I never, ever thought that I would end up working in the trades like ever. But I have been for a while now and it’s actually pretty cool. I know that there is a pervasive dismissiveness among many people still that someone is “just a plumber.” We’re also treated like that a pretty good part of time. Sometimes we’re even treated like ‘the help.’ None of that really bothers me though. What bothers me is that people look down on tradespeople and treat them with suspicion. That’s not cool. Most of us never stop to think about what it means to be in the trades and just how much these people do for all of us. Let’s change that shall we?
We do things most people can’t literally
When it comes to looking your nose down at people in the trades one fact really bothers me. That is that people are hiring you to do something they literally can’t. Sure for some they have all the skills and not the time or agility but more often than not you’ve hired someone because they have knowledge you don’t. This isn’t usually work you’re just unwilling to do it’s work you can’t do and that makes it specialized work. Why would you ever think less of someone for the work they do in this situation. I can’t fix my own dishwasher or tie rebar so rather than casting shade on someone who does that for me I admire their knowledge and appreciate them.
We have the same basic human needs that you do
Let’s start with saying that you aren’t responsible for these needs part of our job is to provide that for ourselves. But I’m willing to bet you never thought of this. We need food, water, facilities and shelter to do our jobs just like you do. I would venture to say that every home owner out there can do something. Most never do. You could let us know to help ourselves to the hose for water, leave the garage accessible (maybe even turn up the heat a bit) for shade or warmth or put out some deck chairs where you notice we eat lunch. Of course if you’re not comfortable with that that’s cool too. It doesn’t happen often but we noticed when people do small things to help keep us more comfortable.
We take pride in out work and providing a service
Every industry has bad apples operating within it. I’ve hired bad lawyers, bad mechanics and definitely run into bad service providers. All those things have cost thousands of dollars. It really bugs me that many people view all trades people as potential swindlers. One thing you might not have thought about is that tradespeople are providing a service and a product. That means we have to be good at running the project, keeping you happy and provide good quality work. Some will be better at one aspect than the others just like great surgeons with poor bedside manners. We actually work really hard at providing a good balance of those three things and just like anyone else we take pride in our work. Treating workers as if they are there to steal your money and do shotty work just isn’t fair.
Our work environment can engager our lives
Sometimes that’s your house and your choice. Often this comes down to deferred maitenence and I get that finances are a big issue in that. But at some point in time someone is going to have to go and fix your problem. You can put it off so long that it puts a tradesperson’s life at risk. One common example is roofs. You know it’s going to have to be redone at some point but the longer you put it off the better chance is someone is going to get hurt. Just today the guys were on a roof with a soft spot that had to be avoided and once my step son fell through one right into the living room. You might want to get a few extra years out of something but that could get someone killed and you’ll likely pay more in the long run.
We are economic powerhouses
All of the activities related to construction make up approximately 10% of the economy, that’s a lot! One small company might directly feed 5 or 6 families, a portion of a few government employees salaries and several retail stores and that’s just the start! Construction is the largest sector of small businesses making up 12% of all small businesses in Canada. That does mean it’s a great field to get into but also that tradespeople keep a huge part of the economy firing on all cylinders. That also means the construction industry is one of the largest, if not that largest group of entrepreneurs out there. Some of these companies grow into hugely profitable business for their owners but many more are helmed by actual business people keeping their families afloat with little to no outside support. These business people have to be the accounting department, legal department and human resources as well as get your job done. Next time you’re tempted to say someone ‘just works construction’ remember that not all tycoons wear suits, some wear steel toes!
The education we have (formal or not) is staggering
Some construction professionals have years of credentialing like those who have red seals who have nearly a thousand hors of formal training and well over 6000 apprentice hours. Those that have journey man status much more and have proven their knowledge to be just as vast. It’s true that you can get into the industry with out even a high school diploma and end up owning the company. No matter if someone picked up their skills on the job or through a trade school they know so much! The field is an equalizer in many ways where someone who is sharp, hard working and responsible can end up having a very, very nice life. There’s not to many industries where a person has to learn that much and all that know how deserves to be respected.
The trades is still a field where someone with little to no formal education can still rise to the top of the economic ladder. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool! There is a culture in the industry where the experts are happy to share all that they know. In general there is also no hard feelings when someone else learns on your job. Sometimes when a good employee leaves to start out on their own the timing might suck but I think we all get it and get over it. That right there is how we all learn and get ahead. It takes years if not decades to learn all you need to know. We have to learn how to do the work, building codes, pricing and how to fix someone else’s problems. It’s a mistake to think that tradespeople are uneducated no matter how many years they spent in school.
We are essential workers
While I’m not conflating our importance with those that work in hospitals, move our food around or even stock grocery store shelves what we do is considered an essential service. Having safe shelter is a basic human right after all and not maintaining things to be safe puts lives in danger. Even if people don’t get hurt a huge amount of property damage is prevented every year by trades people. Fun fact you might have missed during the pandemic construction was never shut down neither were the business that support them. What we do is very, very important and no matter what is going on in the world people still need their roofs patched, their water running and their heat on.
As much as most trades people are overlooked and even looked down on almost everything you did today a tradesperson made possible. If trades people stopped working the world would come to a screeching halt quicker than you would think. No one in the trades is asking for people to line the streets and clap at any time but I know a little acknowledgment would go a long, long way. If you work in the trades what aspect of how people treat/view your work dives you nuts? Leave it in the comments below!