One of the biggest myths of working in the trades is that it involves a lot of physical grunt work. The image most of the public holds of trade workers is of a muscular individual who gets paid more for brawn than brains.
If that was ever true, it’s certainly not the case anymore. The skilled trades like plumbing, HVAC and electrical welcome men and women of modest physical size and strength. Their work involves much exposure to high-tech tools and equipment. Skilled trade workers need to be as adept with computers as with wrenches.
For example, in the old days if your sewer line was clogged and backing up into a basement, a plumber would have to use a manual augur – the so-called “plumber’s snake” — along with plenty of muscle power to rod out a line, not always successfully. Modern plumbing companies of today equip their trucks with electrically-powered rotary cable machines, or so-called “jetters,” which used pressurized water to blast away congealed gunk on the inside of a pipe.
Top plumbing companies also employ high-resolution sewer cameras to inspect sewer lines for damage and clogs. If part of a sewer line needs to be replaced, the damaged portion can be pinpointed with precision, requiring only a small hole to be dug in a yard rather than tearing up an entire lawn with flower beds. Some high-tech plumbing firms even have technology available to reline a pipe without digging a hole.
HVAC technicians and electricians typically carry a variety of electronic tools and equipment that enable them to diagnose and fix heating, cooling and electrical problems using minimal physical effort. Hauling boilers, furnaces, water heaters, etc., in and out of buildings is simplified immensely with the assistance of material handling devices that make it a one-person job – even by a small and frail person.
Many residential service companies utilize sophisticated dispatching software to ensure they can respond to emergency calls within an hour or less. Once on site, the technicians have at their disposal a variety of high-tech diagnostic tools to pinpoint the source of a problem and get it repaired or replaced. Many of today’s service technicians carry laptop computers or tablets with them on the job to quickly access information and expertise they might lack.
It used to be that all you needed was mechanical aptitude to make it as a skilled trade worker. Nowadays you had better be technologically adept as well.
The good news is that if you’re in your 20s or even 30s you’ve likely grown up using computers and other high-tech devices. You don’t need to be trained from scratch like most of the grizzled veterans of the trade.
It’s an exciting time to explore the trades as a career.