A New Gold Standard

Negative assumptions about tradespeople are everywhere, from characters on TV to political comments

December 13, 2015

Getting young people into the remodeling field is the biggest challenge facing our industry today. The vast majority of high school graduates don’t even consider the trades as an option, and while there are many reasons for this, the largest one is probably simple prejudice. Negative assumptions about tradespeople are seen everywhere—from characters on TV to well-intentioned, yet insidious, comments from politicians. 

Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders at a recent Democratic debate: “If you want to make it into the middle class—I’m not saying in all cases—we need plumbers, and we need carpenters, and electricians, that’s for sure, and they should get help as well. But bottom line now is, in America in the year 2015, any person who has the ability and the desire should be able to get a ... college education, regardless of the income of his or her family.”

The statement is subtle, but clear. It places a college education as the gold standard, and while we “need carpenters” there’s an implication that they’re below anyone with “the ability and desire” to attend a university. 

On the other side of the political aisle, here’s a recent debate quote from Marco Rubio: “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” The statement drew a cheer from the crowd, and while I don’t think he meant any harm, as with Sanders there is still an undercurrent of bias. 

Why can’t welders also learn philosophy? Shouldn’t carpenters and plumbers know the thinking that founded our country, the assumptions that run our economy, and the ideals that shape our culture? Bringing young people into the industry requires a dual approach. On one side, we need more outreach and an organized effort to change the national conversation so that tradespeople are given the prestige they deserve. This will make a career in construction more desirable. On the other side, we need to shine a focused and positive light on the people who are already in the field. 

And that’s where Professional Remodeler comes in. Next year, we’re holding the first annual conference for our 40 Under 40 winners. The event, called Gen X-Change, is set for April
13-15, in Dallas. It will feature smart, interesting speakers relevant to younger remodelers, great networking opportunities, and an ambitious exchange of tips for using technology. It’s free to enter the 40 Under 40, and honorees receive a profile in print and online as well as an award presented during a special luncheon. Don’t miss it!  


About the Author

About the Author

Erika Taylor is the director of content for Professional Remodeler. Contact her at etaylor@sgcmail.com or 972.803.4014.



Best wishes. I’ve spent a good part of my business life on that battle ground.  Bernie’s saying the things his crowd wants to hear and I don’t necessarily disagree but the colleges and universities do, they say we’ll need less degreed people and more skilled ones in the coming years.  Marco comes from a construction family so I think his comment was more of a broad brush regarding the type of degrees for which there are no jobs but again, I don’t necessarily agree or disagree.  I’m happy to hire them all.  The additional years in school has cleaned them up and added a bit of polish from the high school grads yet they’re still eager to learn.  They need a steady job to help pay back the education debt they’re carrying so they show up when they’re supposed to and they look better in the company shirt (than the kids who slept in theirs).  While it might seem ludicrous to think that degrees are offered for dental hygienists but not for the kids constructing the building designed to withstand a hurricane, in which they work, so be the injustices of life.  Don’t be scared of the college educated, they make darn good skilled workers. 

But that’s just the opinion of an uneducated, state certified building contractor, who’s been licensed since 1981. 

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