“If college isn’t right for you, consider the trades…”

“If you struggle in school, consider the trades…”

“If you aren’t cut out for a real job, consider the trades…”

I am sick of it. I hear the above not only from “intellectuals” outside of our industry but people in this industry as well. It’s ridiculous.

It is time to change the narrative. I like these better:

“If college is right for you, consider the trades, it is likely a better option…”

“If you excel in school, consider the trades, it is likely a better option for you…”

And finally, “If you aren’t cut out for a real job, go to college.”

Let’s think about what the trades offer young people:

  • A career opportunity that will not be outsourced overseas or become technically obsolete;
  • A skilled craft that will provide a hard worker with a job opportunity in every town in North America. A plumber, HVAC tech, or electrician could literally live anywhere in the world;
  • An opportunity to make a handsome six-figure income while working with your hands; and
  • An opportunity to grow into a supervisor, manager, or even a business owner one day.

Please show me another career choice that offers the same opportunities.

I’m waiting…

That’s right. The trades are not Option B for a young person. They are Option A — a top-tier choice.

I entered this trade in 1985, long before the service/replacement sector had matured into the amazing industry it is today. At that time, if you entered the trade, you were likely targeted for new construction work at a larger mechanical firm, or you worked for a small family business where the growth opportunities may have been limited.

Times have changed.

Today, there are amazing companies focused on service replacement that will not only teach a young person the trade but will also teach them how to be a well-rounded service technician with customer service and business skills and huge opportunities for advancement.


The industry we serve is growing and relatively insulated from all the massive disruptions that have occurred due to technology in recent years.

Have you talked to a printer lately? Or a taxi or limousine service worker? Do you even know someone who works in a bookstore?

I have come to appreciate this industry over the last 30 years. I am not a tradesperson — I have never worked with the tools, and, truth be told, the technical part of the business does not hold much interest for me personally. However, I have come to truly love this industry. I love what it provides for the people who work in it and the value customers receive every day. And there is one more thing, too. I love its consistency. I love the fact that over the past 30 years, while other industries have boomed and then busted, our industry has plugged along, growing steadily every year with no end in sight. Ask someone in virtually any other industry if they can make the same claim.

I am waiting…


For me, the definition of hell is working for a company where the owners don’t even know your name: The Home Depot, Google, Amazon, or the major utilities. Decisions are made that greatly impact you, yet you have no say or voice in what the company does. You are merely a number. A tiny, tiny cog in a big wheel.

Ask a young person who works for a local air conditioning company if there is a chance they could own or lead the business someday. It might be remote, but there is a chance — and in some cases a very good chance. Then, ask a young person who works for Amazon what their chance is to own or lead the business someday. Wait for the inevitable moment of silence before they reply, “No chance.”

Working in this industry means you will be working within eyesight of the people making decisions about the business. You will likely have a relationship with the owner or someone who works with the owner. I like that. I like my odds for advancement in that kind of environment. I like the measure of control and input I have in the business where I am putting in my life’s work.

Working for Google … not so much. That’s working in anonymity, powerless to control the outcome of the business that is headquartered across the country or the ocean. That is my personal definition of hell.


Great organizations in this industry — independent of each other — recognize this industry is an Option A for young people. Reach out to the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) Educational Foundation, the Nexstar Legacy Foundation, or other similar organizations for materials and support to help you have meaningful Option A conversations with young people.

Let’s change the industry narrative. Let’s talk about Option A.

Publication date: 2/5/2018

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