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Stigma In The Skilled Trades
By Mike Holmes Jr.
Friday, January 18th, 2019 @ 4:27pm
I have been working in the skilled trades since I was 14 years old. When I started as a contractor, I immediately gained a new respect for the skilled trades that I didn’t have before (even though my dad is Mike Holmes). I was able to learn a skill that I could make a career out of, but it could also be applied to my life outside work. By beginning my career at the age of 14, I was able to buy my first house when I was 19. I did that by working hard and saving my money. Since then I am proud to say that I have become a licensed contractor and finished my schooling for carpentry.
“Don’t end up like him”
The trades are a great, stable career – but often it doesn’t get characterized that way. Since I have started working in the skilled trades there have been many situations where I, and many other tradespeople I know, have been affected by the stigma.
My son @mike_holmesjr ‘s friend is a licensed electrician and was working at a mall. A father and son walked by and the father said “This is why you need to go to school. So you don’t end up like him.”
We’ve got to change our perception of the skilled trades.
— Mike Holmes (@Make_It_Right) January 17, 2019
I have witnessed and been a target of this myself. While filming Holmes Makes It Right, I had a co-op student working with me. He was a quick learner, hard worker, and wanted to pursue a career in the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) industry. When I asked where he wanted to go to school for that he said “well, my mom won’t let me, she wants me to be a doctor and won’t support me in going into a skilled trades career.”
“If you fail school, you can go into the skilled trades”
The problem is this: there are many people out there who think if you don’t go to post secondary school or you work with your hands, that you’re uneducated. I have heard people say many times that “if you don’t finish high-school, it is okay, you can go into the skilled trades” or “if you fail school, you can go into the skilled trades” as if it is a backup profession should you be unable to complete post-secondary education. The skilled trades are filled with brilliant, hard working, successful men and women.
The Labour Shortage
There is a huge shortage in skilled trades because the next generation is being pushed exclusively into careers that require a university education. They think it will make them more money, or simply they think that working with their hands makes them a second class citizen. The skilled trades are the backbone of our country. It is not that they are more important than other jobs, but they need to stop being looked at as if they are less important. Tradespeople build the roads that we drive on, the schools that we learn in, the hospitals that we care for people in. They serve and cook our meals, cut our hair, and make our clothes. If you removed the skilled trades from the picture, we would be living a very different world.
It is important that we continue to talk about the stigma in the skilled trades, share our stories – the negative and positive ones – so that we can help end this stigma. Let’s help support more people so that we can create a culture of proud craftspeople and artisans. It’s time to break down the stigma surrounding the skilled trades and stress that an education in the trades can be just as valuable as any other.
Let’s celebrate the hardworking men and women who do your electrical work, build your homes and fix your plumbing. Skilled trades are not an easy profession. Let’s celebrate them by thanking them, respecting them and investing in our workers.
If you believe in this like we do, join the conversation with me on Twitter using #EndSkilledTradesStigma and share with a tradesperson you know.