There is “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, “Cheeseburger Day” and all sorts of observances that are a lot of fun and without a serious message. But National Tradesmen Day is an annual national celebration to honor the men and women who work with their hands to build America and keep it running strong.
It is an observance dear to my heart. Both my father and his father were craftsmen. Carpenters who worked out of a union hall at a time when there were not many tradespeople represented by unions in the Deep South. They spent years in apprentice and training to perfect their skills for the wide variety jobs they completed. I remember Sunday afternoon family drives after church, where my father would point with pride to a skyscraper or school he helped build. It could be a bridge or a courthouse he had contributed to. My father and grandfather knew how to build concrete forms or do intricate finishes. Designers using exotic and expensive woods used in boardrooms or courtrooms knew my Dad could make the cuts and trim out their projects to their specifications. It was a point of pride for him to show off his work to his children.
I believe America’s tradespeople build our homes, roads, businesses, and schools. They keep our cars running, our lights on, our water flowing, and so much more. They are the backbone of our functioning nation IRWIN® Tools; a manufacturer of hand tools and power tool accessories has been honoring them for years with celebrations, recognition events and activities throughout the country
Friday, September 20, 2013 is National Tradesmen Day. It also puts a spotlight on a problem in our nation—one caused by a shortage of people willing to work with their hands. Manpower’s recent talent shortage survey reports that for the fourth consecutive year, skilled trades are the most difficult jobs to fill in the United States. The American Society of Civil Engineers says America’s roads and bridges are in disrepair, assigning a D+ grade to America’s overall infrastructure. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate continues to hover at historically high levels while a critical need for skilled tradesmen exists. Some believe not only does our nation have a jobs problem; America has a skills shortage.
At one time, ironworkers and welders were glorified. Photographs of tradesmen eating an open-air lunch on a girder high atop a yet-to-be completed skyscraper take us back to a very different world—one where working with your hands was a dignified way to earn a living. Today, a four-year degree and a desk job are considered the keys to a desirable lifestyle. Most high schools eliminated shop class years ago, and now only six percent of high school seniors consider a career in the trades. The National Association of Manufacturing, The National Center for Career Education and Research and several other business organizations believe more schools should teach students some trades offer challenging careers where they can often out-earn their college educated peers.
“It’s time that we once again present the trades as a respectable career option for the next generation. Becoming a trained plumber, electrician, or welder offers a clear and stable career path where working with your hands allows you to contribute meaningfully to our society,” says Rich Mathews, Senior Vice President of Marketing for IRWIN Tools.
There are an estimated 600,000 open jobs in the skilled trades, simply because people don’t have the proper training to fill the positions. Many business leaders say they believe our nation is not only facing a job shortage, but a skills shortage.
Today is a day to recognize the people who lace up boots each morning before heading to the jobsite. Many of them have spent as much or more time learning their craft than workers who grab a tie and head to a high-rise office. Recognize the contributions the trades make in your life. If you go onto a job site, or anywhere you see a skilled laborer working such as a drywall or electrician, carpenter and simply shake his or her hand and say “thanks for the work that you do.”