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HOT TOPIC The US Needs More Tradespeople

DC Welds

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What’s it like out there for tradesmen? Are any of them building successful businesses around their skill?
@Andy Black @million$$$smile You maybe interested in my bio. As a tradesman turned business owner, I've found that most hands-on manufacturing business are dying with their owners. Machine shops especially, five local shops have gone out of business in my area in the last six years. Three of which the owners passed while still operating the business.

One of many reasons @MJ DeMarco TMFL hit me so hard, these guys were slow-laners that never got to retire. Until I read that book, I didn't realize I was on the same path.
 

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Machine shops especially, five local shops have gone out of business in my area in the last six years. Three of which the owners passed while still operating the business.
Lack of demand? China?

Or the demand is there but the owner just died leaving the demand unfulfilled?
 

DC Welds

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Lack of demand? China?

Or the demand is there but the owner just died leaving the demand unfulfilled?
Neither lack of demand nor China is responsible for their closures in particular. There IS a need for local machine/welding shops, hell... I'm proof of that.

The difficulty becomes TIME and SCALE as most owner/operators are OR were one of the shining beacons in their field...probably control freaks and this led them into the slow-lane. Again...I'm proof of this.

The dichotomy I see is the massive multi-national conglomerates, think ThyssenKrupp (tiss-en-crup) and smaller shops like mine (2-50 employees). Both fulfill a need but different ways to go about it.

My story is very common among skilled tradesmen in this area (though most are muti-generational and most struggle to minimize the "working a job" modality). Like @Ernman said, finding the fast-lane approach to this business is the challenge. My ears are tuned to that now.

A good read: Steel's Heavy Hitter
 

broswoodwork

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The difficulty becomes TIME and SCALE as most owner/operators are OR were one of the shining beacons in their field...probably control freaks and this led them into the slow-lane. Again...I'm proof of this.
Hit the nail on the head there!

After reading E-Myth Revisited, I started busting the job into minimal functional tasks in my shop, wrote up some checklists that clearly define xyz job from clock-in to closing, and got some guys in there to do the job in mcdonalds system approach. Kind of slow and measured letting go of control.

It's still a shit-show work in progress, but it's taking half the world off my shoulders while I hammer out the wrinkles.
 

DC Welds

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Hit the nail on the head there!

After reading E-Myth Revisited, I started busting the job into minimal functional tasks in my shop, wrote up some checklists that clearly define xyz job from clock-in to closing, and got some guys in there to do the job in mcdonalds system approach. Kind of slow and measured letting go of control.

It's still a shit-show work in progress, but it's taking half the world off my shoulders while I hammer out the wrinkles.

I just finished reading E-Myth Revisited (I wish audible had a x5 speed). I couldn't agree more to this approach to a craft.

Are you a job shop or a manufacturer?
 

broswoodwork

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Are you a job shop or a manufacturer
I'm a mess is what I am... I guess very very small direct to consumer manufacturer of furniture would be the classification (think turn of last century shoe-maker or something), but I'm working on growing out of that and into a very small, to hopefully someday just small, manufacturer.

Read your intro, by the way. Awesome stuff, and very inspiring! Thank you for sharing.
 

Michael Moore

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I'm a mess is what I am... I guess very very small direct to consumer manufacturer of furniture would be the classification (think turn of last century shoe-maker or something), but I'm working on growing out of that and into a very small, to hopefully someday just small, manufacturer.

Read your intro, by the way. Awesome stuff, and very inspiring! Thank you for sharing.
Recently I was approached by a business man who had problems finding a producer of high end office chairs that would be sold to 5 star hotel chains etc.
They had top of the range swivel fittings on Teak/Oak/whatever was specified timber legs with real stitched Leather covering.
$10,000 each......
Just thought you should aim high......
 
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DC Welds

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I'm surprised trades are looked down on in the USA, its not here in Australia, certainly not where I'm from anyway.

Trades are looked down on in the US for these reasons:

First, high school students are rapidly divided. This is what happens, nearing the end of 10th grade, students are pushed to make a decision. Good grades? Start college preparation. Bad grades? Take vocational training for your last two years of high school, in hopes that you wont end up on the street.

Both options are hinged on a shitty variable... grades. Grades do not dictate a persons contribution to society. The routes pushed by the counselors in US schools are biased towards federal and state funding and consequently more debt for the student. I shudder for the student in my shoes now-a-days, full of doubt and turmoil. Wondering why everyone they know is so confident about the beaten path and they're not.

I actually stayed in high school and was accepted to a decent college. But my road was fraught with resistance, I didn't have good grades and just squeaked into college. I never graduated but I can tell you its not easy to stay true to yourself when the SCRIPTED asses are in every seat along the way.


Second, we are lazy! Images of getting dirty or sweating through your shirt are not idealized or monetized. The survivor success stories are taken as gospel. We are taught to glorify the event, not the process.
 
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Andy Black

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Trades are looked down on in the US for these reasons:

First, high school students are rapidly divided. This is what happens, nearing the end of 10th grade, students are pushed to make a decision. Good grades? Start college preparation. Bad grades? Take vocational training for your last two years of high school, in hopes that you wont end up on the street.

Both options are hinged on a shitty variable... grades. Grades do not dictate a persons contribution to society. The routes pushed by the counselors in US schools are biased towards federal and state funding and consequently more debt for the student. I shudder for the student in my shoes now-a-days, full of doubt and turmoil. Wondering why everyone they know is so confident about the beaten path and they're not.

I actually stayed in high school and was accepted to a decent college. But my road was fraught with resistance, I didn't have good grades and just squeaked into college. I never graduated but I can tell you its not easy to stay true to yourself when the SCRIPTED asses are in every seat along the way.


Second, we are lazy! Images of getting dirty or sweating through your shirt are not idealized or monetized. The survivor success stories are taken as gospel. We are taught to glorify the event, not the process.
I despise the script and what it does to kids.

I do Maths grinds every year to help nieces, nephews, and other local youngsters pass their Maths exams. If they don’t have a particular type of academic smarts then they feel worthless. I have to break through the “I’m not good at Maths” first before I can build them back up again. It’s worth it to me when I see the shine in their eyes when they “get” something. One of the greatest moments was a young lad (who wanted to be a mechanic) saying “Andy, if I fail I’ll just resit because I know I can do it.”

I have those academic smarts. I excelled in school, went to University, did Maths, hated it, and came out thinking there was something wrong with me for not wanting to follow the script anymore. I took factory jobs and entry level office jobs and worked my way up. It took decades to figure out that something’s wrong with the system, not me.

This goes deeper than just trades vs college. We really are conditioned to “get good grades, go to college, and get a good job”. What hope do our youngsters have when they don’t know better?

I’ve seen my stepson and niece absolutely miserable going into their final year of college. They hated it, but their parents wanted them to go that route. I actually worried about their mental health they were so unhappy.

As @ZCP said earlier: what are you doing to throw just one starfish back this week?
 

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if i had a do over, instead of computer engineering, i'd have majored in construction of some kind and got into real estate renovating cheap properties to resell as nice properties.
 

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I literally told my daughter, who is 24 and appears to have the desire to follow in her entrepreneur parents footsteps, that she can make a killing if she learns how to do anything that involves houses. Learn how to do drafting, structural engineering, handyman, concrete, framing, roofing, plumbing, hvac, or electrical and you are set. Not enough reliable trades people around. I am really struggling just to get my foundation started for my house.
 

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Agree w/ @Ernman, the mindset of being a scaled, fastlane entrepreneur is as rare in a tradesmen’s mind as any, and the vast majority end up loyal and stuck to a company instead of maximizing their potential in the market.

The ones ballsy enough to have their own business know their demand right now and charge accordingly. We are absolutely drowning in trade vacancies at my day job - almost 20% vacant right now. We can’t compete to hire qualified tradespeople for 2 reasons -

1. The economy has afforded companies to pay their tradespeople well above what the slow a$$ gubmint will come off of. Contractors name their prices, demand is off the charts and they’re capitalizing hard.

2. The genuine shortage of qualified tradespeople. They just aren’t there - so many kids from the 90’s were sent off to school for useless crap that never worked out, and ended up too good to climb on a roof or under a house.

You’ve never needed anybody as bad as you’ve needed a tradesmen when your toilet is fukkt, your A/C or heat is out, or something is broken, leaking or burning - and right now, they know it, as they should. Without a doubt, a complete shift in value is coming for the manual workers of the world.

I’m happy for the tradesmen revolution, it’s turning boys and girls into men and women again.
 

LeviM

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What’s it like out there for tradesmen? Are any of them building successful businesses around their skill?


I started a mobile truck repair business 4 years ago with my tools, $0 and my personal truck. Today I have a 9,000 sqft shop in downtown, 3 employees ($24-$34hr), two service trucks and a two week waiting list to get work done. Looking to gross $1m this year. If I could find 2-3 more diesel mechanics with 5+ years of experience.... Or any experience for that matter, everyone would still have lots of overtime.


I read last year there was 27,000 job openings for mechanics nation wide.
 

MoreValue

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@MHP368 I attended the BMES conference (biomedical engineering) when it was in Tampa, and there were a lot of graduates there complaining that they couldn't get jobs.
Damn, I almost switched degree to Biomedical Engineering when I was in college. I find it odd, biomedical engineering has many applications with medical devices.
 

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Damn, I almost switched degree to Biomedical Engineering when I was in college. I find it odd, biomedical engineering has many applications with medical devices.
One thing you have to watch out for, and it probably applies to trades too, is people start heavily shilling for certain occupations. That leads to a glut of people entering those occupations.

Now, in the case of trades I think the timing is still Ok... you can get started right away and be making money, and start working on business skills if you're playing the slow game. The key for me is that it doesn't take 4 years to get a degree... a degree that doesn't actually include the skills someone needs to work. That said, if everyone was saying it's time to become a plumber, my contrarian bone would force me to flee in the opposite direction of becoming a plumber. If everyone does the same thing, the market ends up with more of that thing than people need. Simple economics, right?

The Biomedical phenomenon reminds me of what happened to a lot of people in my highschool. There must have been 50 counselors and teachers telling us to major in biology. Specifically, biology. All the jobs are in biology they said. Se a huge number changed their plans from art, design, marketing, sales, business, etc., to biology. Guess what? Students all over the country probably got the same advice, because now we have a huge surplus of biologists, and most of them fill low paying lab jobs. It worked out great for whoever needed to drive down the price of biologists.

With Biomedical Engineering, the common complaint is that it's too general. I think it would be a decent degree for an entrepreneur, if they wanted a degree. But for an employee, it's sometimes not specialized enough. It sounds very niche, but it's somewhat of a generalist degree... you have to learn a little biology, a little medicine, and a little engineering at the very least. All in the same time that a biologist spends learning mostly biology, or a mechanical engineer spends learning mostly engineering. In the biomedical field, a lot of companies are looking for specialists to solve specific problems. They might hire a biomedical engineer, but they'll hire more mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, psychologists, physicists, material chemists, etc. They need the specialized knowledge of several sciences.
 

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Trades are so tight right now that they can charge whatever they want and people just have to pay it. I was bidding for a large paver job and block wall on a new home project and the pavers went up about $1 a ft (25%+) over the past year, and block walls had gone from about $22 a ft to now $32 a ft! I had so many people quote me even higher because they are too busy and don't have enough guys to do the jobs so only the people willing to pay to get the job done now are even getting calls back. My in laws are rough framers and are doing mandatory overtime on the weekends because there is such a shortage of framers and that holds up the whole rest of the building project. What sucks for them is pay is up only slightly for them, but the company has raised their rates significantly to the builders and are pocketing the difference due to supply and demand...
 

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With Biomedical Engineering, the common complaint is that it's too general. I think it would be a decent degree for an entrepreneur, if they wanted a degree. But for an employee, it's sometimes not specialized enough. It sounds very niche, but it's somewhat of a generalist degree... you have to learn a little biology, a little medicine, and a little engineering at the very least. All in the same time that a biologist spends learning mostly biology, or a mechanical engineer spends learning mostly engineering. In the biomedical field, a lot of companies are looking for specialists to solve specific problems. They might hire a biomedical engineer, but they'll hire more mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, psychologists, physicists, material chemists, etc. They need the specialized knowledge of several sciences.
Some countries also haven't figured out what a Biomedical engineer's got to do with them haha.

Like my country. So the biomed folks end up working overseas...which can be a good thing and a bad thing, depending on their life aims.

That said, if everyone was saying it's time to become a plumber, my contrarian bone would force me to flee in the opposite direction of becoming a plumber. If everyone does the same thing, the market ends up with more of that thing than people need. Simple economics, right?
For every field, there's work that people consider as attractive, and work that people consider as 'dirty'.

Even as I freelance on Upwork, in writing (a supposedly saturated field), there's still lots of sub-tasks that folks hate and skimp around.

Take for example, research for a white paper or market report.

Research is the 101 of writing, but it's not just grabbing anything you find on Google.

You've got to already have some knowledge of the field and some data stats know-how (e.g. why some averages are bullshit benchmarks and why large market growth may not mean anything to you).

In my case, I had to do research for project topics as complicated as automotives and their supply-side for fuels and lubricants. Had zero background in them, but I knew a bit about logistics from business modelling classes (basically linear programming situations and math F*ckery)

One of my past clients told me he had a guy working for him, specifically task to do research, and research alone. I saw a research paper on electric vehicles on some website priced at $3000 (individual use, not firm use), and I estimate maybe 2/3 of it could be devoted to research.

Think of it as a restaurant.
Someone may get the fame for cooking the food, but who's washing the kitchen and dishes after?
Behind trendy jobs lie the dark side.

if i had a do over, instead of computer engineering, i'd have majored in construction of some kind and got into real estate renovating cheap properties to resell as nice properties.
Not sure about the US, but here in my country, we are going through a slowdown, especially for construction, after the government got cautious about money laundering (the previously administration had a scandal).

And at every election, construction companies tend to bet on the ruling party to give them jobs when it came to power....which didn't happen this time.

Software for construction should be a good route to take. (EDIT: It's middle lane that bridges software and construction, and I haven't heard of software that calculates cost accounting with construction supply needs or designs together)
 
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SD Entrepreneur

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Any tradesmen here? What do you see on the ground?

Definitely money to be made and always has been. I have an uncle that is a self made multi millionaire from building stone walls (masonry) and investing in real estate! My father also provided for 4 kids as a mason... He always says it's a dying but honest trade. Most people now are lazy or against physical labor
 

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