America was built on the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) trades, and the trades are facing change overnight. MEP trade workers are considered essential personnel during this pandemic. They’re still working, and there are immediate career opportunities across the US. Yet there is still that tendency to look down on the profession of a plumber, an electrician or an HVAC worker. That is still the predominant narrative around the trades, and it was developed long ago by those outside the professions.
Since they are, on the whole, a humble group, workers in the MEP trades haven’t related their success stories very well over the years. They do their job and generally don’t feel the need to brag about it. If it’s true that you’re a walking billboard for your profession, the MEP trades’ billboard fell into the weeds long ago. As a result, because they don’t come across as glamorous professions, some people have snubbed the MEP trades.
As a nation, we’re more educated than ever. It’s trendy to look for a career with regular work hours, a work-life balance and stability. All of these – and more – are available in the trades. You may already be aware that the wages for trades workers are above the national average for careers. The fact is, MEP is a great industry with exciting technology innovations that can make the job more interesting and motivating. There’s a full spectrum of possibilities for trades workers. You can implement as much or as little of technology as you’d like. The sky’s the limit with the trades. You can work for someone nine-to-five, or you can own your own business.
People in the trades are resilient and have adapted well to these unprecedented times. If ever there were a time to be appreciative of the job opportunities that exist in the trades, it’s now. Rather than snubbing our noses at the career opportunities nationwide, we need to be encouraging people to take advantage of the open jobs in the trades – to speak out about the fascinating prospects.
As we celebrate Veterans Day, we’re mindful that veterans have a work ethic that is conducive to working in the high demand occupations like MEP. There are job opportunities if people are ready to step in. To take advantage of that, we need to encourage more people to get trained at trade schools, starting with high school students. Historically, there has been an incentive for guidance counselors to push students toward college, but to equip them with the skills to get jobs now, that needs to change. When people are looking for a job nowadays, basically most available jobs are in the trades.
The trades are indeed facing change, and one of those changes is from “blue collar” to “new collar.”
Join me on episode 57 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast with guest Chaunte Hall, a US Air Force veteran, executive career coach and president of Victory Trades Alliance. During the podcast, we discussed careers in the MEP trades and transitioning military members into fulfilling careers in the skilled trades.