Combating the Pervasive Stigma of the Trades

It isn’t difficult to find messaging that discourages individuals from seeking careers in the skilled trades. Overwhelmingly people see trade careers as “dirty jobs” that are low paying and unprofessional. There is even a pervasive myth that these careers don’t require any higher-level education. That they are alternatives only for students who can’t make it in college.

At DFN we are fighting to change this. We show real life individuals who have happy, productive and lucrative careers in the trades. But we do more than this. For forty years career paths into the trades have been dismantled. High Schools have stopped offering shop classes, career counselors know only what is needed to get into four-year college, not how to guide students toward trade careers. Even more importantly, every state, every county has a different way to get the skills needed to enter these careers. It isn’t surprising that as few as six percent (Ridged survey) of young people express an interest in the career.

At DFN we are fighting to change that. First and foremost, we want to educate individuals of the value of these hands-on careers. By highlighting the stories of those who have found happy and successful lives as tradespeople, we hope to chip away at the stigma and inspire more people to seek these career paths.

Here are just a few of the myths we challenge:

MYTH: Trade careers are only for those who can’t “make it” in college.

REALITY: Trade careers are highly skilled jobs that require a mechanical aptitude many people don’t possess. Far from being a job for those who are less capable, it takes a person with unique skills sets to meet the requirements of these demanding positions.

MYTH: Trade careers are dead end jobs, that require back breaking labor.

REALITY: Talk to someone who is in a trade career, and you will be surprised by the large variety of positions available. Yes, the industry needs plumbers, electricians and technicians, but it also needs sales managers, trainers and a variety of technical staff. Many people who like working with their hands continue to work hands-on jobs their whole lives, while others move into other trade related careers. The opportunities are endless.

MYTH: Trade careers are not professional, people who work them are dirty and crude in their language.

REALITY: There are many different types of trade careers. While some of them are on construction sites, many trade careers involve work in commercial properties and homes. Not only are these position much cleaner than the myth suggest, they also require so called professional skills such as customer sales and interpersonal communication. Many trade jobs require high levels of creativity and competence.

MYTH: Trade careers are mostly low paying and require long hard work hours.

REALITY: Many trade careers not only pay well but offer flexible schedules. Often time individuals work out of their own truck, especially in residential service, and have a high level of independence. And since most people learn on the job, they start earning money earlier and their salaries often outpace those of their friends who first attend four years of college.

MYTH: With technological innovation, trade careers are going away.

REALITY: Far from going away, trade careers are needed now more than ever. With industries seeking ‘green’ solutions and the need for more and more advance technology in our everyday systems, trade careers require skilled technicians with high levels of technical know-how and the ability to problem solve and think creatively on the job site.