Skills learned on the job or in trade school often going lacking


Every once in a while, someone will say they wish they could write like me.

While the Lord blessed me with the tools to be a wordsmith of some sorts, he completely left me out of the running when it comes to many other talents.

For example, when our children were young I spent many a Christmas Eve staying up late — handing their mother the tools she needed to put their toys together. The standard joke around my house is that any task I do with a hand tool is a success if I lose no blood during the experience.

Notes in the school record cautioned my high school not to sign me up for shop. 

Many young people aren’t like me, though, carrying a variety of talents. While they may not include excellence in essay-writing, they can take most anything apart and put it back together again. Believe me, that’s an enviable skill. Somewhere along the way in the past few decades, we as a nation have gotten away from the proper appreciation for the kind of working man — and woman — who carried our country through the burden of the Great Depression and World War II and helped create the America that has become the richest, most powerful nation on earth.

Poets, philosophers and other thinker-types (like an editor) have our place, but woe unto us if it weren’t for the genius of tradesmen and craftsmen who can build or repair the things that make America operate so smoothly.

Many thinkers might gladly trade an advanced degree for a little knowledge on the mechanics of refrigeration on a humid summer day when the A/C is on the blink. When all your mechanical expertise is gone after you open the hood of the car, you greatly respect auto mechanics when you need them.

Graduation is an appropriate time to recognize such expertise. It’s not often, if ever, when a vocational student will get to speak at commencement but perhaps that’s not a bad idea.

And besides, not everyone goes to college, as we all  know.

Forbes Magazine has quoted the Bureau of Labor Statistics in noting that roughly a third of all high school graduates don’t go to college and, of the nearly 70% who do go, only about 40% of those actually earn a diploma.

But let’s simplify this story:

High school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s degree that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are often going unfilled. Too few of us think about the difficulty of finding a good plumber until something backs up at home. Then we understand.

Conversations with several electrical contractors and general contractors in the last few years confirm a genuine problem: there are lots of good jobs available for those willing to be trained in heavy skills — and get their hands a little dirty.

Evidence of the demand for trained craftsmen is easy to find at Coastal Pines Technical College, our area’s popular training site.

“We have a 94% job placement rate in the field of study,” says Lauralee Tison, CPTC spokesman. “And we have a 99% job placement rate overall.”

Parents who have an unemployed (or under-employed) son or daughter holding a degree in history or psychology surely envy those numbers.

“Even our students who get out and decide not to get a job using their technical trade degree/ diploma/certificate still find employment,” says Tison. “We have several in-house job placement/transition folks to ensure our students find jobs.”

When you look at the payscale that apprenticeships and other career areas earn and the fact they do not pay four years of tuition and are paid while they learn, well... pursuing a skilled trade seems even more attractive.

Pliers, screwdrivers, hammers and wrenches and such just aren’t meant for some of us. And so far, there’s no “app” been made to complete those tasks. Thank Heaven for our skilled tradesmen.

• Robert M. Williams, Jr. is Editor & Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email:

Robert M. Williams, Jr. can be reached at