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Mike Colon

From the Desk of Mike Colon, Blue Collar Black Book Founder

Are Generational Tradesman Legacies Ending?

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Throughout history people have passed down their skills and trades to their children. This seemingly timeless trend appears to be alive and well in politics and “white collar” jobs yet ending in the trades, but why?

There seems to be a sharp decline in the number of people entering a broad spectrum of “trades”. Is it because people in the trades have stopped having children? I HIGHLY DOUBT IT. Then why is it that our ranks our diminishing? This observation and the following conclusions do not come from vast studies, done in big buildings or in college libraries, they are personal observations and conclusions drawn from a lifetime of living in a “blue collar” family and working in the trades.

 Let's explore several of the most common reasons that seem apparent.

You Need To Go To College

It's possible that my experience wasn't any different from other kids who's dads OR moms were in the trades, although when I was a kid I don't ever remember seeing a woman working on the job. At about 13 years old my dad, a plumber, put a shovel in my hands and told me to start digging a sewer line. He proceeded to tell me, “You need to go to college so you don't have to do this for a living. This is hard work, use your brain not your body to make money”. I think I was getting paid 4 or 5 dollars an hour to dig all day, college seemed like a great option.

I went to college but I came back to the trades. Having been a part of both I don't believe College and the trades are mutually exclusive. Matter of fact I think they are complimentary & necessary (For more on that check out our article Today’s Trades: No Place for Wimps or Neanderthals.)

Reflecting back I know why he tried to discourage me from entering the trades. When I was 13 my dad was about 40. His body was starting to feel the effects of 20 years of solid hard work. Add to it the fact that the body doesn't heal so fast from those injuries as you get older. All parents want a better life for their kids, less pain, less suffering.

Kids Are Lazy

I do get frustrated. The “kids” (Tradesmen in their 20's and I'm talking about the bad one's because they stand out the most), walk around the job and they are slow. They need to be baby sat. A lot of them are glued to their cell phone. You catch them on facebook, the internet or whatever in between breaks AND these are the guys that had enough drive to get into the trades.

It seems the reason is because they were never challenged as kids, never showed they had a purpose. They never felt that need to provide for their family, contribute, or take care of anyone but their self. A lot of them probably played a lot of video games. Again, now in my mid 30's, I saw this happening when I was a kid 20-25 years ago and it has gotten worse, a lot worse.

Most Kids Don't Have the Guts Anymore

I really hope this isn't true because having guts is at the essence of being American, but in my experience it is true. I tell my kids, and they haven't started school yet, WE WORK HARD, WE PLAY HARD then we rest & If you get hurt Pick Yourself Up and get on with your life. Too many people are looking for that workman’s comp golden ticket.

Let's face it, it takes massive amounts of guts and mental tenacity to be in a “blue collar” trade. It doesn't matter if you're driving truck, pounding nails, wrenching on cars or whatever, it is rare you are not hurting in one way or another. In addition, weather conditions are rarely ideal, it's either extremely hot, extremely cold, raining, humid or a combination thereof. I don't expect people to be unaffected I just expect you to power through at whatever speed you can, GUT IT OUT.

I have a special place in my heart for those guys that play through the pain. That get cut and “duct tape it up” or fall and walk it off.

K-12 Education Is working Against Them

Programs to help develop the mechanical skills of kids are going away in a lot of areas. “Blue Collar” work is portrayed as a waste of money. Auto Shop, wood shot, metal shop, plastic shop classes got cut from tight budgets for the longest time. Hell even sports are losing funding or being canceled altogether. Some of us aren't built to sit in an office or in front of a computer. They subliminally send kids, who are mechanically inclined, the message that there is no use for the skills they have, those skills are inferior to what we are teaching. It's demotivating to kids who would gravitate to the trades. Then schools wonder why those students are shutting down, showing no interest and school and checking out.

In Conclusion

Here is the curve ball. The failings of our children and students, who become the adults of tomorrow, are our failings, the parents and teachers. We have to get them up off their asses. Toughen them up, yet still be compassionate and loving....Yes I have a softer side. Show them they have Purpose, whether it be in the trades or not. Teach them the skills they need, and I believe everybody needs a basic education in working with their hands. Show them they have choices. Let them choose the road that is best for them. Someday they may be running your business.

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