Welcome to the New Blue Collar

Welcome to the New Blue Collar


By Thomas Watt
Monster Contributing Writer

The time for change is now
There is a growing phenomenon in Canada today surrounding youth and the trades.  Young people all across the country are finally waking up and realizing the benefit of having cash in the bank skills that never go out of style which is what learning a trade is all about.
And while many academics and experts having been bemoaning the burn-out effect of our education system which pumps out way too many over educated, under experienced and directionless students, little has been done towards the solution, until now.
The new blue collar
I call them the new blue collar workers, young, university educated men and women who have opted out of their white collar cookie cutter career paths and have instead enrolled themselves in trade school, learning carpentry, tinsmithing, welding, and masonry.  Many start their own companies; many do very, very well. It’s one of the reasons I have so much hope for the new construction industry, especially the residential sector and particularly the heritage home market. Why? Because the real opportunity for young trades people and entrepreneurs lies in these specialized markets.  Many of the bigger construction companies have a stranglehold on the big contracts but there is a ton of money to be made in hundreds of thousands of old homes across Canada.  Excited yet? I know I am.
Why the trades?
One of the reasons so many people are turning to the trades is obvious given the major labour shortages in this sector coupled with its good salaries, benefits and entrepreneurial opportunities. But there is another reason: a career in the trades offers something different, tangible and worthwhile for the prospective worker, a stark contrast to the often artificial and seemingly meaningless (did I mention endless) world of academia and the office place.
And it’s a two way street: as much as  the new blue collar workers can benefit from the construction industry, the construction industry also can benefit from the new infusion of workers with a different perspective than most, one that’s been honed by a university education.
Higher education is a plus for someone in the trades
What the trades need now are thoughtful, studied people that can revive the quality and craftsmanship that has been lost in the last decades in the construction industry.   We need people with leadership and vision that focus on quality and sustainability, hallmarks of a liberal arts education, not just boom or bust construction bubble speculation.
Your higher education will also benefit you if you decide to become a construction worker.  You will be able to move up faster and people with a higher degree of education on average will study their trade more in depth, learn its history and always go for the finer, higher end of it: All pluses for the client and the employer.
Why am I so passionate about the new blue collar workers?

Because I am one.
I graduated with a BA in English Lit from one of Canada’s most prestigious liberal arts universities only to find myself jobless and struggling to make ends meet. 

Thankfully a friend of mine turned me on to the trades. I thank him every day because the more I work in the construction industry the more I see how much opportunity there is in it.  So if you are at all like I was, young, well educated, and jobless and not sure where you want to be. I highly recommend looking into the trades. Added bonus: most trade schools are 1-2 years long and for some fields you can just start apprenticing and enter the workforce immediately.  
So while you’re thinking about it I’ll leave you with this quote from the great thinker Saint Francis of Assisi:
“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
And in the trades you can be all three and still make a whole lot of money.
Here’s to your success on the construction site and beyond!