Off The Wall: Good Question from Hard-Working Derrick

Derrick Fiedler‎ writes…

Hey Mike – I’m a plumber in commercial and industrial construction. A few days ago I went to the wholesale house for some material and as I conversed with the salesman, the topic of discussion turned, as it so often does, to the problems of finding reliable, young helpers and apprentices. The salesman commented that local high schools refused to allow tradesmen to come and talk to the students about career opportunities in the building trades. He said the reason was because the schools get some kind of financial reward based on the percentage of students they send to four-year colleges.

Do you know if this is actually the case? If it is the case, what hope do we have of getting more competent young people into the trades? I make more as a plumber that I would if I got a job using my MA, and I am more challenged and rewarded by what I do than I was as a grad student or doing “intellectual” work. But if I can’t even have the chance to communicate my experience to young adults just about to get started down a career path, how can they even make an informed decision?

Hi Derrick.

Your question is so excellent, I’m not only going to answer it, I’m going to include the cover photo from your Facebook page. I hope your family doesn’t mind, but your question goes to the heart of several issues – the most important of which concerns the simple fact that your chosen profession is not only a noble one – it’s one that can allow a hard-working parent to provide for his or her family in a way that includes horseback rides!

To me, this says everything you need to know about the viability of your trade. But it doesn’t answer your specific question regarding high schools and guidance counselors. To that, I can only tell you what I’ve been told.

I’ve personally spoken with dozens of high-school guidance counselors who tell me a big part of their evaluation is measured against the sheer number of students they put on the college path. And I know for a fact that many high-schools do not welcome representative from Trade Schools to address/recruit the student population directly. In fact, I’ve partnered with some of these schools, simply to help them get in front of the right audience.

Obviously, this level of bias is not the case everywhere, but I’ve heard it from enough credible sources that I believe it to be widespread. It would be interesting to hear from other counselors and educators in this thread, as to whether this bias exists in their schools.

Regardless – to answer your question – this is a monstrous obstacle for any kid who simply wants to make an informed decision as to the available options. The only way to fix the roadblock is to demand answers from those creating it. Or conversely, publicly acknowledge people like you – people who provide living proof that mastering a trade can lead to a prosperous existence.

Thanks for doing what you do, and for posing a question that needs a better answer than I can provide.


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