The Increasing Uselessness of the American Tradesman

I’ve been using repairmen and vendors to repair rental and rehab properties in Austin for almost 20 years. It is with increasing disappointment I must report that the percentage of useless dimwits is increasing. Most recently I’ve spent a great deal of time facilitating “do-overs”, or return calls to properties to fix things that were not done right the first time.

This is one of the hidden time wasters that our property management clients are rarely aware of, but which we do behind the scenes on behalf of clients. While we still have a lot of good, quality Austin vendors available to work on our properties, they are thinning out as the years go by and the older ones leave the trades. The replacement ranks coming up behind them are notably inferior in both skill level and work ethic.

For example, I had to replace a leaking shower pan in the tile shower of a rental property recently. This required tearing out the ceramic tile three rows up from the shower floor, including the shower floor, replacing the pan, then installing new tile. The tricky part on a job like this is getting the new tile to match the existing so that we don’t leave behind a mismatched looking shower, and thus a crappy looking tile job.

I met the tile guy there in person to look at the job and make sure he understood what I wanted. My instructions were:

“If you can’t match this tile exactly, so that any difference in color is virtually undetectable, than I want a designed look, with an obviously different color in a band around the bottom with a deco border”.

What we ended up with was this crappy looking tile job where part of the tile was replaced three rows up and part of it replaced four rows up, and the color doesn’t match, leaving an unprofessional appearance. All I could think of as I stood and looked at the finished job was, “somebody thought this was good enough”.

Would this be the photo you’d want of your shower when putting the home on the market for sale or lease? Of course not. It’s unacceptable.

So, this required another trip to the house, my fourth (first to look at the leak, second to meet the tile guy for a bid, third to view the crappy tile job, fourth to meet the tile guy again), to tell the tile guy the job was unacceptable and find out why the heck my instructions were not followed. The tile guy agreed it was a poor job (done by his employee)  and agreed to fix it.

I told him to go ahead and take out the rest of the 4th row, and that we’ll add an accent colored band to break up the color change between the old tile and the new. This still won’t be optimal, but it will at least look like a purposeful, intentional design instead of mismatched tile job, and it’s a lot more economical than retiling the entire shower.

Other things I dealt with recently:

Landscaper didn’t take care of yard work as promised before tenant moved in to a managed property, so my promise to the tenant that it would be done before move-in was not kept, and I looked like just another landlord who says something will be done but then doesn’t get it done. Not acceptable. Landscaper said “sorry, I went out of town for 5 days and forgot about it”. Not acceptable. Landscaper is fired and won’t be receiving any more jobs from me, ever.

Carpet company was suppose to clean and stretch a carpet prior to tenant moving in. Carpet was cleaned but not stretched. The tech said it “wasn’t on the ticket”. Had to call them out the next day. Stretch job was done, but done poorly, leaving an ugly jagged seam in the threshhold between the living area and the hall, and fuzzy, messy tuck job along the base board. I looked at the work and thought again, “somebody thought this was good enough”. Not acceptable.

Carpet company is going back to fix it, and is on probation. Any more problems, and they are fired too, as these screwups have become more common with them recently. I can function only with a carpet company that produces top quality work for my clients and can be trusted to get the job done right the first time.

And another: Locksmith went to a property to rekey it and bring it up to code for the first time. The garage doorknob was a mismatched Kwikset knob while the rest of the property was Schlage. Instead of using the existing doorknob from the front door to replace a mismatched knob at the garage, and replacing the front door knob with an inexpensive passage knob (it already had a deadbolt, which is all that’s required by code), they put a brand new $50 Schlage doorknob on the garage door. This is wasting my client’s money, which I’m in charge of preventing. I called and they adjusted the bill to charge only the cost of a $12 passage knob, because they should have known better. I’ll keep using the locksmith, but I’ve put them on notice that my time is valuable and I don’t like spending it addressing issues like this. They agree and understand.

The above are just samples from one recent week in my life as a landlord. All of these kind of issues require wasted time on the phone, return trips to the property, and further followup. It happens so often now that I have a canned speech that the vendors hear, and I’m not joking when I deliver it.

“There are only two kind of vendors; the ones who make my job easy and make me look good in front of my clients, and the ones who do poor work, embarrass me and waste my time. I have no use for the latter, and right now you’re in that category. What are you going to do to change that, or do I need to remove you from my vendor list?”

For my part, I am easy to work for, provide clear well defined expectations, and I pay really fast. In other words, I’m a vendor’s dream customer, except that I don’t tolerate substandard work and stupid, repeated screwups. Some are intimidated by this and we part ways after one or two jobs. Others work hard to provide good service and are prompt at addressing mistakes. I can live with that as long as the screwups are not frequent.

I never use to spend this much time holding vendors accountable. I’m not sure what has happened, but the American male worker has fallen to a low status with me. Anyone in their mid-40s, like me, or older, probably remembers when we were kids that we all had to know how to fix stuff, paint the house, mow the lawn, change our own oil and spark plugs in our cars. Even if we were not destined for blue-collar careers, we almost all had some basic blue-collar skills and abilities in us. We fixed our own bikes when we were 10, knew how to build and repair our own skateboards, knew how to fix the lawn mower, and had to wax Dad’s Suburban once a month (back when waxing the car was a regular required chore).

None of us dreamed of candy-ass jobs were we could sit around pecking on computers all day, sipping Red Bull. We worked hard-labor summer jobs, at gas stations, car washes, or, during my highschool years in Fallon NV, on farms and ranches (though I did have a cush lifeguard job one summer at the Officer’s Club pool on the Navy base). We all knew how to work hard and we did things right the first time. Teenage kids and young male workers today just are not made of the same stuff as the crowd of boys and I grew up with. This worries me.

Just ask any owner of a landscape company why they don’t have American highschool kids filling during the busy summer months. The answer will be, “they can’t work. They don’t last more than a couple of days or a week at most “.

Ask the same question to a framing crew boss and you’ll get the same answer. Ask the HVAC company owners and plumbing company owners why they can’t recruit kids out of high school or trade school to train and work up to a career in the trades. Same answer. The young kids today don’t want to do that type of work. They want easy jobs sitting around in airconditioned spaces. So, for the trade companies looking for good, smart workers to train and bring up to replace the aging tradesmen, it’s slim pickins and most now have to turn to non-english speaking immigrants.

The main handyman (he hates that word) I’ve used since 1996 is well into his 50s and his knees are going out. He can do everything, including HVAC, plumbing, electrical, appliance repairs – everything. And he does it right the first time. He’s a dying breed. I can’t find anyone else like him, which means, as time goes by, a big part of my role as property manager for our clients will be holding the younger new-age vendors accountable in a way that just wasn’t necessary back in the 1990s and before. What a shame.

Maybe I should add to my list of qualifying questions when considering a new vendor or service company, “are all of your tradesmen at least 40 years old? If not, I can’t use you”.

29 thoughts on “The Increasing Uselessness of the American Tradesman”

  1. I found the end of the post, where you rant on the shortcomings of American youth, to be rather amusing, as I’ve thought about those same things lately. Being a bit younger than you, I’ll offer some reasonable explanations.

    Kids don’t know how to work on things (cars, mechanical systems, etc) as well as they once did because those things are not designed to be worked on anymore. I’ve heard a similar complaint from my father and uncles, who are all a bit older than you, that it is much harder to work on new cars because so many parts are not user serviceable. You’ll see the same trend developing for bicycles (how do you tinker with carbon fiber?), televisions (even the HDMI cables have more technology than some old electronics), and even some power tools (have you ever had a battery operated drill fail? It’s cheaper and faster just to buy a new one).

    Ironically, one of the things that kids can easily take apart, play with, and learn from are computers. Perhaps that is what is driving the teenagers to want to work in the air conditioned office jobs.

  2. hey steve… I have to second Aaron on this as well. At least the younger generation is clinging onto technology which is the future.

    The obvious problem is that there is less and less incentive to want to grow up to be a “blue collar” guy. The pay is less than it used to be and competition (largely due to migrant workforce) is only driving that pay down.

    No doubt there are a heck of a lot of spoiled baby boomer children who never have HAD to take on physical labor…this will start changing soon enough.

  3. I agree with Aaron’s point. I’m 31 and when I was very little, I did help my Dad work on cars and I can still do extremely basic maintenance. But by the time I was old enough to learn real lessons and retain them about fixing cars, my father no longer could do most of the work on them because they had computer systems.
    In contrast, my husband was taking apart computers and putting them back together with his Dad from the age of 3 and now he has a career as a computer programmer. I think his childhood lessons have come in a lot more handy than mine!

  4. Hi Aaron,

    Like the others, I think you have a point. Due to the way older things were built and such, most of us picked up basic fix-it abilities growing up. On the other hand, the Chevy Tuck I owned and drove 135K miles before I bought my current Chevy truck last year was never touched by me, at all. I did the oil changes at the lube place, replaced the brakes once, tires twice, and a new battery also, but I really think that was it. No other repairs.

    But still, there are opportunities for young people to experience hard work even in these modern times. And a work ethic, the idea that one can look at a completed job and deem it good enough or not, is not necessarily limited to trade work. It can apply to anything.

    There just doesn’t seem to be, in today’s younger workforce, the built-in “quality assurance” gene that many of us had on board by default growing up. I remember spending a week hand sanding a bike frame when I was 15. And my friends would come and help. We knew the paint job would not be right if it wasn’t sanded and primed right. Everything was like that.

    Even the worst and most irresponsible hooligan bums that I grew up with would have been ashamed to claim ownership of the tile job pictured above. There was a since that your finished product, whatever it was, said something about you. Today, I just see more and more people calling substandard work “good enough”.


  5. Yeah, but as Julie’s husband I can also say that I had summer jobs in a steel mill, building fences, as a secretary, and oddly enough as a lifeguard also. We’re also the tail end of generation X so we might not even qualify as “young people today”. Sigh.

    I think the problem is not so much the youth. I think it’s the way technology has redistributed work. I think in your generation Steve a tradesperson was essentially the competent, smart guy who perhaps didn’t have the ability or opportunity for college. They were a step above the people who ended up in the factory or mill. I think now we have made these careers into the bottom rung career, which underestimates how hard they really are. Much like computer repair, plumbing and electrical work is trivial unless you have something that isn’t standard. Being a contractor doesn’t just mean you’re a guy who has a truck, it’s every bit as difficult a project management exercise as software project management, possible more so. But we’ve advertise these jobs as the jobs that you fall back on if you can’t do anything else. There’s no prestige, and no acknowledgment that you might need a brain to do it. I think that’s really where the problem lies.

    It’s like when you complain about Realtors. Why are so many Austin Realtors so bad? Because for the past few years it’s been advertised as the job where you didn’t really have to work and there was tons of easy money to be made. The type of people that end up in a field, I think, is dictated by the way society perceives that job.

  6. I would say there are probably just as many young people with a good work ethic as in the past, but the university marketing engine has brainwashed everyone to think that they have to go to college – even if the college is a third tier college. No one wants to do the trades because of the negative stigma.

    Probably 80% of kids that go to college should probably go to school to learn how to do a job instead.

  7. I’d have to agree with the posts above — this is a complex issue and its too simple to just blame the youth (although there is some truth in your post). I wouldn’t limit it to just the under 40s — we had a contractor work on our new house and his go to guy was late 50s, and, frankly, their work was substandard. They aren’t welcome back.

    As a nation, we have moved away from quality and pride of craft towards low cost/pursuit of the quick buck. Current economic conditions may change this.

    Immigration, price sensitivity, competition from the bottom labor rungs have made “blue collar” jobs less lucrative. At the same time, the skills required to turn those jobs into a profitable business (e.g., go from being a plumber to a small business with many plumbers employed) have likely increased. Running a small business is a very complex, multi-faceted job. So the incentives to excel are more limited.

    At the same time, I suspect the decline of unions has also decreased the availability of craft training in the construction trades — and as such has had a negative impact on many of the services you use as a landlord.

    I don’t see an easy way out of this one — it will take a long time and culture shift to fix. Maybe an increase in living standards worldwide (decreasing the availability of low cost labor) will be the path forward for us here.

  8. I don’t think it’s the American male worker who actually performs the jobs. They just run the company. It’s the unqualified illegal imigrants they often hire, who really just don’t care, are the ones who perform the work.

    Outsorcing to crappy sub-vendors….that’s the american problem. It happens with our manufactured products, and the services too.

  9. Hi, Steve:
    Your blog reminds me of a saying I heard from another Home Stager: “The person who claims to be Jack-of-All-Trades is Master of None.” There is a big selection of handy-man wanna-be’s out there who want to do anything and finding a competent one who can really do what they say is the hard part. When it comes to the trades, it is even hard to trust a referral.

    I have to disagree with Tony about the Brainwashing at the University Level though. This country’s High School Education is so watered down that many college freshmen are barely capable of writing a coherent 250 word essay. I do not recall where I read it, but the claim is that a college educated individual will make $1 million more than a person with a high school education. But he right about the stigma to the trades.

    Our oldest daughter wants to be a Chef (She’s eight – not likely to remain on that course). We have already told her: If that’s what you want to do, first you go to college and get a business degree. Then you can go to Culinary school. And she can work in a restaurant while she goes to school, but college is not negotiable.

    And just to chime in with every one else, Jobs I had before self-employment: Did a summer at UPS loading trucks (hot!) – Hot dog stand during college – apprenticed with a remodeling contractor – foreman at a Zinc foundry. Not sure if these made my work ethic stronger, or showed me this is the kind of job I would have if I did not work my butt off.

  10. I manage only two properties that my husband and I own, but I still feel my time is wasted constantly in this same way. I have been working on our vendor list for two years and still only have about 3 vendors that I feel like I can really count on. If you have a recommendation for an electrician, I would REALLY appreciate it.

  11. Thanks for the electrician tip Michael – I just looked at their website and this is exactly the kind of company I have been looking for.

  12. Bill said:
    > I don’t see an easy way out of this one — it will take a long time and culture shift to fix.

    Hi Bill, I think the main way out that I’ve been shifting toward is using bigger turnkey vendors instead of the small handyman and solo operators. This is more expensive but the outcome is more predictable and reliable.

    For many years I enjoyed the benefits of working with small mom and pop operators. Mainly, we have a personal relationship with a lot of our small vendors and this makes communication much smoother. But since that category of small vendor (who can be trusted and is reliable) seems to be shrinking, I’ve started more and more turning to the bigger service companies who I know provide training and can be held accountable to the outcome.

    What I don’t like about that is not always knowing exactly who it is that will be representing us with an owner or tenant when they show up to do the work. We know it will be someone from XYZ Company”, and they’ll be wearing a uniform, but I don’t know the specific individual who will be doing the work.

    In contrast, when I send my plumber Larry, who is a one-man show, he and I have a 15+ year relationship of working together. I tell my tenant “Larry, my plumber” will be calling, and there are never any surprises or disappointments. He shows up on time, gets the job done, leaves and sends me a bill. Same with my maintenance guy Mark and a few other long term small vendors.

    But the world doesn’t seem to be producing any more Larrys or Marks. And there is a risk every time we try out or test a new guy that the job won’t be done right and we’re back to scratch looking for a good painter or make-ready cleaning crew. So that’s when it just seems easier and more prudent to call and larger company and send them out, and let them do the training and weeding out of the bad apples instead of us.


  13. I’m curious as to the rate you pay your small operators. If we take some of the comments above to heart, then the people who would be going into the brick and mortar trades, e.g. Tim’s smart guys who did not have the opportunity for college, are instead going into the high tech trades.

    They can get paid well there without a degree, but if they are often contract workers on an inconsistent basis, and need to get around $50-80 / hour to make a decent living. So I would guess that mechanical labor contractors should be paid in the same range to keep attracting the same class of smart, productive, but not as educated people.

    If you are not paying that much, then that fact is likely the reason you find yourself driven toward turnkey vendors. A similar situation to paying less for a discount realtor; you get what you pay for.

  14. This blog and topic came up when I was getting my haircut over the weekend. The woman who cuts my hair summed it up nicely:
    “It’s a sad state of affairs when just doing what you say you’re going to do is considered a good job…”
    I don’t know what is worse – that we as consumers accept this? Or that others, as business owners, can not aspire any higher?

  15. Steve,
    I think this might all boil down to a money issue. The pay and respect aren’t there for tradesmen. I’d wager the median pay is ~40k for tradesmen just out of apprenticeship. While that’s not bad, it doesn’t allow you to live a median life in America anymore, esp. if only the husband is working. Couple this with dwindling respect from your customers, along with cheap immigrant labor and the career prospects don’t look great.

    Oh yeah and associate degree programs aren’t cheap – ITT tech or Le Cordon Blue culinary school are each around $40k. Most parents are pushing their kids to go to college even if it might not be a good fit; but it does look cheap compared with an associate’s degree program.


  16. I would bet it’s less than $25k. I did onsite computer repair for a while and unless you work for yourself it was at best $25k/year and the pay has only gotten lower.
    You have to take into account that if you have a perfectly scheduled day you have 4 jobs each lasting 1.5 hours, with a half hour of travel time between them. That works out to 6 hours of paid time per day. If you’re charging $70/hour you would make $100k/year. Pretty good deal, but it’s probably never going to happen. If most days only have 2 jobs you’re down to $52k. If the feast and famine of scheduling your own jobs proves too much and you move to a services company for computer repair you’re going to pay at least 70% of your paycheck to them in exchange for something resembling stability – 32k best case, 16k worst case. And 70% is a good rate. It’s better than you make at McDonalds and if you’re willing to work after hours or 7 days a week you can make more.

    Part of the reason service people don’t show up on time is that they don’t want to be realistic about how long jobs will take and travel time. They want to stuff as many jobs into a day no matter what it takes. It’s how they make a living.

  17. Tim,

    Our best vendors bill out between $45 and $89 per hour. Occasionally, I’ll have someone contact me looking for new clients and I’ll ask what they charge. If they say “$25 per hour” I don’t use them because I know they can’t survive on that and won’t be around long. My main guy charge $28.50 per hour when I first started using him in 1996. Now he charges $55 just to show up, plus $55 per hour after the first 30 minutes. And he tells me he made more money charging $28.50/hr back in the 1990s.

    Sometimes a good property technician comes out of the apartment industry, going on their own, but often they’ve worked only with certain common apartment brands of appliances. They do ok on easy jobs but can’t handle tough problems or repairs on the older stuff that we have in the older homes.

    And they underestimate the difficulty of getting around Austin, planning the service calls, coordinating with the occupant, getting in and out of the supply houses quickly, etc.

    When I ran in-house maintenance back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this was a constant challenge. Some guys could do good work once they got to a property, but they burned up too much time on travel and parts, and the dreaded do-overs as well. I finally gave up and went back to outsourcing everything.

    I think I just need to become fluent in Spanish, which will open up a lot of candidate vendors who are actually pretty good but with whom we would have too many communication problems because of the language barrier. Sylvia is fluent in Spanish, so maybe I’ll get her more involved too.


  18. I had this same conversation with my dad over Xmas, or at least one very much like it, and I ended up defending teenagers.

    Why is it that when we talk about ourSELVES, and our work choices, we think we’re being rational economic actors when we decide to pursue work that offers us the greatest compensation for our effort (whether that be strictly financial or some other compensation), but we expect teenagers to work crappy jobs for low pay just because we had to do it?

    Frankly, the importation of so much illegal labor has made it a suckers’ game for teenagers to do a lot of that hard work. My dad was complaining more about fast-food workers all being illegals because the kids didn’t ‘want’ to do that work (I had to point out to him that when I was in high school, the local McDonald’s briefly raised wages to $5.00/hour in the $3.35 minimum days and then had no problem whatsoever getting local kids to work there).

    If economics is a good reason for you and I to pick certain jobs, it’s a good reason for them, too. So if you want better tradesmen, you’re going to have to get the contractors to give up on the illegals first, and then invest a bit more in wages to attract locals (no, there’s no such thing as a “job Americans won’t do”, but there damn well are jobs they won’t do for a specified wage – as is true with any occupation).

    And like with my field, if you allow outside-of-the-market competition to take all the entry-level jobs (or, if you prefer, discourage Americans from pursuing those jobs), you’re going to see an eventual erosion of the more advanced jobs, too, because you don’t become an experienced senior guy at trade X without spending a number of years working as the junior guy. You touched on this briefly with regards to your favorite handyman, but misidentified the cause.

    Insisting that teenagers give up more attractive or more lucrative options just to suffer so we can feel better, uh, ain’t gonna happen.

  19. > Insisting that teenagers give up more attractive or more lucrative options just to suffer so we can feel better, uh, ain’t gonna happen.

    It is with my kids. And I even use the word “suffer”.

    Some of the crappiest, low paying jobs and volounteer work are the best ones for instilling a work ethic that pays dividends for the rest of one’s life.

    Teenagers benefit more from unattractive work that better paying cush jobs, so I think the counter-intuitive approach is best followed. My oldest daughter has to accumulate volunteer hours as part of her “honors ribbon” at high school graduation and as soon as she turns 16, I’ve already told her we’ll be signing up at Habitat for Humanity because I want her to learn what it’s like to work hard and get dirty, and how good it feels to stop on the way home from a full day of that, stinky and sweaty, and get a hamburger and shake, and reflect on what was accomplished that day.

    It builds character and an appreciation for working hard and doing a good job. You don’t get that sitting behind a computer pointing and clicking, or sitting behind a desk shuffling papers.

    So, if my daughter we to come home and tell me that her friend’s Dad has a really well paying, easy summer job for her, I’d tell her “no, that will be a waste of your time. You need to do something harder”.


  20. Speaking as an American worker under the age of 30, I feel strongly that people in my generation and those younger are taught that you are not successful in life if you become a good plumber or electrician. Everyone is supposed to go to college and get a great office job. There used to be all kinds of classes in high school like auto shop and advanced woodshop. Now everyone is encouraged to take “harder” electives that will look good on a college app, so many schools don’t offer these programs at all anymore.

    But the truth is, not everyone needs college for a good career and the ROI for a bachelor’s degree does not really impress me. I look at my husband who is a bit older than me – he finished high school early and started working at his family’s boatyard at 16. Today, he is a craftsman who has never had trouble finding a job with more than decent wage because of his advanced woodworking and fabrication skills AND his work ethic. He is certainly doing better than a lot of us who got a B.A. in History or English.

    If I had to do it all over again, I would have trained for a profession right out of high school like nursing or bookkeeping and only gone to college later if needed to advance a specific career trajectory. But I don’t think many parents today would support that plan for their kid – I know my parents certainly wouldn’t have at the time.

    I know people say college is a really good “life experience” where you make a lot of “connections.” But so is real life at a real job. And in almost all entry-level positions today, experience can be substituted for a degree. Imagine that – instead of paying ten of thousands of dollars to increase your general knowledge, someone pays you to learn a specific trade. At the very least, people who decide to go this route should not be regarded by their peers or elders as less motivated, intelligent or potentially successful in work and life. Good plumbers and electricians are awesome.

  21. Having always been bookish and really into computers since the 80’s (I’m 37), I also had a blue collar father (small business carpet installer). I went to work with him through my early teens learning his trade and just being the kid helper. I never had any intention of following in his footsteps, and I went to straight to college and now am in a highly paid tech field. Whenever I was helping him “on the clock” I worked his hours, which meant evening/overnight work, building a work ethic.

    During college, one summer I literally had a blue collar job because that was my uniform while repairing hospital beds. Most kids would stick their noses up at it, and it definitely was not glamorous or anything to brag about, but it really was a good experience for me. I remember it and the people vividly almost 20 years later. It gives me perspective when it comes to people in the trades.

    My dad, still running the business at 60, also says that young guys these days “don’t want to work.” “Work” meaning doing the job with high quality without whining. No concept that hard work is the reason most people do well later in life. Generation Y is the entitlement generation in my opinion.

    (We’re hoping that the real estate bubble also didn’t contribute to Gen Y’s future demise. 🙂

  22. This problem certainly isn’t segregated to the young. I’ve seen experienced and allegedly seasoned workmen who do abysmal work. THEY are the ones TRAINING the youth about whom you are complaining.

    My British husband would say that American tradesmen are unprofessional because they are unqualified. They do not have to receive a certificate or license indicating that they have met a standard established by other professionals in the business. All too often, what passes for training is an apprenticeship under another tradesman who is just as unqualified as the person he is training. If you learn sloppy habits from someone who was taught sloppy habits from someone who was taught sloppy habits, you can’t expect professionalism as a result. We are well acquainted with the tradesman who makes promises to visit and then stands you up, who arrives not minutes but hours late after promising to be there at a certain time, who leaves the workplace messy and can’t clean up after themselves, who in the act of repairing one thing breaks another thing that was working and then has to be begged to come back and put things right, and who, while working on a week-long project, plops equipment and materials in your way, denying or making difficult your access to your home, shed, or garden. You make a request before the project even begins and they don’t follow through because they DO NOT LISTEN to you. I cringe whenever I have to call a tradesman, because what you do not see from most American tradesmen is professionalism, promises kept, quality workmanship, and a commitment to customer satisfaction. And you certainly don’t have to live in Austin, Texas to see the ineptitude, incompetence and ignorance that passes for workmanship today.

  23. Hi Steve
    Wow that was great except for kids not wanting to go into the building trades. I am a 48 year old Electrician. I was one of those kids that grew up fixing things, building bicycles, and doing chores and fixing cars. I worked 10 years non union. I have a lot of pride in my work and would sign my name to everything I have done. When your a Residential Electrician you must be a craftsman and also know all the other trades. (Plastering, Carpentry, landscaping etc.) you also must work very clean and neat. When I got to the top of that pay scale. I wasn’t able to support a family. It was either start my own contracting business or join the Union if they’ll have me. I didn’t have the money to back me up to start my own contracting co. So thank God the Local 3 Ibew Westchester/Fairfield took me in. Because it enabled me to do what I love doing well into my forties and also be able to respectfully raise a family.
    What I see coming into the Apprentice Training Program are real great American kids like myself. They are eager to work and learn the trade. So it’s not true that teenagers don’t respire to be tradesman. It’s just that if they do they want to be able to earn a fair wage to raise a middle class family.
    Now there is a real problem with the American Building trades. Because even this option is being threatened every day.
    I have a 19 year old son and a 13 year old son and I wish I can pass down my trade to them but I won’t because in their future they will not be able to support their families. America wants cheap labor. Very Cheap Labor and I’m so glad to hear that your getting what you pay for.

  24. Thanks Steve and when I was reading your post I was agreeing with you 100% but don’t let people tell you that our kids don’t want to do the work. If they saw that it will earn them a respectable career they would do it in a heartbeat.
    You have a contractor that wants to pay $20 an hour for a full mechanic. What is he gonna pay a teenager that doesn’t know anything and need to be trained? $8 an hour. For hard labor. and, what they see, a dead end job. But what the contractor is getting for that $20 an hour is an adult immigrant that knows enough to kind of get by and figure things out to do a mediocre job. And the American consumer that more so than not doesn’t really know the difference between a good job and a bad job accepts this. But I’m glad there are still people out there like you that knows the difference and that has had the opportunity to experience what a good job is. And to be able to have something to compare to. But like I am a dying bread, you are too.
    Thanks for the Post.

  25. I am a unique person. Highly skilled, perfectionist. The trades have for me. They want to pay me the same as the mexican immigrant. They want lower and lower prices. So, I saw the writing on the wall and decided to educate myself so I can switch job sectors. When I’m doing all right, you think I’ll sweat all these hateful, childish rants of “lazy people sitting on computers in air conditioning”… lol. You did it to yourselves. Should have fought to keep unions strong and immigrant workers out. But you had to have your Wal-Mart prices. So, now the “kids who aren’t worth a damn” will end up in tech jobs or something, paying the tradesmen who aren’t worth a damn to fix their toilets.

    It’s not generation y’s fault. That’s the Americs we are inheriting.


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