As we continue to endure the closing of a large part of the U.S. economy, the value of this country’s blue collar community is becoming increasingly evident as they are classified “essential workers”. After all, where would we be without the construction workers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, trash collectors, plumbers and other “essential workers” who remain on the job throughout this pandemic? It is high time that Americans realize the value of the so-called “dirty” or “undesirable” jobs and the skilled and dedicated people who do them. Many people are finally starting to realize what we’ve known all along – this country’s foundation was and is dependent on tradesmen; it is a shame that it takes something as horrible as COVID-19 to open people’s eyes to that fact.

The trades have been experiencing a shortage of new entrants for years. While there is plenty of work available, there is a lack of candidates who are willing to learn the skilled trades and build a career in blue collar jobs. It’s not that the jobs don’t pay well. In fact, many construction and trade jobs pay better than office and tech jobs. Yet, our youth are being encouraged to go to college – and bury themselves in tens of thousands of dollars in debt – to get a “good” job in an office. No doubt, there are some who will thrive and be highly successful in their “white collar” jobs, but there are many others who will end up stagnant and bored, stuck behind a desk day in and day out with little satisfaction, sense of accomplishment, or room to grow.

Rory Hall, Grade Tech’s Operations Manager and Co-Owner, believes that parents and teachers are doing a great disservice to their children by encouraging all kids to aspire to a four-year college degree. He is disgusted in the prevailing attitude of many parents that trade jobs aren’t “good enough” or prestigious enough for their kids. “We should be teaching our kids that success is not dependent on a title or a degree,” Rory explains. “Success is based on how hard you apply yourself, not what degree you have.” Rory further explains that being good at what you do and having a solid work ethic are the keys to success no matter what career path you take. He continues to be dumbfounded by the push toward college and office jobs when there is so much opportunity and security in the blue collar sector. “There are many good, well-paying jobs out here that can not only pay the bills, but provide satisfaction as well as a sense of pride and, in many cases, freedom,” he says.

As our country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a surge in skilled labor jobs. President Trump has pledged to start rebuilding and revitalizing America’s infrastructure and to reduce our country’s reliance on foreign manufacturing. To achieve these goals we need to build our skilled trade workforce and get to work! Let’s start encouraging our high school students and young adults who are looking to embark on a rewarding career, and even middle-aged Americans who are looking for a career change, to explore the trades.

If there is one thing this unparalleled pandemic has taught us, it has become crystal clear that our lives are dependent upon the blue collar workers who keep our infrastructure, supply chains and service industries afloat. We cannot function without the tradesmen and other essential “blue collar” workers. If there is any sort of benefit from enduring the spread of this deadly disease and the near shut down of our economy, let’s hope that it dispels the negative perception about trade jobs and drives a new generation of workers to our skilled labor force.