Supporting Skilled Trades

Skilled Trades: Trade Apprenticeships + Getting Paid to Learn

With the increasingly sophisticated technology involved in HVAC and other skilled trades, those involved in these various professions have a lot to keep up with and plenty to learn before they reach the status of a certified expert.

As with college, there are costs involved in this kind of education. But the beauty of the trades is the apprenticeship system that can put students more quickly into a job where they can hone their skills and improve their knowledge while at the same time making a starting wage that’s equal to or better than what many four-year college graduates can find. In fact, apprentices can start getting paid to learn while four-year college students are still taking out loans to learn. For those looking for a quicker start in building a long-term career, trade apprenticeship programs are the way to go.

As with any profession, the more you learn and the more you can do, the more opportunities there will be to advance in your field. Today’s work in the trades requires a depth of knowledge that includes the basic science behind new technology and systems and the ability to install, monitor, diagnose and repair these high-tech systems and communicate about them with a range of other professionals, including engineers and architects. Today’s HVAC is not your father’s HVAC, but it still requires the same kind of professionalism, pertinent knowledge, and communication skills that have made those in the trades, as with any profession, successful at what they do. And, as always, trade skills often create opportunities for such workers to start their own firms and control their own destiny as it suits them.

Skilled Trades: Education

The time has definitely come to take a hard look at our educational priorities in America. Why? Because while high unemployment continues to be a drag on the economy, the U.S. Department of Labor has also told us that there are three million job openings available, many of them in skilled trades.

In May 2011, when unemployment was even higher than it is now, American manufacturers were reportedly struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions and 450,000 openings. Today that struggle to find qualified manufacturing employees continues, and it has become a struggle in the skilled trades as well, where many veteran workers are reaching retirement age. In Alabama, for example, it is estimated that half the workforce in skilled trades, including HVAC, is over 55. But presently, there are not enough new workers in the apprenticeship pipeline to replace them.

Yet these are good-paying jobs that are critically important here, in America, to construct and maintain the buildings and infrastructure we need to live well and work well. With unemployment still high, why are people not flocking to these jobs?

The host of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe, has started a national “Discover Your Skills” campaign that lays out a response that we couldn’t agree with more, and we want to do our part to amplify it.

As a nation, in recent decades, we have come to overemphasize the four-year college degree as the appropriate requirement for anyone who wants to really “get ahead” in our society with a fulfilling job. Yet many college graduates frequently find themselves in highly competitive fields, often forced to take low-paying positions and positions not related to their area of study. They also find themselves awash in student loan debt as the price of a four-year degree has gotten them nowhere. At the same time, vocational training in the skilled trades has been devalued as a second-class choice for a fulfilling and economically attractive career.

It’s time for our country and its educational system to revalue the skilled trades as a worthwhile career option for any student who may be inclined toward such. Today, working in the skilled trades is simply too good of a deal, and too needed in our communities, not to be on the "A list of opportunities for high school graduates.

Skilled Trades: Pride of Trades

Midwest Tool is proud to be associated with those working in the skilled trades and we heartily support “Dirty Jobs” Mike Rowe’s “Discover Your Skills” campaign to close the skills gap and help the country reconnect with one of the most important segments of our workforce. The video below is designed to complement this campaign to raise awareness of career opportunities and highlight the importance of training workers to fill critical jobs in the trades.

At Midwest Tool, of course, we also know that the kind of quality work that trade professionals take pride in often depends on quality tools. It’s been our job as a leading tool supplier for more than 70 years to make such quality tools. Each of our snips, for example, is hand-made and hand-tested for its exquisite precision. This is quality that starts with Midwest Tool as the only U.S. company that uses forged, not cast, steel — so your Midwest Tool snips last twice as long as any other. Add the ease and precision with which it cuts, and you have a smart tool made for a smart tradesperson — someone who can really appreciate the difference our tools make, just as we appreciate the difference such tradespeople make and need to continue to make, in the growth and life of our country.

We encourage educators, students, tradespeople, and other civic-minded citizens to get on board with Mike Rowe and other efforts to combat the skills deficit we face. We believe this is an effort we all should be making and talking about.

Midwest Tool is proud to support skilled trade professionals who make a difference in ALL of our lives.

Watch the video below to learn more, then LIKE US on Facebook to join the cause and help raise awareness.

America has a skilled trades shortage


More than three million job openings, many in the skilled trades


21% increase in HVAC workers will be needed in coming years


Midwest Tool, a leading tool supplier for over 69 years


Help us spread the word about the importance of skilled trades.