We have a few problems in the skilled trades, that have issues worth fixing. The problem is that oftentimes the solutions are vast and complex, and cannot be simply fixed quickly by one person – it requires a lot of work, by a lot of people.
Today we’re talking about how the trades are affected by the current public school system. Most schools have a very tricky relationship with funding sources that keep their doors open. Unfortunately, trade programs aren’t sexy, don’t typically have competition or revenue streams that can bring in more money to keep their classes in schools. A school might have an all-state football team, or an award-winning band or choir, that does extremely well and brings loads of kids into the programs because of the number of resources these programs have. They win, they get more money for the program. Then they get busses, trailers, uniforms, new equipment, stadiums, etc.
Trades programs typically can’t compete with that. Our public education system is not at fault for this, it’s the perception of what it means to have a job and do work for a living that needs some work. We aren’t teaching children from a young age that taking things apart and putting them back together is fun. The funny thing is, that most people that get into the skilled trades and stay, often do it because they’re learning they love to build things and take things apart to see how they work. If we had more programs that showed children that there are jobs out there that allow you to do detective work and be creative with your hands, there would probably be a higher interest in joining the trades. Then the more people that see it as a viable career, the more that join. The more that join, the more funding is needed to expand the program. What we have is a failure to communicate.
We need more people out there, who care about this issue, talking to school boards and trying to get trade programs back in schools. We need our media to show tradespeople in a better light. Construction people tend to get a bad rap in movies and tv shows. We are seen as “less than” most people in society, when in fact the entire society we live in is built and maintained by these men and women. Often times we see cartoons of sloppy, dirty people with foul mouths and bad attitudes wearing a hard hat. We don’t see intelligent technicians, who have their stuff together, and care about people. We, it appears, have an image problem as well.
None of this is going to be solved until more people step up to the plate and start addressing these issues. We need more people creating content in the space, who show what it means to be a tradesperson. We need more people talking with the education system and funding school programs to get trades programs in schools. We need people doing Ted Talks and educating the population on the plentiful opportunities available for men and women of all ages, in the trades. As time goes on, and more people come through the ranks, I do believe we’ll get there. As always, everything in moderation. Patience, my friends.