This comment was from Edgar Ramsey on the post “The Life of a Tradesman: You Don’t Have to Go to College.“
I went to college, got my four year degree in 1976, and then realized that it meant nothing in the real world. Try as I might, I could not find any jobs that related to my area of study. Because I had a wife and two children, I could not do a low/no pay internship or apprentice program.
My father was a tradesman, a saw filer for 45 years (keeping everything sharp in a large sawmill), but he was also a good carpenter. I puttered around with him in his shop and learned a lot. I seemed to have a natural aptitude for it. So I started getting small jobs building things for people: shelving, decks, finishing rooms in basements. I looked at this as something temporary to hold me over. It is now 38 years later. I am a ticketed journeyman cabinet maker and carpenter, licensed contractor. I have worked as a foreman, superintendent and project manager. I have run my own companies. I am now a VP of Real Estate and Construction for a Fortune 100 company. I never did find the job that I was trained for in college, but I did find the job that life trained me for. It was hard work and my back and knees are pretty much shot, but I now work from home, travel a couple of days a week and make a six figure income. I guess you could say things worked out, not as I planned, but in spite of it.
One of my biggest gripes when I ran my own companies was the shortage of good quality tradesmen. Ironically most of the ones I meet are immigrants from Mexico, Russia or Eastern Europe. And they are making good money doing a job that is vital. Construction is one of the key drivers of our economy. Yet our schools regulate these skills to a few shop classes and these are the first things to suffer from budget cuts.
My wife is a clothing designer, pattern drafter and seamstress. She has the same problem; hardly anyone knows how to sew anymore. She finds it difficult to find seamstresses to help her. Again, one of the best ones she found was a woman from Eastern Europe who had a masters degree (which the US doesn’t recognize) and can sew up a storm. No wonder all of our jobs are leaving the country.
photo: ell-r-brown / flickr