Dire straits in the trades…

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In the past several months we’ve had a lot of work done on our house and greenhouse. New kitchen cabinets, some electrical rewiring in the greenhouse and house and new plumbing in the kitchen.


It’s all but finished now but it brings to mind how critical the trades are and how short they are of personnel.
We were lucky to get skilled people who had been here before. But that was easier said than done. And when each of them was here to take care of their respective part of our house, each one of them told us how that particular trade is in desperate need of warm bodies.


The carpenter who installed the kitchen cabinets only does that kind of work. Pardon the cliché, but finding him was like finding a needle in a haystack. But after months of calls and denials, we finally found someone who was willing to tackle the job.


He showed up promptly, gave us a rundown on what he would be doing each day and got after it. When he was done, it was worth the wait and the chaos. This man is a true professional and did an outstanding job.
There just aren’t a lot of specialty carpenters like him and those who are out there are stretched so thin, they’re backlogged months in advance. We got booked quickly because of a cancellation.


Our plumber has been in his trade for many years and is very good at what he does. He mentioned on one of four trips to our house that he will be retiring soon, adding there are a number of plumbers just like him who will be calling it a career in the next three to five years.


What is that going to do for plumbing in North Dakota? You think it’s bad now. Wait until all these guys retire out. The shortage could become catastrophic, unless something changes real soon.


There seems to be plenty of plumbing firms, but I’ll bet each of those firms is short staffed. Our plumber never said that, but he implied it numerous times. How do you maintain a business when you can’t keep up with the demand? These guys are human and can only work so many hours in a week.


Electricity is much the same way. There are electricians out there, but too few and they’re aging like plumbers, like farmers. A lot of people don’t like working with electricity so they go into something else.
The thing is, however, if you have even a slight curiosity of how electricity works, you can pretty much start a good paying career in your early 20s.


There just aren’t enough electricians to go around and in a state like North Dakota, many of them who do exist are working in industrial settings because they earn a lot more money that way. So finding an electrician to work on your house … well…. good luck with that!


Our electrician happens to be a young guy who has been in the business just a few years but he has a lot of confidence in what he is doing, which makes him a rare individual.


Because he had done work on our greenhouse in the past, he was quick to answer a service call when several outlets and electrical appliances stopped working. To him, it was easy. To us, it was still quite cold and had anything else gone wrong, we could have lost a lot of young plants.


Because he did such good work, we asked him if he could rewire some lights in our kitchen when the cabinets were finished. He told us he is a commercial electrician and is used to working in much larger places such as warehouses.
But, he decided to take it on and are we ever glad he did. Even though he had numerous challenges in our 1910 house, he got the job done promptly and professionally.


As I said, we were lucky. But how many people don’t get the service that we did simply because they can’t find enough people to work or the firm isn’t taking on new clients.


Salaries are quite generous and trade schools don’t take nearly as long as a bachelor’s or master’s degree. And when you finish school, you aren’t saddled with the debt that traditional college students face. In addition, you start making a good wage right out of school.


The trades seriously need young people to get involved. If you are just getting out of high school or starting college, consider a trade. You could have a career path in two years and start with a great salary.

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