GASTONIA, North Carolina, March 25, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Steven Long, co-owner of GSM Services, a third-generation family business since 1927, recently lamented the rise in the number of students opting out of trade schools and choosing to attend 4-year college. GSM Services helps homeowners and business owners improve the comfort, energy efficiency and environmental health of their homes and offices.
There’s a dark cloud over us that could very well turn into a hurricane if something doesn’t change soon. There is a shortage in the trades which is getting worse every year. I’m talking about work that includes HVAC installers and technicians, plumbers, welders, electricians, carpenters, masons, roofers, etc.
I am not a professional researcher, but I have personally experienced some things that have brought us to where we are. As I graduated from high school in 1988, I and most or all of my classmates were encouraged to work to attend a four-year college. Learning a trade was never discussed and frankly, it was frowned upon. Those who wanted to enter the trades were looked down upon. I was lucky that my summer job was in the HVAC world, so I was exposed to commercial work very early in my life. This view has continued to be at the forefront since then and continues today. This is to the point where some trades see a retreat trade of five (5) for one (1). For every five traders (this does not apply to all trades) who retire, only one new person enters that trade. This is a situation that will have very serious consequences in the years to come.
A path to prosperity and success
Two 18-year-olds have just graduated from high school. The former decided to attend a four (4) year college as he is convinced that it is the best path to success. During these four (4) years, they accumulate $200,000 in university debt and graduate. They are unable to find the exact job they want or even if they do, the average starting salary last year was nearly $50,000/year. The second high school graduate decided to go work for an HVAC company as an apprentice when he was 18 years old. It starts at $14/hour and this company has both a community college scholarship program and a tuition reimbursement program. This person takes advantage of the tuition reimbursement program, earns $30,000 in the first year, $40,000 in the second year in which the two (2) year associate degree is completed, and begins their career as a as a full-time service technician earning $50,000-60k (this can go up to $90k and over $100k). After four (4) years, a person has personally earned close to $200,000 working, gaining experience, and can even live in their own home; while the first person starts his professional career with a debt of $200,000. That’s a $400,000 swing at age 22-23.
In our company, the majority of our management team does not have a four (4) year degree. The career path in the trades may be exactly the same as that of college graduates and perhaps even faster. This could lead from an apprentice to a field technician, field team leader, project manager, divisional team leader, regional/group manager, and business owner. ‘business.
A path to meaning
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people use this type of phrase, “He’s just a plumber”, or “he decided to go to tech school to become an HVAC technician” . What does this mean and what message does it send to kids who are trying after graduating from high school? I realize that there is nothing more noble than working in the trades. Where else can you make sure people are comfortable and breathing clean air in their homes? Where can you help homeowners live dry and safe in their homes? Where else can you make sure someone’s crawl space isn’t full of moisture and organic growth? Trades literally keep people alive and healthy. There is nothing more important than protecting a person’s home and helping them improve their health and quality of life. It’s what we do every day in the world of commerce.
There’s a classic story about 3 people laying bricks. All three were on scaffolding working side by side to rebuild St. Paul’s Cathedral after it burned down in the 1600s. One was squatting, the other half-standing, and the other standing, working very hard and quickly. The first mason was asked, “What are you doing?” To which he replied: “I am a mason. I work hard to lay bricks to feed my family.” The second mason replied, “I am a mason. I build a wall. But the third mason, the most productive of the three and the future leader of the group replied: “I am a builder of cathedrals. I am building a great cathedral for the Almighty. I believe this parable is an example of what is missing in the world of commerce. The world would literally stop without the work done by blue collar artisans.
It is my mission to spread this message and help others see what is possible through a career in the trades. I am personally a fan of the HVAC and commercial roofing industry, but every craft work is noble, will give meaning to the individual worker and will serve a greater purpose for the greater good of their community.
Contact: Steven Long
E-mail: [email protected]
Picture 1: Steven Long
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