De-Myth-tifying Skilled Trades

by Kyla Palin
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

You hear it all the time. To get a good job, you need to get a degree from a University and that those who cannot get into a school have to fall back on trades like plumbing or carpentry. A university degree will be useful to you for certain careers, but the myths surrounding the skilled trades should be examined when deciding on which path to take after high school. Here are five common myths, and the realities behind them:

Myth: Skilled trades are for the uneducated, or unintelligent.

Reality: Skilled tradespeople apprentice for years and have numerous certifications under their belts. While itís true that many trades donít require a university or college degree, the certification process for each trade can take years. Often, the education is paid for by an employer, and while studying apprentices are paid for the work they do, leaving very little student debt to carry into later life.

Myth: Women canít do skilled trades.

Reality: Many skilled trades donít rely on sheer physical strength; what they do require is dexterity, stamina, good hand-eye coordination and balance, all traits women possess. Technology has changed the tenor of this industry also, allowing many tradespeople to work with computers and advanced electronics.

Myth: Going into a skilled trade makes you a failure. University is the only path for success.

Reality: A degree from a University is a prerequisite for careers like medicine, law, or education. However, tradespeople have so many opportunities for success. These include entrepreneurship, mastering the trade, and generally being in high demand. Anyone who has ever needed a plumber in the middle of the night can attest to this. These days the definition of success is changing. A degree will not always guarantee job security, or even work within your chosen field. Education is important, but the way we attain it has become less elite over time.

Myth: Skilled trades offer very few choices in careers.

Reality: The trades are always in demand, in every sector of business. A plumber could be called upon to work in a basement, a movie set, or even a cruise ship! The sky is the limit when you think outside the box. In addition, many skilled tradespeople own their own business, becoming an entrepreneur. This opens a lot of doors for different opportunities, but is also a lot of work. Being independent is something a lot of trade-oriented people take pride in.

Myth: Skilled trades do not pay very well.

Reality: The average salary for a plumber in Ontario is $26/hour (2009 Labour Force Survey). Considering minimum wage is $11/hour this is more than double! In addition, as a plumber gains certifications and experience, her wage will only increase. Also in economic downturns, skilled trades are always in demand, so layoffs are very rare. People always need toilets fixed! Many skilled trades are also unionized, providing another layer of job security. However, some industries like welding pipeline and oil-related trades have economic downturn periods. The oil industry goes up and down and tradesmen and women may be laid off for months at a time. Some donít mind taking the risk of entering this particular field for it pays well once you have received all your certifications ( 60-120,000 per year).

Hopefully this shows that thinking of a skilled trade as less valuable than a university degree, is flawed. Take a look at the Jobs People Do Trade listing and see if anything strikes you as a possible path for a career. Talk to your Guidance Counselor for more info!