In a world where everyone has a college diploma or a master’s degree and a white-collar job, who do you call to fit the plumbing in your new home? The line that a college degree is a necessity for a good career is untrue and highly problematic. Blue collar work is incredibly important for the functioning of our society and the economy. We need it, and the labor market is showing it — skilled trades dominate the top of the list of the fastest growing occupations.
So how do you get in on the action? Well, it might not be as hard as getting a PhD in theoretical physics, but it’s not exactly easy. Skilled trades require both learning and skill development. You can’t just pick up a tool, fix a couple of things around your house, and call yourself a skilled tradesperson.
What Trade Are You Interested In?
First, you have to pick a skilled trade. You might have some previous knowledge that can guide your choice. There might be a trade you are particularly interested in or a trade you are passionate about. Aptitude can also play an important role in making the decision.
You should also factor in the external circumstances. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is an incredible source of information. You can use it to find out about the occupational outlook, requirements, and median wages. Looking through local job ads might help you find out about the trades that are in demand in your area.
Get Your Education in Order
Before you start thinking about learning your trade, you will first have to make sure you meet the educational requirements. Usually, that means a finished high school or a GED. You should also have your SAT and ACT scores because they will come in handy.
Then you can start looking into trade education programs. You have two options, either to attend a trade school, or take classes at a community college. Both are valid, although you are likely to get a broader education if you attend classes at a community college. You can also find shorter certificate programs if you want to start your skilled trade career as soon as possible. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you end up with some knowledge and skills, and a certificate that proves it. Even if the certificate is not required for the next step, as it sometimes isn’t, you should still get it.
Get an Apprenticeship
An apprenticeship is where you make your first actual step in the skilled trade workforce. You will have the option to apply for one to the local union chapter of your trade. You might also be able to find some apprenticeships that are not run by the union, so make sure you check with the school where you got your certification. Either way, you will have to send in an application, pass an aptitude test, and be admitted to work with a Master tradesperson while you continue your education in the classroom.
Your apprenticeship will probably last for up to five years. You will be paid for the work you do during that time, although you will not receive a full salary. Still, as your apprenticeship advances, so will your salary. You will get the opportunity to learn from the people who have been practicing the trade much longer than you, so you can expect your skills to improve as well.
And that’s how you get started in a skilled trade career. After your apprenticeship is done, you are free to work for yourself, start your own company, or join an existing one. You will have the skills you’ll need to perform your trade, and you will probably have a customer or two soon. From then on, you’ll only have to perform quality work that keeps your bosses or customers happy and to stay on top of the development of technology related to your trade.