Creating Opportunities by Breaking the Stigma of the Trades

Aug 08, 2022



Think back to your time in school. Before your career began, you were in the process of deciding what you wanted to do. You may be at this point in your life now. Either way, you likely can't think of many instances in which someone emphasized trade careers. Educators are quick to overlook the magnitude of their importance. But what exactly is a trade? And why are they so pivotal to our daily lives? 

Trade careers consist of occupations that require specialized skills and vocational training. The preparation necessary to fulfill these roles is less than a four-year college degree. However, this in no way diminishes their importance. Without plumbers, HVAC Technicians, builders, real estate agents, or dentists, our modern world would be drastically different. Yet our perspective of trades workers is not always so positive. When you imagine a plumber, the image that pops into your head is probably not so appealing. A man with sweaty armpits and a buttcrack comes to mind. Consequently, becoming a plumber becomes less attractive, especially for women. 

Stereotypes tend to overshadow reality. The trades, especially those requiring manual labor, are often looked down on. Plumbing, for example, requires much more than a toolkit. You need an advanced set of skills. It is an industry where entering and making adjustments to people's homes and businesses is a daily task. Advanced problem-solving, mechanical, communication and interpersonal skills are required. Your expertise becomes your business. Your business becomes an integral part of making your community's infrastructure run smoothly. If you can produce high-quality work, you should feel confident in taking on the challenge and getting your license. Gender, prestige, or cultural perspectives should not be something that holds you back. 

Look at hospitals for instance. Plumbing is a pivotal part of providing a safe environment for medical care. Without adequate plumbing, a hospital cannot sanitize its equipment or allow its patients to shower or use the bathroom. Access to running water is as critical as the doctors who operate and provide care in the building. Without it, medical professionals would be unable to do their job. The same holds true for the trade workers who set up the electricity and built the building. Not to mention the many care-providing trade careers found more directly in the medical sector—licensed practical nurses, radiation therapists, and physical therapist assistants, to name a few. 

Trades are not only a worthwhile alternative to a college degree. They are a crucial part of our way of life. In not emphasizing their importance in schools, we risk leaving a dangerous gap in the workforce. Trade careers can be rewarding for many reasons. You can get to sleep knowing your work is essential. Understanding that the quality of your results matters and makes a huge difference. They can also be quite lucrative. Each year employers report difficulties filling high-paying job positions due to a lack of qualified applicants. 

Stereotypes and stigmas historically have done no good. The trade careers we overlook are the backbone of our communities. Traditional college degrees can be a viable option. However, they are not the only path to success. If you are in high school or are considering a career change, look into pursuing a trade. You may be amazed at the opportunities you find.