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A Lifetime Burden

July 12, 2016 Student debt can stay with you forever It was chilling to read a recent Wall Street Journal article detailing what can only be called a crisis with student debt, most of which is owed by college graduates or, worse, college dropouts. The article...

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My Commencement Speech

Congratulations on your choice of a trade career! This month the news media has been filled with stories of dignitaries addressing graduates at commencement ceremonies of various colleges. In these speeches the VIPs typically congratulate the grads and encourage them...

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Supply Versus Demand

June 6, 2016 The trades offer opportunity galore! This article is going to be short and sweet. I’ve written before in this space about the shortage of skilled trade workers in our country. When supply is low, job opportunities and pay scales go up. No matter where you...

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Why Women Should Consider The Trades

May 24, 2016 Brute force is not required! Misconceptions abound about the trades and the people who work in them. Many of these misconceptions date back to a bygone era when there might have been more truth to them. One of these misconceptions is that the trades...

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Why Are So Few Women In The Trades?

May 9, 2016 Old habits die hard! The knee-jerk answer some people might give to that question is because the skilled trades are not very welcoming to women. That may have been true in the past but for the most part not anymore. Social attitudes have evolved over the...

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Automation Doesn’t Threaten The Trades

April 26, 2016 Robot plumbers are a long, long way off Can trade workers be replaced by machines? That would seem to be the implication by a computer scientist at Rice University, who predicts that by 2045 machines will be capable of doing almost any job a human can....

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Defending The Trades

April 12, 2016 Take pride in what you aspire to be In my last article I described a conversation I once had with an affluent suburban mother whose son was interested in an HVAC career. She knew nothing about the field and contacted me when I was a trade magazine...

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Setting Mom Straight

March 22, 2016 Tell your parents what’s great about the skilled trades I’ll never forget a conversation I had some years ago when I served as editor of Plumbing & Mechanical magazine. I spent almost an hour on the phone with a mom talking about a potential HVAC...

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Color Yourself Green

March 7, 2016 The trades are in the forefront of the ecology movement To their credit, young people today are more environmentally conscious than just about any generation in history. They know that the future well-being of our society depends on conserving energy and...

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Attitude Vs. Skills

February 19, 2016 Employers can train for skills Getting a job in a skilled trade doesn’t necessarily require a lot of experience. Many trade employers are willing to train people who have a high mechanical IQ but not necessarily proven skills or experience with trade...

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College Grads Are SO Underemployed

February 5, 2016 Go to college if you like retail sales! Did you know the one out of four retail salespersons has a college degree? So do almost one out of five telemarketers, one out of six bartenders and one out of seven waiters/waitresses. Is that because these...

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Think Small

January 19, 2016 Trade employers are mostly small businesses If you become a skilled trade worker the odds are great that you will end up working for a small company. The latest Census of Construction Industries shows that the average construction company has fewer...

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How To Find Great Trade Workers

January 5, 2016 Part 3 of tips for employers This article continues a review of best practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining top-notch trade workers. Don’t over-value experience. As a grizzled veteran with more than four decades of experience in my chosen...

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How To Find Great Trade Workers

December 22, 2015 Part 2 of tips for employers This article continues a review of best practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining top-notch trade workers. Look outside your local area. The smaller your market area the more likely it is that you’ll have to find...

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How To Find Great Trade Workers

December 10, 2015 Part 1 of tips for employers So far this blog has been devoted to advice for aspiring trade workers. I’m going to switch gears for a while and speak to their employers, many of whom also follow this blog. I know most of you would rank finding...

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A Front Door Into The Trades

November 20, 2015 Just knock for a rewarding career. In my last blog I discussed apprenticeship programs and vocational/technical schools as paths into the skilled trades. A third path exists that may be the most accessible of all for talented and ambitious people. Do...

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How Do You Enter a Trade?

November 10, 2015 Apprenticeship has changed from the old days. Following in your father’s footsteps has a long tradition in the skilled trades. Many if not most of today’s trade workers entered the field because that’s what their father or some other family member...

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College Is Not Worth the Cost!

October 27, 2015 So say recent college grads A consistent theme of this blog has been that debunking the myth that you have to go to college to achieve financial success. I’ve written about the lack of jobs for most college graduates in the fields they study, about...

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Living Independently

October 13, 2015 Hard to do with big debts to pay Many, many years ago as a young man in my early 20s and recently discharged from the U.S. Army, I moved into my own apartment for the first time. While serving in the military I shared quarters with dozens of fellow...

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Skilled Trade Pay Scales

October 1, 2015 Set your sights on being better than average. It’s easy to be misled when you look at data about how much skilled trade workers earn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes such data, but I have found their information to be outdated and lacking in...

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HVACR Workforce Shortage: Worse Than We Thought

September 23, 2015 By Renee Tomlinson We keep hearing that technicians are in demand; that there is a skills gap facing our industry and that employers are having a difficult time filling open technician and HVACR related job openings, but where are all of these facts...

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Computers In The Trades

September 14, 2015 Your computer skills will come in handy A lot of young people look at the manual trades as a lot of wrench turning and grunt labor. Maybe that was true a century ago but the jobs of today’s skilled trade workers are more about “brain” work than...

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Best Jobs Without A College Degree

August 25, 2015 And, without crushing debt! Kiplinger’s is a popular general interest newsletter. A recent article of theirs caught my eye: “10 Best Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree.” Not surprisingly, plumber was listed among them. Kiplinger’s noted: “New...

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Labor Come Alive!

August 14, 2015 It’s a thrill to see the results of your work I spent more than three decades covering the skilled trades as a trade journalist. Now that I’m retired I look back with immense satisfaction at the friendships made and life lessons learned. Among the...

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How To Get Rich

July 29, 2015 The trades offer a path to wealth. Maybe a career isn’t all you’re thinking about. Maybe you know successful people who own multiple homes, drive fancy cars and are able to afford a bunch of luxuries the average person can only dream about. Maybe your...

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How To Dig A Hole You Can’t Climb Out Of

July 17, 2015 Student loan debt has reached crisis proportions. Former college students – not all of them graduates – owe a staggering $1.2 trillion in student loans, according to most estimates. Don’t even think of trying to count to 1.2 trillion. If you counted one...

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The Skilled Worker Shortage Keeps Getting Worse

June 30, 2015 Trade workers are retiring without replacements Anyone who regularly reads a newspaper or business publication will eventually come across an article detailing the predicament of a shortage of skilled trade workers. A recent survey from the National...

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What Do We Mean By A “Skilled” Trade?

June 12, 2015 Plumbers are worth more than philosophy professors! Throughout this blog I’ve been using the term skilled trade worker as if it is common knowledge. In thinking it over, however, I’m not so sure everyone understands how important is that word “skilled.”...

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If The Military Turns You Down

If the military turns you down …You probably are disqualified from the trades. Last year I read an article in the Wall Street Journal saying that 71% of American youths between the ages of 17 and 24 would fail to qualify for the U.S. military if they applied. Reasons...

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