Like their white collar counterparts, blue collar professions vary tremendously in the degree of education and training required for specific jobs. Certain blue collar professions involve only on-the-job training. These are the jobs that are usually classified as being the most menial in nature – the jobs viewed by the majority of parents as the most undesirable, mainly because they require a higher level of manual labor to perform satisfactorily.
Again, most parents would much prefer to go out at night and howl at the moon rather than agree to let their high school age son or daughter take virtually any job involving manual labor. In today’s culture, these occupations are to be avoided at all costs, which brings up an interesting point – this being that many of these jobs are actually needed and in demand whereas many of the four-plus year degrees awarded to college students are in majors that lead nowhere but the unemployment line.
Not to intentionally demean any particular major or related profession, but it can be extremely difficult to see the cumulative value to any employer of a degree awarded in Anthropology, Fine Arts, Women’s Studies, or Sociology, to name just a few highly questionable fields of study as examples.
Meanwhile, there is usually a desperate need in the workplace for highly skilled manual labor professions that require no college or university diploma. Bricklayers, stone masons, landscapers, paving contractors, and heavy equipment operators,
as examples. While it is undoubtedly true that all of these listed professions can be directly affected by the rise or fall of the housing, building, and construction industries, you could easily state that many white collar professions would be indirectly affected as well. Think of the rebound effect on the fields of architecture, structural engineering, and building supply chains.
For the most part, people in these types of blue collar professions are educated and trained on-site by doing the work involved, often in less than ideal conditions. Some people turn their noses up at the very mention of manual labor-heavy occupations while simultaneously having absolutely no clue – not even a remote idea – how to do the required work themselves. How anyone can denigrate work that they cannot comprehend or perform on their own is astounding to behold, yet it happens all the time concerning blue collar professions. Somehow, these individual’s own lack of knowledge and ability in a certain field inexplicably entitles them, in their own minds, to an acquired air of superiority and high self-esteem.
Does a certain level of ignorance breed contempt in situations such as these? Evidently, but only in regard to the blue collar professions. With the white collar professions, a certain level of ignorance regarding their acquired intellect and skillsets usually breeds an equally enduring level of admiration – a completely different viewpoint that plays out on an ongoing basis.
What is important to remember is that the jobs are there and they will continue to be there. No diploma required. No loan debt accrued. No spending at least four years of your life sitting in classrooms working towards a degree with near zero job prospects. You just have to want to learn the skills necessary to succeed. If this is what you want then just do it. Careers are possible and can be profitable.
I can tell you this in total sincerity because of my own personal experience after spending 29 years in contracting.
As you investigate other blue collar professions you will become aware that even though most will not require a college diploma, the majority will require additional forms of continuing education. This can come in the form of coursework, vocational training, apprenticeships, and certifications. It’s plain common sense, but the more you can learn about your trade the better off you will be. Besides the acquired knowledge and specific skillsets needed, there are important safety issues involved as well. Contractors specializing in one field may often need to have knowledge in related fields to perform their jobs.
One example of this would be a plumbing/HVAC technician. Some contractors only do plumbing related repairs and installations but many hybridize into HVAC work and combine both services. These career contractors must be extremely knowledgeable in multiple fields, including, but not limited to: electrical/electronic systems/computer technology/digital equipment, mechanical systems, and usually some heavy equipment operation.
They’re not alone in this regard. Many of the blue collar professions involve inter-related skillsets. Each technician will not be an expert in every related area but they must possess a minimum basic level of competency in each.
Mechanics usually specialize in certain types of equipment – personal or commercial vehicle, heavy equipment, marine, aircraft, or power equipment. The list goes on. But mechanics need to be competent and experienced in working on different types of modern technology such as: internal combustion and diesel engines, electrical/electronic systems/computer technology/digital equipment, fuel systems, braking systems, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, metallurgy, and welding.
The fact of the matter is that you really don’t need to go to college to have a successful career. Success requires a strong desire to learn – and then to continue learning on an ongoing basis. If you’re inclined to take a different direction than traditional college then you need to be aware that the trades offer incredible options in multiple fields. The openings are there in large numbers in many technical trade occupations – and rest assured that these positions often pay very well.
There is a lot of talk these days about the trades making a “comeback.” So be it, but the point here is not so much about what professions will stage a “comeback,” recede in necessity, or even those that might fade out completely. Just keep in mind that there are those select professions – and many of these are in the trades – that will always be in demand.