out to be a good thread.

We live in interesting times. My son is a college grad. He was an English major. He's an amazingly intelligent and talented young man. But he can't find any kind of job using his degree. He's currently getting by as a bartender and aspiring singer-songwriter. And he's getting by pretty well.

Now, many might say, "What do you expect from an English degree?". Well, historically, an English degree would open doors in business and other professions. Many attorneys got their undergrad in English; same for many MBAs. Michael Eisner, famous for saving the Walt Disney Company, was an English major.

Alas, things have changed much very recently. Large corporations are no longer looking for young college grads to groom for advancement. They want hard engineering skills. Or hard trade skills.

For the past few decades, most parents believed their kids must get a college degree and work a white collar job. That seems to be more of a dead-end now. There's a lot of dough in white collar crime. For honest workers, maybe not so much; outside of working professionals and senior executives.

So, maybe the traditional trades will be become more appealing. Maybe more young people will start to embrace the joy and satisfaction of working with one's hands.

Mike Henderson
04-06-2009, 9:43 PM
There's an old saying "If you think education is expensive, try living without it." A college education opens doors to opportunity. The person with the college degree doesn't even notice it most of the time, but the person without the degree sees the door closed. And in every economic downturn, the brunt of the downturn is borne by the blue collar workers.

You could start a business, of course, but the failure rate for new business is extremely high.

And everything I said above is even worse for those who don't get a high school diploma.

I was very fortunate to be able to get a college education, and it changed my life. I lived a very different life than I would have if I had not gotten a degree.

My continuing advice to every young person is, "Get as much education as you can. It will pay dividends throughout your life."

Mike

Pat Germain
04-06-2009, 10:03 PM
There's an old saying "If you think education is expensive, try living without it." A college education opens doors to opportunity. The person with the college degree doesn't even notice it most of the time, but the person without the degree sees the door closed. And in every economic downturn, the brunt of the downturn is borne by the blue collar workers.

You could start a business, of course, but the failure rate for new business is extremely high.

And everything I said above is even worse for those who don't get a high school diploma.

I was very fortunate to be able to get a college education, and it changed my life. I lived a very different life than I would have if I had not gotten a degree.

My continuing advice to every young person is, "Get as much education as you can. It will pay dividends throughout your life."

Mike

I agree that's the way things used to be, Mike. I'm seeing signs of changes. Unfortunately, the old system of mere college degrees opening doors and demanding higher salaries has been abused. Diploma mills and for-profit schools are cranking out college grads without a clue.

I work with many, highly-educated and amazing engineers. I work with many very talented non-college-grads. Then there's a large group of college grads who are just plain dead wood. They don't know anything. They don't do anything. But they've got all these degrees and on paper they look amazing. What a crock. :rolleyes:

At my last project, there were multiple PhDs who quite literally offered absolutely no value. They went to meetings. They wrote documents. They proposed ideas and concepts that bore no resemblance to reality or practicality. I think people are starting to wake up to these expensive bozos.

Yet, I full understand, a truly well-rounded and well-educated person can usually go very far and has much to offer. The trick is to recognize these individuals, as well as people with hard skills in the trades, and tell the rest of the clowns to slag off. ;)

I used to work on aircraft carriers. Out of about 6,000 people working on a carrier, the vast majority are enlisted. A small minority are officers. That's the way it works. Not everybody can be an officer. And many an officer couldn't survive as an enlisted man.

Mark Bolton
04-06-2009, 10:29 PM
I agree that's the way things used to be, Mike. I'm seeing signs of changes. Unfortunately, the old system of mere college degrees opening doors and demanding higher salaries has been abused. Diploma mills and for-profit schools are cranking out college grads without a clue.

And how about the endless litany of examples we see of kids getting hammered at parties, doing "keg stands", wasting their parents harder eared dollars. I know all too many college students today who arrange their classes so they dont have to get out of bed before noon, take classes like "bowling", or "badminton", on and on. Times are surely changing.

That being said, the college diploma (to me) signifies a further stage of poop eating. It means that you ate the poop, but your mommy and daddy didnt get you up, make sure you brushed your teeth, and made sure you did your homework. Even a flop of a college grad had to do it on their own. It shows a bit of self control (emphasis on "a bit") and self responsibility.

I am well aware that there are the hard workers out there but it seems even in the colleges the scales are tilting.


I used to work on aircraft carriers. Out of about 6,000 people working on a carrier, the vast majority are enlisted. A small minority are officers. That's the way it works. Not everybody can be an officer. And many an officer couldn't survive as an enlisted man.

I personally feel the times are changing in that people are finally coming to their senses that the "cogs" on the wheel are worth a hell of a lot more than the corporate elite of the past twenty years have been giving them credit for. I for one have long grown tired of the drum beat that the top two percent tows the line for the rest of us. In my humble opinion its a lot more like the air craft carrier. Many of the officers could be tossed overboard and while the ship may see some humps and bumps along the way, it would likely still hit port. If the crew hopped over the side you'd see a ship sitting dead in the water.

Its about time the corporate elite in the US gets back to realizing this a bit more than they have been. If not, I say toss em' to the sharks.

Mark

Mike Henderson
04-06-2009, 10:48 PM
There are slackers everywhere but at any top university the competition is fierce to get top grades. I did my BS a long time ago but I did my masters much more recently. The competition between students in the classes for top grades is unbelievable. It takes a lot of hours outside the class to really master the material. Those kind of competitive people take that same attitude into business. They're not spoiled, spoon fed kids. They're hard headed, hard working, focused, people with specific goals. The term "over-achieving" comes to mind.

There are a lot of really good students out there, and they're as good as any generation.

A college degree (from a good school and with good grades) means you're disciplined, hard working, and ambitious.

And if a business has people, degreed or not, who are not contributing, they need to address the problem. Carrying non-productive people on the payroll will not lead to long term success.

Mike

Pat Germain
04-06-2009, 11:10 PM
There are a lot of really good students out there, and they're as good as any generation.

A college degree (from a good school and with good grades) means you're disciplined, hard working, and ambitious.

And if a business has people, degreed or not, who are not contributing, they need to address the problem. Carrying non-productive people on the payroll will not lead to long term success.

Mike

I'm wondering if carrying non-productive people just keeps a company from getting sued.

I agree what you're saying, Mike. :)

I also wonder how many of these overachievers are real. No doubt you and your classmates are the genuine articles.

I live near the US Air Force Academy. You pretty much have to be an overachiever to get accepted there. Yet, a couple of years ago, a bunch of freshman got the boot when they were caught cheating on a very minor assignment. It gave the impression that cheating was just routine for those kids. How many didn't get caught?

Then there are the "student athletes". How many of those kids are actually getting a higher education? Certainly some are. And certainly many aren't.

Jim Finn
04-06-2009, 11:56 PM
My continuing advice to every young person is, "Get as much education as you can. It will pay dividends throughout your life."

Mike[/quote] I agree and one of the best educations is learning a trade. I remember being told by educators back in the 50's that one had to get a collage education because machines will take away all the blue collar jobs. Well, we now have machines to do much of the thinking and tradesmen to service the machines. Many collage graduates turned to the trades to make a better living and have a more secure job. I have worked with many of them in construction trades.

Mike Henderson
04-07-2009, 12:02 AM
My continuing advice to every young person is, "Get as much education as you can. It will pay dividends throughout your life."

Mike
I agree and one of the best educations is learning a trade.
I don't disagree with you at all, Jim. There's a lot to learn in any trade and knowing more always helps you.

Mike

Mark Bolton
04-07-2009, 3:57 AM
There are a lot of really good students out there, and they're as good as any generation.

A college degree (from a good school and with good grades) means you're disciplined, hard working, and ambitious.

And if a business has people, degreed or not, who are not contributing, they need to address the problem. Carrying non-productive people on the payroll will not lead to long term success.

Mike

I think we would all be in agreement that there are good students out there. I think it just maybe a time in our society when the chaff isn't being seperated from the wheat as well as it should be. As always, at the top there are always those who shine it would be very interesting to see a some data or hear from some in academia as to what their take is on todays percentage of wheat to chaff and that of 20, 30, or 40, years ago.

With regards to non productive payroll, given our current situation, it would seem pretty clear that a good place to start looking is from the top down.

Mark

Rod Sheridan
04-07-2009, 8:44 AM
There's an old saying "If you think education is expensive, try living without it." A college education opens doors to opportunity. The person with the college degree doesn't even notice it most of the time, but the person without the degree sees the door closed. And in every economic downturn, the brunt of the downturn is borne by the blue collar workers.

You could start a business, of course, but the failure rate for new business is extremely high.

And everything I said above is even worse for those who don't get a high school diploma.

I was very fortunate to be able to get a college education, and it changed my life. I lived a very different life than I would have if I had not gotten a degree.

My continuing advice to every young person is, "Get as much education as you can. It will pay dividends throughout your life."

Mike

Well said Mike, education of any sort opens doors, post secondary education especially.

If you want a career in the trades, that's fantastic, it's another type of education, however it is still education.

Regards, Rod.

Eric DeSilva
04-07-2009, 9:52 AM
I find this thread kind of strange. Everyone seems excessively sensitive about being perceived as being condescending towards the trades, but it seems quite OK to point out instances where the college system fails. There are drunk, stupid, lazy, and inefficient people on both sides of the aisle.

Here's a couple facts. The average college graduate earns 75% more than the average non-college graduate. Over a lifetime, that can easily be $1M or more.

Yes, people can succeed without a college degree. One of my two closest friends will pull down $250K this year and doesn't have a college degree (oddly, at 35, he has now decided he will go back a get one). I also agree that having a college degree does not make you smart or give you common sense, but not having a college degree doesn't make you smart or give you common sense either.

I was lucky enough to be able to get to college and then on to post-graduate studies. In its truest form, higher education is learning about how to learn and how to approach problems. I don't care if your degree is physics or English literature--the idea of college is to give you tools to allow you to critically think about things and solve issues. I can't see anyone not getting a benefit from that, and I would encourage anyone to seek that out. And, as others have said, whether or not its arbitrary as applied in any specific instance, having a college degree will open doors to you that may otherwise not exist.

I, for one, will do everything in my power to convince my son to get a degree.

BTW, Mike Rowe has a degree from Towson State.

Belinda Williamson
04-07-2009, 10:00 AM
Not an argument for either side, just interesting . . .

According to the article 20% of the billionaires studied either never attended, or didn't complete college.

http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/106866/Billionaire-Clusters

David Fairfield
04-07-2009, 10:07 AM
I used to practice contract law. I quit. Now I make stuff for a living. Making stuff is way better. :)

Dave

Kyle Kraft
04-07-2009, 12:26 PM
As a skilled tradesman myself holding 2 journeymans certificates, I am absolutely amazed at the number of people out there that can't fix anything......ANYTHING!!!

Living in Michigan, if my job wads up and goes away there isn't much left for me in this state. I have considered the fact stated above and mused about simply doing handyman stuff for those who can't. As long as there is "stuff" there will be a need for people who can fix "stuff".

I'm hoping that there will come a day when employers will pay top dollar for skilled tradesmen as there simply won't be anyone left in the workforce that can do such jobs. Unfortunately you have to have a manufacturing base for that and I really don't see that coming back in the near future.

Brett Carlson
04-07-2009, 1:01 PM
I went to college, five years, two degrees one in Speech Comm. the other in Poli. Sci. (thinking lawyer at the time). I find that college gave me an opportunity to see what is out there, but not the means for survival. I now work as a designer/engineer in fire protection. It is a desk J.O.B., Just Over Broke. I have bought a home, but make the numbers work by renting out 80% of the rooms. I wanted to believe that a career path will bring me early retirement and wealth at a young age, well it isn't happening. I am more ambitious to start my own business, my goal is to start with laser engraving then working up to a full on Laser based CMC shop. I figure there will be a need to manufacture in this country again, rather than just be an economy based on service. Another note, my dad has owned his own business since I was born. I never thought this was a great way to live bc of all the hard work and time. A father of a good friend of mine in college worked for a top fortune 500 company. After the dust has settled, his father has watched his 401k dwindle down to nothing bc of greedy CEO's. Sure they are taking them to court, but to reclaim the retirement is next to impossible. Now I look at my dad's situation and maybe it isn't too bad owning a business after all, in the end, he will sell it with the land and have more in his retirement than any 401k program could have given him, with or without the crooks at the helm. I will think about college, but use my hands and my head to feed my family. And only invest in tangeable assets...Crooks can't take houses, but they can take numbers on a piece of paper...

Mark Bolton
04-07-2009, 6:50 PM
And, as others have said, whether or not its arbitrary as applied in any specific instance, having a college degree will open doors to you that may otherwise not exist.

I, for one, will do everything in my power to convince my son to get a degree.

BTW, Mike Rowe has a degree from Towson State.

I couldnt agree more. It has traditionally, and will likely to continue to, open doors. I can speak to this directly in that my wife spent many years in the insurance industry. Could do all the jobs in her, and many of the surrounding departments, in her sleep. Yet she and her fellow co-workers were frequently passed over when posting out for promotions. These positions were most always lost to individuals who had never worked in the insurance industry, knew nothing about insurance, yet they held a degree in physical education, or any number of other degrees which provided them little to no benefit for the job they were hired. Yet they were hired, most always at a higher rate, over people who could do the job immediately, contribute to the department, and so on, because they were degreed.

This happened numerous times on a steady rotation. These people would come and go and the process would simply repeat itself over and over all the while the "steadies" in the departments would train these individuals, as well as perform these jobs directly while waiting for these positions to be filled with yet another degree.

I personally feel some of it is simply systemic. It is merely a continuation of a business model that may be needing to be tweaked in todays world. We now see offices with nap rooms, bikes, extremely casual environments. These are breaking the molds of the old stiff standard business model. I also feel some of it is opportunistic on the companies part in that they realize the extreme value of the "steady" and they are too valuable to lose. And why compensate them when you have them at an already low cost.

I also believe our system is partly based on academia's need to support itself. I myself come from an art background and this is perhaps the most self preservationist segment of academia I have ever seen. There are venues you cant even get into in the art world unless you have a degree from a certain institution. There are countless juried exhibitions that are pointless for anyone with out a degree from a prestigious institution to enter merely because, regardless of the merits of your work, if it isnt associated with a certain institution it will not be acknowledged, period. I have directly questioned (could say dared) why there wouldn't be some exhibitions where the artist (and their resume) weren't discovered until after the jury process. These suggestions are met with great opposition as heaven forbid they would find 2-3 uneducated people in the top 10. This protectionism is well known in the art world.

I for one have been clear that education to the highest level one can possibly achieve is absolutely the best goal to strive for. I however don't agree with kids treating college as a 4 year semi party and being rewarded for it in any way. Yet merely making it through does in fact provide them with substantial reward. They will enter most any job they get at a higher level than a non degreed individual. I dont think its any news that most individuals who would have the opportunity to go back to college at a later stage in life would try to suck the institution dry of every drop of knowledge they could glean in the time they had access to it not frittering their time away sleeping in and partying. I am not saying a bunch of kids should have that hootspa however they also don't deserve the arbitrary reward the degree provides. I say hooray for Google, Youtube, Myspace, and all the other life documenters we have out there now.

I think its time we began to judge each on their actual merits. Of course in a blind interview you are going to have to apply much weight to a degree over non. But there are many instances where it sets the holder at an advantage yet in actuality it means nothing more than paying your dues.

Mark

Scott Shepherd
04-07-2009, 7:21 PM
Great post Josh! :) Loved it. All I ever wanted to do since I was about 14 was metalworking. Mostly A's in Geometry, Algebra, Technical Drawing, etc. Would have worked out well to go off and become an Engineer. I didn't want to. I wanted to cut metal, weld, turn, mill, braze, solder, whatever else I could do to metal. Got a job in a machine shop at 16 (legal age to work), got my Journeysman card as a Machinist when I was 19. I was always looked down upon by a few people in my circle of friends. After school, I continued to work and they continued to college.

I saw one of them about 4 years later in a restaurant. He said at the table and began to tell him how great he was doing since he got out of college. He bragged about getting his first job and making $18,000 a year. I didn't have the heart to tell him I made more than that in overtime, or that I bought my first house at 20 years old.

A surgeon may very well be worth the $500,000 he makes a year, but I'd like to see one of them operate without any instruments made by the machinist, or in a room with no lights because the electrician didn't come by. I think one of the worst things in the USA today is the disrespect for tradesmen and their pay. It shows when they signed off to ship manufacturing out of the country because it wasn't important enough.

Pat Germain
04-07-2009, 8:37 PM
I find this thread kind of strange. Everyone seems excessively sensitive about being perceived as being condescending towards the trades, ...

The sensitivity comes from what we keep hearing from "experts". We keep hearing that *everyone* in America must get a college degree to compete in the world. That's bunk.

It's a given that attending a traditional, respected college or university and actually earning a marketable degree is a worthwhile endeavor which will pay off over the long term. Yet, not everyone has the opportunity or the desire to do so. And this model has been morphed and abused.

Many companies, as well as the government, started promoting people based on a sheepskin and nothing more. So, people started gaming the system. For-profit "Colleges" and "Universities" started sprouting up everywhere. People pay big bucks and get loans to attend these schools. Some get those promotions based on the degrees they bought.

Many others learned their degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on. They end up with debt and nothing to show for it. Had these people persued some kind of trade, they'd be in a much better position.

There are many variables in higher education. A lot of young people are pretty upset these days because they racked up $80,000 dollars in debt to attend a well respected school only to learn nobody is hiring Women's Studies majors, for example.

Certainly, there are many lackluster performers in the trades. And equally, a college degree isn't always an indicator of performance and potential.

Mark Placek
04-07-2009, 9:00 PM
I never regretted the choice I made very early in my life to become a Union Carpenter.
Its been almost 30 years now and I still enjoy going to work every day.
All the lessons learned during my career are reflected in my artwork.

I wish more young people would have the drive to learn a trade, its a tough living but a good one.

Dan Friedrichs
04-07-2009, 9:57 PM
There are many variables in higher education. A lot of young people are pretty upset these days because they racked up $80,000 dollars in debt to attend a well respected school only to learn nobody is hiring Women's Studies majors, for example.



+1. Well said, Pat.

While society may choose to compensate a degreed person over a tradesman, this is often anomalous - a good electrician arguably provides more benefit to society than most English/literature/poli-sci/etc majors do.
If you have college-aged kids, make sure they aren't just going to college for the experience. Make them come up with a plan of what they're going to study, where it's going to lead them in life, how they're going to pay for it, how the payback justifies the expense, etc.

IMHO (as a recent college grad currently in grad school), there are very few degrees worth paying >$50k for. I think accredited engineering, pharmacy, and architecture are the only ones that come immediately to mind.

Eric DeSilva
04-08-2009, 7:15 AM
...a good electrician arguably provides more benefit to society than most English/literature/poli-sci/etc majors do.

I'd argue you have no idea. I'm not saying that a good electrician doesn't benefit society, I'm saying that you don't have a clue what an English/literature/poli-sci/etc major does. The point--as I stated before--of a liberal arts education is that it should be a degree in learning and how to learn. I'd argue that someone with a good liberal arts degree can do anything.

Yes, there are colleges that don't provide good educations. Yes, there are people attending college that are wasting the experience. But, no every electrician is "a good electrician" either. Face it, there are people who are going to party their way through trade school or abuse an apprenticeship as well.


IMHO (as a recent college grad currently in grad school), there are very few degrees worth paying >$50k for. I think accredited engineering, pharmacy, and architecture are the only ones that come immediately to mind.

Interesting that you picked three degrees that I would consider less-than-classic degrees in the sense that each is a glorified trade school education.

Right now, figuring an "average" non-degree'd individual probably earns $35K per year, my mathematics degree and post-grad degrees have been worth... oh, about a 150x what I paid for them. That is a pretty frickin' good investment.

Jim Kountz
04-08-2009, 8:36 AM
Interesting thread to say the least. Coming from someone who has been a general contractor for the last 21 years, I can tell you that my kid will never swing a hammer for a living if I have anything to say about it. Its a tough row to hoe. Its either all up or all down and right now in my county its down. I could round up a top notch crew of highly skilled carpenters and woodworkers just by hanging out at the local gas station for an hour or two every morning. One of my good friends who is also a competitor laid off all but 12 of his crew down from over 30 employees. Competition is fierce, you have guys out here bidding jobs at $15/hr just to get the work and cutting the throat of the rest of us who feel we are worth alot more than that. Dealing with clueless customers day in and day out, wrestling with banks and inspectors, trying to cope with employess who beg for a job then dont show up. Its just not a nice business as far as Im concerned but its all Ive ever done so I wouldnt know what to do without it right now.
Im probably one of the slowest contractors out here and I say that with a bit of pride actually. Im not the guy who gets the job done as fast as humanly possible but rather the type who takes my time and puts alot of ME into the project. My name is on everything I do and Im the one who's going to get a call if something isnt right. So though I may move at a slower pace I will put my work up against anybodys and not have to back up to get my check. These shake and bake houses that are being built today are a slap in the face to a true craftsman, its sad but true.
So to and end I'll just say my kid will go to college if it kills both of us and hopefully have a better quality of life than his dear ol dad has had!!

Jim Kountz
04-08-2009, 8:39 AM
AND!! Dont even get me started about workmans comp, health insurance, liability ins license fees, taxes and everything else you have to deal with being a contractor. Broken equipment, vehicle repairs.........man it just never stops.......

Scott Shepherd
04-08-2009, 8:49 AM
I know a lot of tradesmen making $60K or more a year, and at the same time, know a lot of college grad's who can't find a job at $35K. The math may be there in many cases, but also in many cases, the math is not on your side.

4 years of college- $50,000 of debt to end up with a $35,000 a year job. Trade is paying you $60,000 a year (with overtime that you won't get working a salary job). That's $25,000 a year more.

5 years of $35,000 a year= $175,000 income minus the $50,000 debt= $125,000 for 5 years, or $25,000 a year.

5 years of $60,000 a year= $300,000 minus no debt or $60,000 per year.

$60,000 versus $25,000?

I completely understand that's not always the case and that I have simplified it a great deal just to show the math. For many people that might not be the case, but for most of those I know who went to college, that is exactly how they are living, except it's more like $80,000 in debt, not $50,000.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not bashing college or an education at all. I think education is extremely important. I just don't see the great $100K plus jobs at the back end of it for most people.

Eric DeSilva
04-08-2009, 10:55 AM
in many cases, the math is not on your side. ... I completely understand that's not always the case and that I have simplified it a great deal just to show the math.

I understand your point, but those are exceptional cases. If you want to look at "on average," here's some real statistics from the Census Bureau:

Education Avg. Income Increase
Drop-out $20,873
High school $31,071 48.9%
College $56,788 82.8%
Advanced $82,320 45.0%

[you will have to imagine the table... the forum editor keeps trimming out the whitespace I put in to get it to line up right.]

According to another source, some other documented benefits of a college degree:


longer life spans
better access to health care
better dietary and health practices
greater economic stability and security
more prestigious employment and greater job satisfaction
less dependency on government assistance
greater use of seat belts
more continuing education
greater Internet access
greater attendance at live performances
greater participation in leisure and artistic activities
more book purchases
higher voting rates
greater knowledge of government
greater community service and leadership
more volunteer work
more self-confidence
and less criminal activity and incarceration.

http://www.quintcareers.com/college_education_value.html

Let me be very, very clear here. These are statistics. I am NOT saying that you cannot defy the odds, you can't be successful or that you don't read books or vote unless you go to college. I'm saying that I would encourage any young person to maximize their chance of success by going to college.

Belinda also has a good point. This whole discussion has defined success solely on the single axis of financial remuneration. I fully concur that banked green is not the only--or even perhaps best--definition of a successful life.

Scott Shepherd
04-08-2009, 2:36 PM
I understand your point, but those are exceptional cases.

That's my issue with this all, those aren't exceptional cases. See if you can hire an electrician or find a tradesman. Chances are, no. They are working and have jobs and are probably working overtime.

Now, see if you can find someone with a college degree who can't find a job. I'd bet you money almost everyone who reads this post knows someone in that category. I'm not saying college is bad, or one shouldn't want their children to go to college, but I will say that I think there is a tremendous level of hype about the expectations for someone with a college degree. Want to find a bunch of people with college degrees? Look inside a call center. Why? Because they can't find all those great paying jobs that they expected when they left college.

Please, please, please don't misunderstand my intent or tone. I'm not bashing it, I'm simply stating that probably 90% or more of the people I know who have college degrees aren't earning the money that tradesmen are earning.

Also, those census numbers do not factor out tradesmen versus college, it lumps tradesmen with everyone else, so that's not a fair comparison. It puts tradesmen in the same category as someone in an inner city with little to know opportunity or education. Clearly not the same thing and shouldn't be put together to compare those things.

Eric DeSilva
04-08-2009, 3:34 PM
That's my issue with this all, those aren't exceptional cases.

I still don't see it. If I search for job postings on the Washington Post site for "electrician," I get 21 listings (none of which are entry level--all want experienced electricians). If I run the same search on "college degree," I get over 737 listings. I'm sure some of both are chaff, but jeez...

And, according to payscale.com, a journeyman electrician with 1-4 years of experience has an average salary of $35K, and one with 20+ years averages slightly under $60K. The overall average seems to be more in the $48K range--still under the average college grad. So, your view of a tradesman making $60K entry level seems pretty exceptional too.

And, the electrical trade is credentialed, as opposed to some other trades, so I'm guessing electricians, plumbers, and certified welders probably make more than drywall hangers, painters, and bodywork guys. Same applies to different majors--I'm guessing petroleum engineering majors probably start higher on the pay scale than classics majors.

Yes, I know some college grads out of work. But, I also know a lot of guys in the trades that are hurting right now too. Anything having to do with residential work around here--whether its electrical, plumbing, or drywall--is pretty scary right now. No one is immune from a bad economy.

Scott Shepherd
04-08-2009, 5:19 PM
Sorry, I don't use the Washington anything for my sources, I use real people I personally know. I know many a skilled tradesmen that are all busy and doing well. Most are even turning work down because they have too much to do. I also know quite a few people who have $80K worth of debt from the college experience and they file papers in filing cabinets all day long for $9 bucks a hour.

It's all relative. That's how it is here, might not be that way where you are, but that's how it is here.

Part of why you see so many jobs with "College" in them is because HR people have turned into Morons and think that you need to put "degree required" on janitors job listings. Also, there may be more listings in the post for college grads, but what's the average pay for those jobs versus those electrical jobs? I'd beat the electrician will make more than 90% of those jobs listed.

I went to school for 4 years to get my Journeysman card as do most people in the trade. Not to mention working a full time job at the time as do most people in the trade. Trade people are the backbone of this country and they deserve some respect.

If that wasn't the case, Mike Rowe wouldn't have a tv show!

Eric DeSilva
04-08-2009, 5:57 PM
Still don't get your point, but its obvious you don't get mine either, so we can agree to disagree.

One clarification:


Trade people are the backbone of this country and they deserve some respect.

I never said or implied otherwise.

Just to be absolutely 100% clear. I don't give a d*** whether anyone has a certificate on their wall or whether that certificate is from a college or a trade school. Everyone has to earn respect, and in my book, you do that by doing what you do well and treating others with respect.

Scott Shepherd
04-08-2009, 6:33 PM
Just to be absolutely 100% clear. I don't give a d*** whether anyone has a certificate on their wall or whether that certificate is from a college or a trade school. Everyone has to earn respect, and in my book, you do that by doing what you do well and treating others with respect.

We can certainly agree on that!

Dan Friedrichs
04-08-2009, 7:37 PM
The point--as I stated before--of a liberal arts education is that it should be a degree in learning and how to learn. I'd argue that someone with a good liberal arts degree can do anything.

Right now, figuring an "average" non-degree'd individual probably earns $35K per year, my mathematics degree and post-grad degrees have been worth... oh, about a 150x what I paid for them. That is a pretty frickin' good investment.

I think I fundamentally agree with you. My perspective, being a recent college grad, is that there has been a huge recent influx of people seeking bachelor's degrees simply because they assume it's what a successful person should do after finishing high school. They have no clear plan for success or future direction. At least if you become an apprentice electrician, you've got a clear path in front of you. Perhaps enjoying college and earning a degree in communications will land you a perfectly happy life - but I think some hard thought and careful planning can quickly direct you to more success.

I don't mean to suggest that the liberal arts aren't important, just that the number of liberal arts educations we provide in this country far exceed the supply of jobs which would be better performed by someone with said education. I've seen firsthand in the past few years how friends of mine with "soft" degrees have ended up taking jobs at WalMart, Target, etc, out of desperation. Those with engineering, pharmacy, and nursing degrees have been able to choose who they want to work for.

I also agree that, in many cases, college educations are a good investment. HOWEVER - I think it's nothing short of foolish to invest >$100k in something like a teaching degree. I guess maybe the payback is there, but it's a LONG way out....

Scott Shepherd
04-08-2009, 8:14 PM
Thanks Dan, that's a lot of what I was trying to say but it wasn't coming across that well. Perhaps I should have stayed awake in English class :) Oh how I hated those classes..... :)

Jerome Hanby
04-09-2009, 8:06 AM
I think the problem is people, or at least what they and society expects of them. Here is a quote that I think hits home

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Enough_for_Love)Why can't you have an MBA AND be able wire a house, lay bricks, shovel manure, or create a website.

Rod Sheridan
04-09-2009, 9:30 AM
I think the problem is people, or at least what they and society expects of them. Here is a quote that I think hits home

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Enough_for_Love)Why can't you have an MBA AND be able wire a house, lay bricks, shovel manure, or create a website.

Absolutely, everyone is capable of learning many of the above skills, all it takes is interest, opportunity and time......Rod.

Craig D Peltier
04-09-2009, 10:16 AM
I'm pretty sure that at some point i have told this story.
I was working on an antique sideboard in an office and the man at the desk was watching so just to make some conversation I asked him what he did. In a fairly condescending tone he told me he was " a consultant of sorts". Then continued on that "some of us work with our minds and some of you have to work with your hands". Rather than ripping off his head I simply replied " true and some of us can do both". Needless to say he turned pretty red in the face and went back to his paperwork.

I like that. :D

I had a really good job that paid me very well for 10 years.
I wanted out.I went to a technical high school for carpentry. After graduating I pursued for 3 years or so and moved to California. Decided it was time to leave and moved up here. Now im working with my hands which I enjoy. One thing I say is when I was selling and coordinating large events was I used my mouth to sell an my eyes to make layouts work well , now I use my brain and my hands.The second one is much more difficult with much less pay. Oh well I enjoy it and I work from home.

Chuckie Miller
04-11-2009, 10:46 PM
I disagree and with money not flowing with the economy, it will affect everyone.

I think people will find a job in an industry that people cannot live without. It doesn't necessarily have to be a true skilled labor job, just a job that people consider a necessity.

And yet there will always be a white collared jobs that a blue collared worker will have to play top dollar.

Word of not:m A mother is always short changed in the deal and has the most underpaid job of any skilled worker.

Karl Brogger
04-12-2009, 12:16 AM
I jumped into this thread late...

A guy I used to work with was told by his father-in-law that the two best business's to be in were liquor stores and funeral homes. When times are good, business is good. When times are bad, business is really good.

I will say that working virtually anywhere in construction is a bad idea right now. Very few companies/people I know are consistantly working 40hrs a week. There are a handfull that actually are busy, but to be honest I think most of that is luck, or just things stacking up at once. I also think that few industries have been hit as hard as residential construction. Things around here started to slow immediatly after the fall of 2001.

It does seem that things are starting to pick up a little bit though:) 2008 was a rough year.

Butch Edwards
04-12-2009, 11:08 AM
Might as well add my $.02

Graduated from H.S. in 75
Only good advice my father gave me was to get a trade if not going to collage and I was not going......;)

Joined the carpenters union as an apprentice, went to four years of apprenticeship classes and became a journeyman.

Fast forward to now.
Retired and living in Hawaii, actually retired at 47.

All those white collar people have nothing on someone who can work with their hands.:D

Aloha, Pete


There's an old saying "If you think education is expensive, try living without it." A college education opens doors to opportunity. The person with the college degree doesn't even notice it most of the time, but the person without the degree sees the door closed. And in every economic downturn, the brunt of the downturn is borne by the blue collar workers.

You could start a business, of course, but the failure rate for new business is extremely high.

And everything I said above is even worse for those who don't get a high school diploma.

I was very fortunate to be able to get a college education, and it changed my life. I lived a very different life than I would have if I had not gotten a degree.

My continuing advice to every young person is, "Get as much education as you can. It will pay dividends throughout your life."

Mike


Belinda,
Please don't do that!!! As I said, I knew your intent was not to demean the trades.

I apologize for being late getting back to the thread, work, work, work, but please don't cull your posts on any account.

Mark

Peter, you did well, and that's to be commended, however, some of the current home building crisis lies at the feet of tradesman who wanted to match Lawyers' payscales.. the very reason a $100k home (in real value) is sold for $150-200K.. and we see where that's gotten us...same applies to the auto industries.

Mike: you do well stating how more opportunies( = money) are openned up for college grads, however, having a degree does not instantly state one has good work ethics, seeing as how many degrees are given w/o all the requirements being filled... case in point: WVU is under investigation after 35 THOUSAND degrees were handed out w/o required work being done... and I'm betting that's not just WVU, either... Dexter Manley couldn't spell at a middle school level when he graduated from OU!!! after working around many higher educated personnel w/i the Dept of Veterans Affairs, I'm not impressed at what they bring to the table. thats' doesn't apply to all, for sure, but an overwhelming majority,tho... BTW , my Grandmother was a 1923 college grad and taught school for 52 years, but it was a different mindset being passed on back then(= being taught), and she saw the changes happening within the newly hired teachers before she retired( and that was 30 years ago).Education has its place, granted, but we have more college grads today than ever before, and the countrys' in no better shape for it!!

Belinda, your statements were honestly given. never apologize for that. we DO need schooling, but to put such a high demand on a lambskin,instead of character/ethics/ and loyalty, is leading us on a fast road to nowhere. This country is in sad, sad financial shape, and 99% of that can be traced back to people who own degrees.;)

Jim Kountz
04-12-2009, 11:29 AM
Peter, you did well, and that's to be commended, however, some of the current home building crisis lies at the feet of tradesman who wanted to match Lawyers' payscales.. the very reason a $100k home (in real value) is sold for $150-200K.. and we see where that's gotten us...same applies to the auto industries.



Hmmm I know there are some contractors out there that intentionally gouge the crap out of their customers and that is wrong however.......
Payscale for the trades has always been lower than what its worth and its a constant struggle to get them up mainly because there are too many fly by night outfits that give the rest of us a bad name. What I mean by that is the trades as a whole are generally looked down upon as being uneducated ruthless sloths that prey on unsuspecting homeowners. While that does happen and its most unfortunate, there are plenty of us out here who are respectable, honest and actually care about what we leave behind.
My whole point is I put in just as much training and life experience as most of the "professional" white collar guys yet I have to fight tooth and nail to get my earnings up while they seem to be able to simply charge what they want and get away with it. Talk about gouging the customer. A lawyer walks in a courtroom on behalf of their client, stays about 30 minutes and whether they win or lose, charge their customer some outrageous amount for their time. What if I did that. What if I came to your house, installed a new lockset for example on your front door that didnt even work properly and still charged you $500 for it. What do you think you would do? But if you were to go to court for something and a lawyer lost your case but still charged you, you wouldnt bat an eye and just pay the bill.
The trouble is there is nothing preventing hacks and people with no morales or values from becoming a contractor or working in the trades while you cant practice law without a degree. So the trades are over run with ignorant low lifes that give us all a bad name. Makes it really hard for the rest of us to advance you know?

PS: Of course when I say you, I mean people in general. Not trying to single you out Butch ok!!

Pat Germain
04-12-2009, 11:36 AM
Dexter Manley couldn't spell at a middle school level when he graduated from OU!!!

Actually, Manley is an Oklahoma State graduate. (My parents are recently retired OSU employees.)

I never intended this thread as a mechanism to bash college boys. :) Rather, I wanted to point out that the current stigma surrounding the trades is inaccurate and unfortunate.

Let's be real. There is absolutely, positively no way every high school grad is going to attend college, let alone graduate. Shoot, when my son attended University of Colorado just a few years ago, his freshman class had a 50% washout rate.

Sadly, most public high schools have all but eliminated their trades education. Auto shop, metal shop and wood shop are almost extinct. This is primarily because most parents and administrators believe such a tract is a dead-end. They want their kids to be respectable, white-collar workers. (The fear of being sued over injuries is another factor.)

Yet, what often happens is the kids graduate high school and can't attend college because of grades or financial restrictions. Then what? A kid who took shop at least has some marketable skills. (Contrary to what many clueless parents now believe, being an amazing "Guitar Hero" player is not a marketable skill. :rolleyes: )

Ironically, the same public school administrators, who uphold Western Europe as a shining example of contemporary society, completely ignore the fact those countries have very strong curricullums in the trades.

Mike Henderson
04-12-2009, 11:39 AM
Mike: you do well stating how more opportunies( = money) are openned up for college grads, however, having a degree does not instantly state one has good work ethics, seeing as how many degrees are given w/o all the requirements being filled... case in point: WVU is under investigation after 35 THOUSAND degrees were handed out w/o required work being done... and I'm betting that's not just WVU, either... Dexter Manley couldn't spell at a middle school level when he graduated from OU!!! after working around many higher educated personnel w/i the Dept of Veterans Affairs, I'm not impressed at what they bring to the table. thats' doesn't apply to all, for sure, but an overwhelming majority,tho... BTW , my Grandmother was a 1923 college grad and taught school for 52 years, but it was a different mindset being passed on back then(= being taught), and she saw the changes happening within the newly hired teachers before she retired( and that was 30 years ago).Education has its place, granted, but we have more college grads today than ever before, and the countrys' in no better shape for it!!
I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. If you go looking hard enough, you can find problems almost anywhere - but those problems often do not represent the majority.

I certainly don't think the majority of college graduates are incompetent. I competed with them in school and worked with them in business. Most I've known are ambitious, hard working, risk taking, good people. And "work ethic"? Many of them work 60 or more hours per week, then work some more from home.

The country is in better shape because more people are educated. People earn more because of increased productivity and education can increases a person's productivity. For example, someone may be able to program a machine that makes parts rather than make the parts themselves by hand.

And the people who buy the products those parts go into are in better shape because they pay less for the product.

I don't know what measure you're using for the "shape" of the country, but I see improvement and progress. Maybe you've got your "rose colored glasses" on when you look back at how things were in the past.

Mike

Pat Germain
04-12-2009, 12:07 PM
I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. If you go looking hard enough, you can find problems almost anywhere - but those problems often do not represent the majority.

I certainly don't think the majority of college graduates are incompetent. I competed with them in school and worked with them in business. Most I've known are ambitious, hard working, risk taking, good people. And "work ethic"? Many of them work 60 or more hours per week, then work some more from home.

The country is in better shape because more people are educated. People earn more because of increased productivity and education can increases a person's productivity. For example, someone may be able to program a machine that makes parts rather than make the parts themselves by hand.

And the people who buy the products those parts go into are in better shape because they pay less for the product.

I don't know what measure you're using for the "shape" of the country, but I see improvement and progress. Maybe you've got your "rose colored glasses" on when you look back at how things were in the past.

Mike

With all due respect, Mike, I see incompetence and ineptitude among college grads everywhere I look. I get the impression you're an engineer where I would indeed expect to find competent, hard working individuals. But let's look at the business executives, for example. And we don't even have to touch on recent financial scandals.

There were many factors which led to the recent demise of Circuit City. But recent economic factors were just the last nail in the coffin. The beginning of the end was when a highly educated executive decided to fire experienced store employees because they made too much money. They were replaced by well-meaning but completely clueless young people. Word quickly got around that Circuit City was staffed by clueless kids which discouraged people from shopping there.

Circuit City stood up an IT support branch called "Firedog". This was actually a pretty good idea considering most users of high-tech equipment are baffled by it. But instead of staffing Firedog with qualified IT professionals, they filled it with inexperienced, unskilled, underpaid workers who depended heavily on a few overburdened folks in the know. People got P-Od when they paid $400 for professional installation and calibration for a new LCD TV, and in walks Bill and Ted who just plug everything in, crank up the color and brightness and say "Excellent!".

Who other than a complete nincampoop and a large team of fellow dunderheads would initiate such strategies?

As I've mentioned before, I'm a fan of and investor in The Walt Disney Company. This amazing company was nearly destroyed a few years ago by an executive named Paul Pressler who was in charge of all Disney Parks; the bread and butter of the company. Pressler ordered horrifying cuts in maintenance and upkeep. He literally said, "We have to ride these rides until they fail." Eventually, a young man was killed on a ride at Disneyland in California when coaster train separated and crushed him; due to poor maintenance. What kind of executive, other than an educated idiot, would attempt to boost profits through such methods?

And we've all seen the sad state of modern home centers. Home Depot seems to be on the upswing, but just a few years ago it resembled K-Mart and I wouldn't shop there. Again, this was the result of inept management.

Again, I'm not trying to bash college grads. My point is that in our modern society, it does indeed seem that well educated person often doesn't equal a competent person.

Mike Henderson
04-12-2009, 12:29 PM
Again, I'm not trying to bash college grads. My point is that in our modern society, it does indeed seem that well educated person often doesn't equal a competent person.
I absolutely agree with you. My point was that not all college graduates are incompetent slackers.

People are people and you'll find good and bad everywhere and in every profession.

As you surmised, I am an engineer and most of the people I worked with were competent, hard working people. But we did have our duds, just like everywhere.

[Added note: beyond my technical training the three most valuable classes I took are as follows:

1. English composition because you have to express yourself in writing. If you have an idea, you have to write it up and sell it. And if you write poorly, no one will read what you wrote.

2. Accounting because you need to know how a business runs (income, expenses, capital allocation, depreciation, etc.).

3. Business law because it keeps you out of trouble. Business is like a sports game. It has rules (called laws) that you play by. You need to know the rules so you can play the game.]

Mike

[I guess I get tired of all the bashing of college educated people. If you're a bright, hard working, risk taking person, you'll do well. You'll likely do better with a college degree. A college degree will not make a handsome prince out of a pig.]

Charles Shenk
04-12-2009, 12:46 PM
Well I think I'm pretty qualified to comment on this one. I have an MBA and am now a happily self employed, licensed general contractor (8 years and counting). In my experience, filling in excel spreadsheets or modeling cash flow streams is much more simple minded than building a three dimensional structure off of a set of plans. In fact I feel sorry for a lot of those "suckers in three pieces."

Peter Luch
04-12-2009, 2:36 PM
WOW,

I did not follow this thread and it seems to have gotten a lot of attention and replies.

Let me claifiy a few things.

I was in the carpenters union, 4 years of apprentice training.

1) Carpenters DO NOT make or try to make a lawyers salary.

2) The Carpenters union went through a huge shake-up while I was still an apprentice. They went from a Teamsters type of mentality to one of working WITH contractors to secure work for the members. They also promote sending out QUALIFIED and TRAINED members to jobs. Apprentice and Journeymen training is very good and you are expected to keep your training current even once you are a journeyman.

3) The union added more areas of the trade to enhance what the members are qualified to do.
Drywall work
Hazmat work
Lath work
Millwrites (sp) (Setting and installing huge machinery)
And more.
This was done to make contractors WANT to sign contracts with the Carpenters union. The union can supply trained and highly qualifyed workers for many different fields all from one place.

4) The union also realized that if the contractors could not make money using union labor then union labor was useless. They now will look at projects on an individual basis WITH the union contractors sometimes adjusting the pay rate to help the contractors win jobs.
Some work is better than no work!

5) The union also works with some developers in financing projects stipulating that union labor must be used. This is a better way to invest pension funds than in the stock market, the members funds are used to create work for the members.

As another point I did not make my retirement money working as a carpenter, it was other endevors that got me early retirement.
BUT I never would have been able to do those other things if I had not learned the things needed while in the union. It is not all banging nails while working as a carpenter. You learn many aspects of business as you do projects because you are shown how everything is interelated and each part of a job is no less or more important than another.
Learning how to work under tremendous pressure was another plus that you just cannot get from a cubicle. If a deck fails while pouring concrete you loose LIVES!!!! You learn very quickly that your work and the quality of it can mean life or death to yourself and others.
Try getting that from a lawyers desk or a cubicle!!!

In every neighborhood I have lived whenever there was an emergency, natural or accedent it was my phone that rang because everyone knew I could deal with most anything. Wildfires, earthquakes and accendents I had some skill which could help others.
They never called the lawyer or engineer, it was always the trades people who were saving someones home in a fire, checking someones house after an earthquake to let them know not to worry about cracks in the drywall.

It has always been and always will be the hands on people who make this country safe, not the paper pushing lawyers, insurance people or accountants.
I'm not taking away what these people do but too many people only look at the trades like some trained monkeys who do nothing but sweat. It's time to realize that the foundation of this country has been and always will be built by the trades. There would be no dams, offices, electricity, roads etc., etc if not for the trades!

Maybe the trades should make the same or more than lawyers.....:D

Of course I missed the spelling classes........:eek:

Aloha, Pete

Peter Luch
04-12-2009, 2:38 PM
Well I think I'm pretty qualified to comment on this one. I have an MBA and am now a happily self employed, licensed general contractor (8 years and counting). In my experience, filling in excel spreadsheets or modeling cash flow streams is much more simple minded than building a three dimensional structure off of a set of plans. In fact I feel sorry for a lot of those "suckers in three pieces."

I really, really like you:D

Aloha, Pete

Mark Bolton
04-12-2009, 4:48 PM
In re-reading this entire thread a couple times its interesting that the thread runs like a pendulum. It swings back and forth between considering it a valued, respected, (pick your adjective), then back to the old standard. It reads, at least to me, more like the old standard with regards the future of the trades, and with regards to what someone in the trades is entitled to with regards to compensation.

I don't mean to take a statement out of context as I see Butch edited his post to include "some" with regards to the current condition, or any part of it, laying at the feet of contractors/builders somehow unreasonably compensating themselves.

Being in the trade for the bulk of my adult life I cant quite get my head around that concept whatsoever. I would have to hypothetically ask if it were even possible, what would be reasonable compensation? What is unreasonable? Why is it unreasonable for a contractor building a high quality home to expect to be paid whatever he can extract from his client? This is hypothetical as I said because the rate one can charge is most generally fixed by their area and industry averages. That said, for the past ten years this drum beat has been driven into our heads, supply and demand, capitalist system. Its a free-for-all.

Now, I would argue that whats good for the goose is good for the gander, supply and demand should be acceptable for all. But as Jim stated, I think anyone would be hard pressed to find an average contractor/homebuilder who, even during good times, was really doing well by corporate America's standards. With regards to Butch's statement this would be the average contractor billing on the order of 200-400 dollars an hour to meet that of a Lawyers rates. We can of course look to the corporate mega builders out there but I am talking the average builder who most home buyers will likely deal with. I can say that I have personally never come in contact with a contractor/builder that was able to bill 1600.00-3200.00 per day per man. This would be 400,000.00 per year, per man, after major materials. I could imagine maybe a handful of markets where say a 6 man crew could bill 2.4 million after materials (perhaps 5-6 million gross) annually based directly on that 6 man crew's labor (no subs). Half that would still be impossible in most average markets.

What I find interesting is we are coming out of a 10-15 year pattern of corporate, and for the sake of this thread we can say college educated, corruption and flagrant, flagrant, greed. Tycho, Enron, World Com, K Street, FF, the list goes on. I don't in anyway mean to say college breeds, or is responsible for the actions of these, and the many other, corporations. But lets face it, we are living in a time when the CEO of a company that doesn't provide the majority of its employees with insurance, sick days, paid vacation, and so on, is drawing an annual salary that divides out to in excess of $15,000.00 an hour. All the while shafting the US consumer, manufacturing, and tax base, down the toilet. This doesn't even take into account the compensation paid to the rest of the corporate hierarchy below him. There are countless other businesses operating under the identical model, doing short, and long term damage to the US. Back to the free-for-all.

Follow this up with the companies that in the last two years made record profits gouging the US consumer by stealthily reducing packaged quantities, raising rates, blaming farmers, charging fuel surcharges (that are still being charged), blaming hurricanes that never hit land, when all the while their costs were average or only slightly above average. Meanwhile their fellow citizens are dieing under increased food and fuel costs yet profiteering and price gouging abounds. What are we to look to as a role model for social conscience?

These are people who are educated in gaming the system. Period. The old standard would intimate that the tradesman is not savvy enough, or intelligent enough, to pull such things off. I would argue that after killing themselves to keep their heads above water they simply dont have enough time to game anything.

In my own life I tend to look to the corporate philosophies of companies like Microsoft, Costco, JP Morgan. While successful they are by far the minority. In the end, I wonder who will be building houses in twenty years. They will absolutely be built, I just wonder by who and at what level of quality. I for one, have seen quality diminish drastically in the past 15 years with respect to homebuilding. Much of this due to the aforementioned business model(sl). Costs to the consumer have remained almost unchanged. 80-120/sq' for new construction is still typical in many locations and it was typical 15 years ago.

Mark

Charles Shenk
04-12-2009, 5:51 PM
I sum this thread up this way: Do what you were made to do and get in touch with yourself and your planet. If you die tomorrow, at least it will all be worth it.

Neal Clayton
04-13-2009, 9:59 AM
Spend some time in Europe, working trades & skilled workers are much on the same level of societal respect as doctors, businessmen etc.



which is why they build things superior to the things we build.

Charles Shenk
04-13-2009, 1:09 PM
which is why they build things superior to the things we build.

I like our north american hand plane makers better! ;)

Craig D Peltier
05-03-2009, 11:18 PM
I have just started to read an article in this months Outside magazine , theres an article about Mike Rowe and him trying to enlighten the public about getting your hands dirty and how he speaks at colleges etc to talk about the trades.Seems like a long article. If interested on the cover , one of the main titles is something like "30 best jobs"
Its the May Issue.:)