Can You Be a Jack of All Trades?
In my last several blogs I’ve outlined the influence of smart homes on skilled trade workers in HVAC, electrical and plumbing. Modern technology forces an interaction among these trades. Home appliances and many plumbing fixtures require electricity to operate, so that even plumbers and HVAC technicians must understand at least the fundamentals of an electrician’s job, and vice versa. This raises an interesting question posed in the headline here: can you be a plumber, electrician and HVAC technician at the same time?
The short answer is yes, especially in the service sector. Many residential service contractors provide plumbing, HVAC, electrical and sometimes even more trade services. From a business standpoint it makes sense to do so, since the customer base is the same and the more types of work a company can perform, the more business can be done with those customers using the same marketing efforts. Many service technicians are cross-trained in more than one trade.
The longer answer is that, like anything else, acquiring more than one set of skills takes time. Most trade workers are to some extent the proverbial jacks of all trades. Look inside the tool kits of any trade worker and you’ll find wrenches, hammers, pliers and other basic tools used in all trades, with particular trades requiring more specialized tools. Trade workers have a high mechanical aptitude and understand at least the fundamentals of other trade work. Many routinely tackle household chores that go beyond their own trade specialty. Some residential service contractors may send an HVAC technician to handle a routine plumbing call and vice versa, but send their most accomplished people to handle more complicated jobs.
Many jurisdictions require licensing for different trades. In these cases, a cross-trained technician must prove competency in every licensed trade before being allowed to work on those jobs. This may require a bit of time and experience but it’s hardly impossible to pull it off. The longer you work in a trade, the more you get exposed to other trades and the more familiar you become with their work. You can also take advantage of training provided by employers and their suppliers to learn more than one trade.
The new construction field involves more repetitive tasks, which makes it harder for trade workers to acquire enough skills beyond their own trade to pass licensing exams. Also, for the sake of maximum productivity, new construction contractors are inclined to assign tasks only to workers familiar with them.
However, residential service contractors stand to reap great rewards from cross-trained technicians. It greatly eases their dispatching burdens and alleviates seasonal fluctuations, especially for HVAC work. Learning more than one trade increases your value and earning potential. If you’re ambitious, go for it.