Part 1: The appeal of being a tradesperson.

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and for it to serve as a reference point/resource for women interested in entering the trades.  This is continued series, so I hope you find some portion of this helpful! See all parts at this link: CLICK HERE - h!

There came a point when I became absolutely frustrated with my options while I was on the job hunt. I’ve had a number of terrible work experiences, and the idea of going back to some position just waiting to be exploited gave me a migraine.

I started by being very honest with myself on the types of work I did and didn’t want to do; made a list. One of the things I hate the most is maintaining email communication, especially as a main component of my work. The idea of sitting at a desk, writing line by line, to a client who was just complaining was just not an experience I wanted to relive. I wanted to never ever send a work-related email again. There was also the element of my labor that focused too much on spreadsheets and meetings. Would I be able to proudly say on my deathbed that my life’s work boiled down to two turning points:  that one AMAZING spreadsheet I made in 2017, or the time I facilitated a conference call with some Canadian buyers? Nope.

There are very few positions in the U.S.’  service economy (the sector where the majority of jobs lie now that U.S. manufacturing has either been outsourced to prisons or offshored to other countries) which allow for non-email tasking. Knowing that, and how the average person has about 7 career changes in a lifetime,  birthed my personal investigation into the trades.

The trades are a number of different jobs within the construction industry.  These positions are skilled, and require a number of years of formal education and training (depending on the position.) Once you apply to be in a trade job and are accepted, you begin your apprenticeship.The apprenticeship is hosted by a union or trade association, which usually has some kind of national or international affiliation, so they are identified by their district or regional number (e.g. “Local 61″.) Upon completing the apprenticeship, via on-the-job training and formal classes at trade schools, you are then considered a “Journey” level worker, which is also referred to as the mechanic. The years of your apprenticeship also vary based on the trade, and pay increases with experience. Some common trade jobs are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, iron workers, latherers, painters, etc.

A funny observation in this process was when I shared this desire to switch careers, people were a bit shocked. There was definitely some confusion stemming from my family/friends who have white-collar/professional backgrounds. What they know of me, well, my work history doesn’t exactly scream “blue collar.” So, I cautiously went into this, knew that I needed a lot of guidance, and really had to articulate why I was interested in exploring the trades.

My secret: the life of a carpenter has always appealed to me. (Let’s skip the Jesus comparisons, yes?) There is something terribly practical about the craft, that I felt immediately drawn to its pursuit. I would have a skill that I could take with me anywhere I want, and I could literally build anything. I also talked a lot about the coming zombie apocalypse, and how I would be really useful in my new survivor group as a carpenter. By having a practical skill, I would be less likely to get voted out/double crossed by my new stranger-friends.  With the current job skill set I had, I just felt like there wasn’t much to do outside of emails, meetings, and spreadsheets. That’s not how I wanted to participate in the workforce.

Furthermore, I wanted to work using my hands while I was still able-bodied. There was also something very appealing about getting a good day’s work in, and earning your exhaustion. (Yes, this is the one place where I will readily admit that I drank the Kool-Aid of American “bootstrap” mentality.)  There were also the wages, benefits, and stability: consistent employment and pay during one’s apprenticeship was not a shabby deal for someone struggling with chronic underemployment.

After being pretty decisive, I knew I had a ton of  homework to do so that I could dive into the trades.

Which brings us to now…
How did I start this process coming from a string of desk jobs? With limited resources,  check out how I prepared to enter the trades  in Part 2!

2 thoughts on “Part 1: The appeal of being a tradesperson.”

  1. Good luck, h! This is really informative. Any working person I meet who expresses interest in the building trades, especially women, will be directed to your blog :)

    1. Benita, thanks for reading this post! I’m no expert, but I’m more than happy to share whatever I do know :) Also, thanks for always getting in touch when it matters most ;) Hope all is well on the left coast! – h!

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