On the third Friday in September, we celebrate National Tradesmen Day. It’s a day to honor the skilled professionals who work to build and maintain the very foundation of our society. Without them our nation’s complex infrastructure of roads, communities, water systems, and power grids would not be standing today.
Tradespeople also bear the responsibility of passing down the skills and knowledge they have learned along the way to the next generation. As the demand for labor continues to grow, this aspect of the job is expected to become even more vital.
Procore Technologies recently spoke to some leading trade professionals and asked them what advice would they give to someone who’s considering a career in the trades.
Here’s what they had to say:
Scott Sampson, Superintendent | Athena Engineering
“I’d first ask them what they want in life. I mean, are they looking for something where they’re going to go to the same place every day, or do they want something with a constant of change? At least in my experience, if I have a bad job I know at some point it’ll be over and I’ll have something else to do. Or if I were on a job that I really liked, I can enjoy this one because it’s really great.”
Athena Chiera, VP of Business Development | Athena Engineering
“People considering a career in the trades need to realize that some of the most learned people are tradespeople. They have learned how to form metal. They’ve learned how to wire a building. They’ve learned how to do all of these amazing things, and in addition to that, they’re pretty freaking smart. I hope and what I work towards is for people to see the trades as artisans because at some point those two separated. What I hope happens in the future and what I’m working toward is that the same people who build buildings are just as honored and treasured as the people who make art because they are one and the same and the amount of creativity that’s involved in both is equivalent.”
Carla Sovernigo, President | Alka Pool
“Just getting into the trades and being good at what you do requires a lot of skill and talent. There’s a lot of craftsmanship that goes into constructing. It takes a lot of passion, talent, and vision to transform something from a two dimensional drawing into something beautiful and functional. It is unfortunate that the connotation of the blue collar worker is not reflective of that knowledge and skill; most people don’t see what goes into high quality construction. As trades, we need to educate our clients on the difference between a tradesperson who has knowledge and is a professional versus one who isn’t.”
Amanda Finnerty, Director of Internal Operations | Commodore Builders
“As a general contractor, my advice for someone who’s thinking about going into the trades is to go for it. Society has made a lot of us feel that you have to go to a four-year college in order to be a respectable citizen. I tend to disagree. The trades are an incredibly respectable career. It pays well. It’s satisfying. At the end of the day, you can go home and say, ‘I built that.’ You can show your children, this is something that I did. The bottom line is, school is not for everyone. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have gone into the trades because it speaks to me. You’re touching and doing something. It’s hands-on. It’s something that you can really grasp. I think it’s an incredible career path.”
Chris Rohan, Superintendent | Capital Industries
“What advice would I give someone who hasn’t considered the trades? It pays better than you think. There’s more knowledge involved in doing it than you think. It’s more of a prestige job than one would think. There’s a lot of mental ability that you need to be able to run half a billion dollar projects. There are not many people out there who have the experience to do it. What I’m trying to say is, one, there are a lot of trades you could go into. And two, the technology is making the trades even better.”
Cristina Lopez, Assistant Project Manager | Capital Industries
“I think people outside our industry unfairly judge trade workers as blue collar, or simple and one dimensional. But after working with and learning from my peers at Capital, I realize how brilliant they are. They know their craft so well. The guys we get to work with every day are just excited about it. They’re excited about installing duct and plumbing systems. They’re probably some of the best people out there.”
Kyle Smith, LEED AP | Capital Industries
“A lot of people see the trades as a blue collar profession. I think that we’ve done a lot to change that image within the public. I think, especially now with the pandemic, people are starting to see how essential it is to maintain those services. We still operate, we still have plumbing problems, we still have HVAC problems, we still have hospitals that need to be maintained. I think if people really look below the surface of the trades right now, I think, especially in commercial construction, we’ve been one of the innovators in how we handle this pandemic. I mean our industry has turned around in a matter of weeks in how to accommodate to work safely in a very dangerous pandemic. So we have proven to be a prepared industry to face those challenges and accommodate and adapt to the new requirements to keep our guys safe and keep working. So my hope is that the public, and those interested in pursuing a career in the trades, come out of the pandemic seeing the trades as an even more essential part of the industry.”
Vincent Neault, Business Development Manager | KSC
“Working in construction can be and is very rewarding. If I had the opportunity to talk to someone who was interested in pursuing a career in the trades, I would say this: number one, I don’t know any poor electricians, I don’t know any poor plumbers, and there are a lot of people in construction who make six figures. There are some people who work with their hands, other people work with their minds, other people utilize technology, and they certainly all play a part. Working in construction doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be down in the trench, in the mud, putting pipes together, although that is an essential part. It can look like someone designing the technology network in a building which is also very vital. If you look at all of our buildings now, they’re all living buildings. And the technology there is just amazing. With buildings being more and more machine-like, it takes more and more people who are very tech-savvy and there’s much less backbreaking work than when I first got into the industry. It’s quite a bit more glamorous now than it was 30 or 40 years ago.”
Jessica French Goyette, Vice President | WL French
“From personal experience, when I tell people that I work in construction, I don’t think that translates to what it should, and I think that as the world continues to change and evolve people are asking: ‘do I want student loans or do I want a job where I can use my hands, be paid well and love what I do?’ There’s honor in craftsmanship and a sense of pride in trades that doesn’t come with many career paths associated with a college degree. We’re really working to eliminate any stigma associated with the industry by implementing cutting edge technologies into the work we do. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever met work within construction. Some of the most talented people in the world could not do what these men and women do on a day-to-day basis. These people have great careers, with great compensation, benefits and retirement plans, and really, it’s a career path that shouldn’t be overlooked because it’s never going to go away.”
Hassan Tabatabayee, Business Intelligence Leader | Trio Electric
“I feel like the public perception of going into the trades, or someone in the trades isn’t necessarily a positive one. I feel like as kids in high school, we’re told, ‘Hey, you have to go to college to be successful.’ I was under the same mindset until I joined construction. Then I realized, “‘Man, there are some smart men and women out in the field.’” That shifted my perspective to being a tradesperson. It is actually an entirely different route than going to college. It isn’t necessarily a better or worse route, it’s just a different route. We need a lot of tradespeople out there. While you traditionally have to go to college to be an engineer or a doctor, what’s often overlooked is that, for engineers and doctors to actually turn their plans into something and have hospitals to operate on, you need tradespeople. I think it’s a very undervalued part of the industry, and people thinking about pursuing a career in the trades really need to recognize that.”