How Can We Promote Blue Collar Careers?

My target audience is manufacturers who want to sell stuff to contractors and professional tradesmen.

Any of us who have been around this industry (no matter what field) know that the biggest challenge facing contractors is lack of qualified people. So long term if the professional tradesman goes away or certainly doesn’t keep up the current need, who are we going to sell our stuff to?According to The KiplingerLetter, there’s not a labor shortage but a dearth of talent.The Baby boomers who represent about 40% of the current work force is in the process of retiring. How are we going to replace these educated and skilled workers?

A friend of mine by the name of S.A. Habib writes a blog called Blue Collar Branding where he addresses several of these issues. He brought to my attention a recent interview on the Fox News Network of Joe Lamacchia who recently wrote a book named, Blue Collar and Proud of it.

High schools do a poor job letting kids know they have options other than going to college. I think manufacturers should step up to the plate, either individually or together with their trade associations, to start a grass roots campaign at the high school level to insure we have enough tradesmen moving forward, for everyone’s best interest. Kids should know that these jobs are in high demand, pay very well and won’t be shipped off shore.

What are some ways you think we could spread the message?


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  1. Skip DeVilling

    John, excellent article and Joe Lamacchia’s blog is right on target. I agree there is a sometime misguided emphasis in the US school system geared to who goes to college and who doesn’t. As businessmen, we have an obligation to get involved in a mentoring program with the local schools to maximize an individuals potential, which includes the professional trades. We need to recognize the passion of the student and have programs that encourage them to pursue their interests and “be the best they can be”.

  2. Matt Nelson

    I would put a call to action out to the industry groups to promote the opportunities in the high schools. I know my professional society is using career fair to talk up the benefits of becoming an HVAC Engineer at local engineering fairs but I don’t know if other societies are targeting the K-12 the same way.

    I know there is a need for explaining blue collar options because I once had a mechanical superintendent who was working on a high school remodel get pulled into a classroom by a teacher looking for different career paths for her students to learn about.

    I think the problem is that students don’t always know their options. They need to be made aware. And Awareness is the first step.

    • John Sonnhalter

      Thanks for the comments. I’ll get it out to the groups I know about and to the manufacturing groups as well. If you know of associations with in your industry please pass it on.


  3. Bernard Feder

    Well put. We both share the same market niche and we talk with our clients about this problem all the time.

    Europe has a far better attitude and respect for streaming high schoolers to trades. There is no stigma attached to going into a trade there. Moreover the quality of trade schools and apprentiship training in Europe is also a factor that contributes to this respect.

    Many of the founders of the largest hi-tech manufacturers in our region were founded by European trained trades people. They are all retiring now and it’s hard to see who will fill their shoes.

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