Engaging Young Minds in the Trades

Inspiring Young Builders

As a father of two young children I often wonder where life’s path will take them when they fall into a career some day. I also think back to my own childhood and remember watching my dad (a carpenter) work countless hours trying to make ends meet. He would constantly instill in me that I needed to go away to college one day so I didn’t need to pound nails for a living. It’s really the same story that’s been told for generations, parents inspiring their children to have a better job and life than they did.

Todd Fratzel Making Cabinets

This cycle of each generation wanting to do “better” has forced our Country and Society for that matter into an interesting situation. Each year more and more young people drive off to college hoping to get a great career behind a desk and avoid the hard labor associated with physical jobs like construction and manufacturing. Unfortunately that has left a vacuum with fewer and fewer talented young men and women seeking jobs in construction and manufacturing.

While the solution to this problem is not an easy one I think there are things we can do to stop the downfall of construction and manufacturing in our Country. First let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that we stop sending our young people to college. However, I am suggesting that we stop creating a stigma around certain careers that are centered on a technical education like construction and manufacturing jobs. We need to promote those careers so that they are also seen as respectable careers.

Below is a quick video from an interview I did recently with the folks from the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA).

 How You Can Help

If you feel like I do and want to help turn around things in our industry then there are easy ways of helping. First we need more companies and associations to produce content like the video you just watched. Our industry needs to highlight and celebrate companies that are manufacturing their products here in the US. Companies like Channellock and Delta Machinery for example.

You can also volunteer your time on industrial advisory boards. I happen to sit on two such boards here in my community. I serve on one at the University of New Hampshire where I went to college and I also serve on one here in town at the local Vocational School. In both capacities I’m able to help mentor students and share my experiences as an end user of the students that attend both types of education.

You can also offer to give a short presentation to students in a local high school. You can share with them some of the opportunities that exist for both students that attend college and those that attend a technical school. The idea is to give our students options and show them that either track is one that offers a good career path.

Start At Home

If you’re a parent like myself then you and I both need to start this process at home. Sure I would love for both of my children to go on to get a college education. But I’ve finally come to realize that if they decide to follow a career path that’s more technical then I’ll support that decision. Because I know that there are great careers they can have regardless of the path they choose.

Finally, share with your kids, the neighbors kids, the joys and pride that come from building things. Get them involved in your shop or take them to a jobsite for a quick visit.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

Todd Fratzel is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz, and the President of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web based media company focused on the Home Improvement and Construction Industry.He is also the Principal Engineer for United Construction Corp., located in Newport, NH. In his capacity at United he oversees the Residential and Commercial Building Division along with all Design-Build projects.He is also the editor of Home Construction & Improvement.

@tfratzelTodd Fratzel

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  1. Todd, couldn’t agree more. I went to college for CS, but have great respect for folks who choose a technical trade. In our day and age, a trade can be a good career and for those ambitious among us, can be a great gateway to owning your own small (and maybe even large) business.

    Great article.

    1. Todd Fratzel

      Thanks Fred!

  2. Jamie

    I agree with Fred – having a trade can be a brilliant gateway into having your own business. I know a lot of enthusiastic young people entering the construction industry and I think it’s exciting to see so much up and coming talent =)

  3. There is currently a shortage of skilled trades people in this country. Just ask John Ratzenberger (He was the actor that played Cliff on Cheers)http://www.ratzenberger.com/manufacturing.php http://www.mostjobstraining.com/

  4. My story is a little different. I was accepted to go to Purdue to be an
    “engineer” My high school senior year my parents split up. Changed my path too. I had been setting tile since I was 13 so the Tile trade seemed to be the best place for me.At 17 I worked for a shop.Learned the trade from the”old guys” ( they were about 30 ) That was almost 40 years ago. I have been a self-employed remodeling contractor for the past 35 years.
    I actually live out the saying – “Find a job you love and you never work a day in your life.” I have 3 sons, One works with me, the other two also know which end of the hammer to use. College is for some,not all, but the Trades are for passionate people that love what they do!

    1. Todd Fratzel

      Well said Phil! Thanks for sharing.

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