Let’s be honest: There’s a reason that working in the trades isn’t appealing. You work outside regardless of the heat or the rain; you’re not protected by air conditioning in the summer or a furnace in the winter. That means you’re often sweaty and stinky, or wet and drippy. It’s not unusual to be dirty by the end of the day, or have sawdust stuck to your clothes. If you stop by the store on your way home from work, you can look pretty scruffy. It’s hard work and far from glamorous.Young People Working in the Trades

But if you work in the trades, you know there are positives that outweigh the negatives. The satisfaction when you see a project come together and know your hands made it happen. The knowledge that you’re helping improve a community when you build a new home or upgrade an existing home. The joy of facing a challenge and figuring out how to solve it. The contentment of exhaustion after a hard day’s work, and the sweetness of crawling into bed. The delight of realizing that you get paid to exercise while others have to buy a gym membership.

It’s easy to see the downside of working in the trades, but you have to do the work to realize the positive. One way to attract more young people to construction is by giving them a chance to experience the work.

I’ve talked before about the program in West Virginia that I was introduced to by Jacob and Malinda Meck. Their local high school requires that all students do a two-week mentorship program between their junior and senior year of high school.

Every summer, the Mecks get to work with one or two young people who will be graduating the following year. They introduce the students to the satisfaction of a career in construction and, at the same time, they have the ability to evaluate their ability, attitude, resourcefulness, and work ethic as future employees. The Mecks have hired many full-time employees from this program.

Over a period of five or six years, you can end up with a good crew through a program like this. You’ll be helping young people discover the satisfaction of working in the trades, and your business will gain recognition as a supporter of a worthwhile community program.

There’s a good chance your local high school doesn’t require internships or promote a future in the skilled trades. Some high schools do require internships, but only for students on a high-tech track. It’s time to change that.

On our cruise last January, our friend Bob Williams of Star Construction Company in Massachusetts gave a brief presentation that he’s developed to share with high school students the benefits of a skilled trade career path. You can view his PowerPoint here, and you have his permission to edit it and use it for presentations yourself. (If you don’t have PowerPoint, the .pdf format is here with notes.)

It’s not easy; Bob’s having a tough time getting into the local schools. There is a resistance to promoting anything other than college to high school students. He’s working with other organizations as well as the schools to get the word out.

Until that happens, you can offer internships on your own. Try to find kids in your area who might fit your criteria and offer them a job over the summer, even if it’s only for a few weeks. You’ll be able to tell quickly if they have the aptitude or not, and they’ll learn quickly whether or not it’s something they’d like to pursue.

There’s a need for young people to learn trade skills, and we’re the best ambassadors for work in the trades. Future homeowners will thank us if we get involved now.

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Jody Deckard
Jody Deckard
April 25, 2019 11:11 am

This is a great article. The JCIDC Workforce Partnership, in Seymour, IN is a strong supporter of jobs in our industries. We partnered with Seymour High School and were able to implement “Owl Manufacturing” to serve as a pipeline to our industries. The class started out with 15 students last year and now has over 30 students enrolled. Owl Manufacturing is HUGE success. Students partake of a signing ceremony to go to work for our local industries upon graduation. It is our desire to create a similar program promoting skilled trades. Skilled trades needs to be glamorized just like any… Read more »

Bob Williams
Bob Williams
July 12, 2018 4:01 pm

Michael & Devon
Thanks for the plug about my power point program. Getting people united on this is a first important step in reversing our current skill labor shortage
And as an industry we need to remeber that we need a feeder system just like we do for selling jobs.If we start planning now we can avoid this in years ro come.
Thanks for Your Support

Bob Youngs
Bob Youngs
July 11, 2018 3:01 pm

Great article Michael. We live in the October 2017 firestorm area of California. When we were awakened at 1:00 AM the morning of October 9, 2017 and went outside to see the fire line that had already run across the hills about 1-1/2 mile to the north of our home, which had already raced across and ravaged thousands of home in our community to the west of us, my first thought was that our community does not have the manpower resources to rebuild whatever had already burned. As in so many other communities in our land we have had a… Read more »

July 11, 2018 9:31 am

Michael, I have wanted to do internships with high school students for years. But the way the child labor laws read in my state and I am assuming they read about the same everywhere you can’t have anyone on the jobsite the is younger than 18 or 17 and graduated from high school. If you or anyone else have some insights into this I would welcome the imput.

Devon Stone
Devon Stone
July 11, 2018 11:00 am
Reply to  John

John, thanks for posting. Every state is different. Links to information on child labor laws in every state is available on this website, put together by the US Dept of Labor. – https://www.youthrules.gov/… Federal law allows 16-17 year olds to do any work that hasn’t been deemed hazardous. (https://www.youthrules.gov/…. Examples of hazardous work is on this page, and it includes roofing, trenching, and many power tools. (https://www.youthrules.gov/…. Of course, state law takes precedence over federal law, so if your state doesn’t allow it, you can’t do it. I worked as an apprentice electrician for my dad in high school, pulling… Read more »

July 11, 2018 12:14 pm
Reply to  Devon Stone

Here is just the beginning of the list of prohibit activities in Minnesota. I copied it down to the part about construction sites. 5200.0910 PROHIBITED EMPLOYMENTS OF MINORS UNDER 18 YEARS OLD.No minor under the age of 18 shall be employed:A. In or about a place of employment where chemicals, compounds, dusts, fumes, vapors, gases, or radioactive materials, or other substances are present at excessive temperatures or in injurious, explosive, toxic, or flammable quantities. Minors employed in retail stores, service stations, and automobile service garages are not covered by this prohibition.B. In or about any place where explosives or pyrotechnics… Read more »

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