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 physical strength.

Today’s automobiles have often been described as “computers on wheels.” That’s pretty accurate, as any auto mechanic will tell you. Their training nowadays relies heavily upon computer diagnostics to tell what’s wrong with a vehicle and keep it tuned up to peak performance.

The same holds true for the skilled construction trades, such as plumbing, HVAC and electrical work. These technicians work with a variety of computerized tools and equipment that pinpoint leaks, replenish gases and fluids, detect blockages and create so-called “smart homes” filled with electronic gadgetry.

For example, “smart” thermostats can sense who’s in a room and adjust temperature in accordance with their programmed comfort level. Plumbers may peer into a sewer using computerized cameras that pinpoint a blockage to the inch. Electricians are at the cutting edge installing home comfort and security systems that operate from home computers or the internet.

Installation of plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems are often designed using computerized CAD (computer-aided design) and CAM (computer-aided modeling) programs. What used to take hours upon hours of work at a drafting board can be completed in a matter of minutes using CAD/CAM programs. Their use is not limited only to high-priced architects. Even small residential builders and remodeling firms use CAD/CAM to give customers an inkling of how the final project will look even before the first hammer strikes a nail.

Contractors also rely on computerized estimating programs to tell them how much a job will cost and how much to charge to earn a profit. Computers also keep track of inventory and even include GPS tracking programs that show where company vehicles are at any time and how they are being operated.

How good are your computer skills? Computer literacy is a must if you want to succeed as a modern construction craft worker. A word to the wise: Don’t fall asleep in computer classes.