Brandon Moore, a welder for Jacobs from Webster, Texas, won the gold medal in structural welding at the 2015 National Craft Championships. As both a college graduate and skilled welder, Brandon shares his thoughts on the country’s perspective of the construction industry and offers advice to others considering the career path he chose in the second part of a two-part series written by Brandon.
Perhaps you’re wondering if you should go to college or go into the construction industry straight out of high school. Well, as both a college graduate and a construction worker, maybe I can help.
Thirty years ago, it was hard to get a good job without a college degree. Ten years ago, it was nearly impossible. That being the case, parents told their kids they had to go to college to live comfortably and naturally, everybody started going to college to get a degree when they were finished with high school. It really didn’t matter what degree, just as long as they have the title to put on their resume. Now that the demand for jobs has shifted, there’s an excess of people with four-year degrees looking for desk jobs and nobody with the skills to fill the jobs open in construction.
The pay you can expect with a four year bachelor’s degree depending on your field will likely range between $40,000 and $90,000 with the best jobs just topping $100,000. In the construction industry, not only will there always be high demand for skilled labor, but you can make $40,000 your first year with no prior experience as a helper and no student loans to pay off. Choose a craft to become skilled in and you can jump to $60,000 to $90,000 depending on the craft you choose. Put in overtime and your salary increases. Get into management and you can start aiming even higher.
College is great, but don’t go just because everybody expects you to. If you absolutely know what you want to do and it requires a degree, then great! But don’t believe that it’s a necessity in order to live well.
Once you decide on a craft and begin training, you’ll learn a lot about how to perform your craft well, but perhaps the most important thing I learned as an apprentice was how to perform poorly. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. You can have plenty of experience and a great technique, but no matter what, sometimes you just have a bad day. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been welding for six months or thirty years, you’re going have an off day sometimes. It’s learning to deal with situations like these that make a good welder into a great welder. It’s those who keep working at it and trying it again instead of giving up that will make the great welders. Everybody has bad days; you just have to keep the right attitude.
I believe that the negative perception of the construction industry will change itself with time. If you look through history, social norms and positive or negative perceptions of certain careers are driven by the law of supply and demand. Now that there is a surplus of people earning college degrees and not enough jobs to fill them, people will slowly start to realize that jumping straight into a skilled trade where demand is high is a valid option for most people.