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  • An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

    An open letter to the trades October 6, 2012


    Last night I was privileged to attend a screening of a documentary called “The Tradesman” produced by film maker, Richard Yeagley. Taco Manufacturing sponsored the event and it was held at the Johnson & Whales Culinary Institute in Providence Rhode Island. Providence is a two hour ride for me but I felt that the subject was just too important to miss, along with the opportunity to address industry professionals and get a better feel for the direction of the vocational arts. I teach plumbing and HVAC to high school juniors and seniors. It’s a two year program that prepares young men and women to enter the trade with at least a modicum of technical knowledge and skill. Taco could not have chosen a better venue for the event. The Johnson & Whales culinary instituted houses an impressive museum that chronicles the history, tools and techniques of cooking and restaurant management in America. It is an impressive and well thought out collection indeed. Normally one would not think of going to a culinary arts museum and under different circumstances I probably would never visit such a place as my main interest in food is mostly related to how much I can stuff in my face. That said; if you are in the Providence area and have the time; stop in for a visit. The culinary students served yummy appetizers as well as a delicious meal and then we got down to business and watched the documentary. The film runs a little under an hour and is mainly focused on the lack of young people entering the trades and the skewed perceptions that the general public has of folks that are in the trade. It is a fairly powerful documentary and though it does a very good job of highlighting the plight of the construction trades, it offers no real solutions to the problem but then to be fair, solutions was not the original intent. What the movie really does is get a dialog started. The people in attendance were given an opportunity to speak with a panel made up of industry professionals and producer Richard Yeagley. Most made general comments that supported the movies content and quite a few offered opinions and their own solutions. In the end though, the event leaves us with two choices. We can either ride the wave of enlightenment for a few days before we settle back into our lives, businesses and priorities or we can begin a new dialog that brings manufacturing, business and educational institutions together to formulate a long term solution.

    The Current State of Affairs

    In 2006 the United States congress reauthorized funding of technical schools through the Carl Perkins act through the year 2012. In 2012 the act once again comes up for a vote and given the current economic climate the chances that it will retain full funding are pretty slim. Without Perkins funding technical high schools and post-secondary schools will close. Local school districts do not have the resources necessary to fund the kind of materials and equipment that most of us need to stay afloat. I can’t teach my students how to plumb by having them sit at a computer for a couple hours a day and do it “virtually” Real skills and knowledge comes from constant repetition and getting down and dirty. I expect my kids to have cuts, bruises, minor burns and come out of my lab filthy because that’s what happens in the real world and there’s no use in sugar coating the facts.

    Industry and Manufacturing

    You folks have to ask yourselves where to best spend your promotional dollars. Remember though that probably 70% of the men and women working in the trades are over the age of forty and a good many of them are over fifty. Where the youth and what are you willing to invest? If you make a wise investment in the youth and their education then you are ostensibly creating a market for your goods and services down the road. Apple understands this concept well. In the state of Maine, Apple has donated thousands of Apple lap top computers to high school students. Their investment pays off twofold. For one, they are investing in education and for two; they are introducing young folks to their products in hopes that they will soon be consumers and purchase Apple computers for their own. Ok, let’s be honest, they get a big tax deduction too.

    A Plan – We don’t need no stinking government.

    So why are we putting all our eggs in the government basket and hoping for the best? We have all witnessed the efficiency of the federal government and most of us have been shackled by their pedantic rules and regulations as well. We don’t need them. If every manufacturer that makes products used in the construction trades, from lumber and nails to wrenches and pipe fittings, would get together with vocational technical high schools and colleges and form an alliance of financial and educational support,
    a super fund if you will, we would be able to raise twenty times the money that the Carl Perkins fund makes available and do it without all the governmental purse strings. Everyone in the trades has a stake in this venture. If you manufacture hammers, you need people to swing them. Past indicators show us that those people are not exactly crashing through the gates. Your current marketing is most likely focused on an older and already established generation rather than the youth of America. When was the last time you saw a couple of kids building a tree house? They are not coming back to the trades unless we show them the path. They cannot understand the value of hard work or the pride that comes from doing a thing well without our guidance. I know the economy is miserable and construction and housing starts are way down but, how long should we wait? Can we afford to sit back and weather the storm or should we be making decisions and taking action now so that when the economy rebounds we have a skilled workforce ready to step up to the plate. You all know the danger in waiting. You all know who will step up to that plate if we don’t. This crisis is too big to ignore. Entire economies depend on skilled tradesmen and women as do business and industry alike. Tradesmen and women built this nation. We make other people’s dreams a reality. We design and build the machinery that changes civilizations. We are the face of change.

    My sincere thanks to Taco Manufacturing, John White and his minions, Producer Richard Yeagley and the Johnson & Whales Culinary Institute.

    Stephen Nugent
    Plumbing & HVAC Instructor
    R.W. Creteau Regional Technology Center
    Rochester, NH. 03867
    nugent.s@rochesterschools.com
    NH Licensed Master Plumber - 3015
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  • #2
    Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

    Thanks for sharing Master. When I was building on Cape Cod 1970s I hired graduates from Upper Cape Regional trade Schools. The Kids had a good back ground in carpentry, Loved to learn from Me, A pleasure to have on board. I'm soo sorry We don't have these schools in Ca. Yes the Unions have some. Our High Schools took all their carpentry Equept.Uni Saws,planers,band saws and gave them to San Quantan Prison. Some folks in Education ,have their head up their Butts.
    I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

      Originally posted by NHMaster3015 View Post
      A Plan – We don’t need no stinking government.

      So why are we putting all our eggs in the government basket and hoping for the best? We have all witnessed the efficiency of the federal government and most of us have been shackled by their pedantic rules and regulations as well. We don’t need them. If every manufacturer that makes products used in the construction trades, from lumber and nails to wrenches and pipe fittings, would get together with vocational technical high schools and colleges and form an alliance of financial and educational support,
      a super fund if you will, we would be able to raise twenty times the money that the Carl Perkins fund makes available and do it without all the governmental purse strings. Everyone in the trades has a stake in this venture. If you manufacture hammers, you need people to swing them. Past indicators show us that those people are not exactly crashing through the gates. Your current marketing is most likely focused on an older and already established generation rather than the youth of America. When was the last time you saw a couple of kids building a tree house? They are not coming back to the trades unless we show them the path. They cannot understand the value of hard work or the pride that comes from doing a thing well without our guidance. I know the economy is miserable and construction and housing starts are way down but, how long should we wait? Can we afford to sit back and weather the storm or should we be making decisions and taking action now so that when the economy rebounds we have a skilled workforce ready to step up to the plate. You all know the danger in waiting. You all know who will step up to that plate if we don’t. This crisis is too big to ignore. Entire economies depend on skilled tradesmen and women as do business and industry alike. Tradesmen and women built this nation. We make other people’s dreams a reality. We design and build the machinery that changes civilizations. We are the face of change.
      Progressive ideas are bad for the trades, and especially those of us who are self employed.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

        Dewalt makes hammers now, maybe they always did. They one that catches my eye is the 60 dollar 28 ounce one. Smells to me they are just charging more for hammers now since they are selling less.

        I am afraid sir, that it would be a MASSIVE effort to get any proactive thinking going. I battle with customers all day that are so ignorant they want to tell me how to do MY job. then bawk at price, and time and anything else. People just do not respect the trades anymore. And it doesn't help that there are so many illegals filling out the framing/roofing crews nowdays. Maybe they should make it so that to be a plumber you need a bachelors? Then. Then my friend people would be BEGGING for a plumber.

        The public needs to see us for what we are. They mostly have a opinion of buttcracks and high prices. When in reality we are just tradesmen. Well, PLUMBERS are, we still have our hacks. Licensed ones even. But most of us guys that contribute on here regularly actually care about QUALITY. We care about doing it right, not fast, not cheap, and not expensive. Correctly. If it happens to be a little high priced, so be it. Money well spent on your 100k+ investment.

        I sell my trade every day. I sell quality. I don't always sell, but when I do I take my time and do it right. Because I care about what I do. And the trade needs people like that. People that care about what they put out. And the public needs to understand that we aren't just idiots. We actually protect their health, safety and property. We aren't free, but that isn't the point. People see us as a bill, that is all. And they despise plumbers for the most part. We are honorable men, in a honorable trade, with dishonorable customers that care about MONEY nothing else. Of course there is the rare exception, but that is generally the case.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

          How old are you if I may ask?
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          Comment


          • #6
            Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

            The journeyman that i finished my ticket under and i go to the high school i graduated from once a year and do a small talk about the trades hes been doing it for years. My graduating year he came in and that was the fjirst time i met him it inspired me when i moved to calgary to look for work in the trades.. the first thing he writes on the board is Attitude....it all starts there i love going in front of the class sor im only seven years older then the students i remeber sitting in the same chairs with the same teacher and the same fears of what i was about to do with my life.. this year ive offered to do work experience for those young adults interested in. Trades i find it is very rewarding to help people into a great carreer... I hope others do the same... Thanks seanny

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

              29.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                My father always told me,"your resume is your work", he was right then, as his saying is today. People know only what they know, when they discover over time what is the important things in life are, they will realize what is good and what is bad.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                  I remember The Bell and Howell institute in N.J., The RCA institute, Samuel Gompers Technical High School amoung others they are no longer around. I don't understand it, we all can't be Wall St. investment bankers or CEO's of a company, what happens to the kids that learn differently? Used to be you would be able to raise your family, educate them, and provide a good home and set them on a path to a better life in this country, maybe then you'd be able to retire. Seems we gave that up. I am very happy to hear that there is still some people who care about he old addage, "hard work and good manners", that's what matters. Thanks for your story.

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                  • #10
                    Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                    Ok so how many of you guys have children? And what are you telling them when they ask what path they should take in life. I know an awful lot of tradesmen in all trades that want their kids to go to college. They don't want them to have to work as hard and as long as they did. Is that realistic? Society has always put tradesmen below businessmen and such on the social and economic ladder believing that those in the trades are somehow less educated, not as bright and therefore need to be relegated to manual labor. These same people don't understand the complexity of what we do. What do you see when you watch a guy running an excavator. A filthy guy wearing filthy jeans and tee shirt that probably drops the f bomb every other word, may smell like booze and is a generally bad tempered individual. Little does the average person realize that that filthy, swearing guy knows how to read and interpret blue prints, figure and set grade, lay out square foundation dimensions and dig the hole to within less than an inch of tolerance over the length and width of the hole all the while operating the excavator with supreme precision, driving the dump truck and trailer, and very often maintaining and fixing the equipment when it breaks down. Oh yes, let's not forget that he owns and runs the business. Figures and makes payroll, taxes, insurance and on and on yet....He's just some filthy guy playing with a back hoe. So sitting in a 4 x 4 cubicle in some high rise office building, pushing papers across a desk is socially more acceptable? I don't get it and I never will.

                    WE BUILD THIS NATION. WE BUILD OTHER PEOPLES DREAMS GIVE US THE RESPECT WE DAMN WELL DESERVE OR ELSE DO THE JOB YOURSELF!
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                    • #11
                      Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                      I have kids. And I will always push them to work with their brains, not their back. If that so happens to be in plumbing, than so be it. If they happen to be a lawyer, okay that works too.

                      But I will not try to impose plumbing on them at all. Hell, I don't really "need" them to be plumbers, I got that covered! I need a lawyer and a doctor.

                      But I agree with your point NH.
                      But, his personal actions are not professional. It's one thing to be dirty because of whatever, but foul language and the general actions of guys on the jobsite says anything but professional. In a way, we are doing it to ourselves.

                      The old saying is true. You can't judge a book by it's cover.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                        When I have children, they will know the Plumbing trade just like I was forced to learn. I hated the thought back then at the tender age of 13, but my father was right in the end.

                        I want what's best for my children, but there is NO job security at all in the business world!

                        But you ALWAYS need a Plumber.

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                        • #13
                          Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                          when a trade and tradesmen wil not embrace new products and practices I think it is a dieing trade.
                          Go back 4 or 5 years and look at the posts about jetters and you will see guys talking about how they can do anything with a cable machine that a jetter can do. that is nonsence talk by old fashioned fearful tradesmen. what young person wants to be invovled with that.

                          Now that being said. when will code change to make cleanouts more jetter useful? I bet not for 30 more years!

                          Kids have star trek technology in there phone why do they want to get into a buggy whip trade.

                          I got into this trade older than most and the 1st thing I noticed was a total fear of change and a by God I had to do it that way and so will you attitude. also an attitude of it's been done like that for a 100 years and it is good enough.

                          Just my 2 cents.

                          You know it was a buider that taught me to never put water pipes on outside walls. Plumbers around here still do it and do it often. that is the sign of a dieing trade.

                          yes I fix frozen water pipes on outside walls every year.

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                          • #14
                            Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                            Since when is drain cleaning plumbing? Hell you don't even need a license in most states to rod drains

                            As for the rest of the "new" technology, fast, cheap and easy is another one of the things that is destroying the trade but that's a separate issue altogether. It's not just plumbing that kids are not going into, it's all trades.
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                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: An open letter to industry and the tradesmen of America

                              Originally posted by NHMaster3015 View Post
                              Since when is drain cleaning plumbing? Hell you don't even need a license in most states to rod drains

                              As for the rest of the "new" technology, fast, cheap and easy is another one of the things that is destroying the trade but that's a separate issue altogether. It's not just plumbing that kids are not going into, it's all trades.
                              You are right, I thought about no kids entering the plumbing or any other trade after I posted. How would they even know if it was to there liking

                              I like new stuff in the industry, but it does make our trade more of a commodity.
                              Last edited by saysflushable; 10-15-2011, 10:56 PM.

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