Turning to the Trades: Today’s Industry

0 April 1, 2014  Careers in Construction, featured, On The Job

This is the second of a three-part series on the career opportunities in the construction industry written by David Schell, an Account Manager for H.B. McClure Company in Pennsylvania, a member company of Associated Builders and Contractors Keystone Chapter.


When I look back at my high school years, I don’t remember anyone telling me about post-graduation options. In fact, we were all taught that the only way to succeed was to gear up for college and score well on your SATs. Nobody explained the cost of college or the percentage of those who actually use their degree.

I look back on high school and remember the kids that were in college prep classes. I’m sure some of them went on to become lawyers, doctors and engineers, but they are still paying back college loans, or some of them might still be in school with a mountain of debt to pay back in the near future. This is a popular avenue, or at least the idea is popular, but I do not think the majority of people land here.

Most of the people with which I graduated high school with went on to a secondary school and like me, probably took Gen-Ed or Liberal Arts classes working part-time. Unfortunately, I hear way too often, “I’m not working in the field for which I studied.”

There was another group of kids in my high school that decided they weren’t going to go to college. They took classes in high school like Building Trades, Drafting, Sheet Metal and Welding. They learned valuable information about how things actually work.

They took these skills with them and immediately entered the workforce. They worked as laborers making $10-$15 an hour doing mundane things like carrying bricks, sanding drywall or laying shingles, but after about five years, the hardest working and more well-versed became team leaders with a developed skill. Five years later, these people are experts in their fields. Some of them started their own small companies, while many work as foremen or supervisors for local construction companies and contractors. They make $20-$30 per hour and enjoy autonomy in their career. They have five years of equity in their home, with one car that’s paid for, and probably coach their kid’s tee-ball or soccer team. The amazing part is that they are not even thirty-years old yet, making $50,000-$60,000 a year with no college debt, at a job where they are considered an invaluable asset with ten years’ experience.

It should not go without saying that there was another group of students who immediately went in to our armed forces. Without them, we have nothing. This group deserves the most respect and recognition. Many thanks to their services, and may God Bless their lives and families.

The problem lies with the fact that when I think about the majority of kids who took the building trades classes, it was because they were not the best at classroom activities or they were the outcast always causing trouble. There is nothing wrong with a student who doesn’t do well at remembering world history with taking these classes; however there is a problem when they are cast there without regard. It is because of this that the trades industry is seeing a shortage of a dependable workforce.





Contributor since July 2013

Donna Puglisi works in the Public Affairs department for ABC National

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