HAND JOBS

On Saturday I took a day trip to Tuskegee, Alabama to see some of the historical sites dedicated to one of my favorite figures in American history, George Washington Carver. Today the university physically looks almost indistinguishable from any other small, pricey liberal arts college, although its agricultural and veterinary programs would be out of place at the Swarthmores and Williamses of the Northeast. Colleges of its type struggle to attract students these days, as there are often tangible advantages for excellent students to choose cheaper schools (flagship state universities) or expensive ones that are better (Ivy League, etc).

Back in GWC's day, the school distinguished itself not only by necessity due to segregation but also in its approach to a complete education. The students did and learned a lot of things that would seem strange and foreign to today's college students: planting fields by hand, making their own clothes, machine shop, cooking, and even building most of the structures on campus by hand. And I really had to laugh at the reaction students (and parents – good god, the parents) would have today if my university announced that everyone was going to take courses in leather tanning and then pitch in down at the construction site for the new dorms.

Before I go on, I want to be clear that I am generally critical of the "more vocational training is the answer" argument in American education. The job market for plumbers and electricians blows just as much as for lawyers and professors at the moment. The argument that such jobs are resistant to outsourcing is also dubious since they are so much less resistant to becoming obsolete. For example, pre-wired wall panels are rapidly eliminating the need for electricians in residential and commercial construction. So if you are feeling the urge to rush to the comments to tell us how "More of these kids should be in tech school," no. That is, not unless you can explain the value in training people for jobs that don't or won't exist.

With that caveat and another about the danger in romanticizing history, the experience made me more reflective than usual about our mission in today's colleges and universities. There is no doubt that in terms of skills, we are better off teaching students physics, math, and writing skills than glass blowing, food preparation, or Field Hoeing 101. But people like Carver and Booker T. Washington believed that the manual work in the curriculum had benefits beyond teaching practical skills. They believed it taught character and made the students better people.

It sounds sappy, right? It is. It also sounds to me like a pretty damn good idea sometimes. Making shoes or planting a field might actually knock some of these students down a peg, and many of the ones I've encountered need that a lot more than they need the stuff they learn in classrooms. The kids I see are largely products of the suburbs. If they want something, they buy it. If something breaks, they pay someone else to fix it. Many of them are accused (with varying degrees of justification) of having an inflated sense of their own talent and importance. It wouldn't be the worst thing for a lot of them to have to learn how to sew or fix appliances. The message is useful: Even though you can afford to pay someone to do this for you, you're not too good for this work. It is not beneath you. You are not above it.

I can tell you that would have done me some good as an 18 year old. College students are and always have been a class of people that consider themselves to be above a lot of things. It will never actually happen, obviously, but we might be doing them a service by making them do practical and manual work. When students say, "I'm never going to need to know (literature, math, etc.) so why should I have to learn it?", we have an answer at the ready. I don't see why the same answer does not apply to learning how to farm or make clothes. The fact that you won't need to do it does not imply that there is no value in learning how to do it.

It's not an idea I've developed very extensively, but our goal in higher ed is to turn boys and girls of limited worldview into men and women ready to participate in and contribute to the world around them. Rather than always looking ahead to the next pedagogical fad, maybe there is some value to looking to the past as well.

This post was somewhat misleadingly titled, yes?

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45 Responses to “HAND JOBS”

  1. chris Says:

    I think a lot of people are turned off by "character building" exercises, though. I'm turned off by the words, I guess. It seems better to focus on the "big picture" angle of all these subjects. I'm a pc-obsessed nerd, but you can't model things virtually without understanding how they work and interact in reality. There's a lot you can legitimately sell about these subjects without having to resort to character. People need to understand how their things are made and where the trash goes. They'll never appreciate anything without it, sure, but they'll also just be dumber, and less strategic. Great post!

  2. Ben Says:

    There are problems with those "character building" activities too, though.

    It can lead to an even greater sense of entitlement. "I worked hard detasseling corn those two summers, I know how to work hard, and I know I worked hard at this assignment/job, so I deserve a better grade/advancement, dammit."

    It can make class lines even more invisible. "I worked at the orchard for a few months every year. Manual labor isn't that hard, and frankly it's invigorating outdoor work, so all them spics are getting overpaid at two pennies a bushel, quite frankly."

    And let's not forget your last post: an extremely narrow competence tends to metastasize into overconfident incompetence. "I can build a fucking deck, so I'm not going to listen to you when you tell me my sentences be ungrammatical."

    So I think good folks will be enriched by the activities you talk about, and assholes will just weave them into their broader tapestries of assholery.

    I think what you're gesturing toward is a need for more moral education, in the broadest sense: "You are an animal driven by conflicting drives and are somehow conscious. Everyone you meet is essentially yourself dealing with different circumstances. From these obvious facts follow several necessary rules: 1. Don't be an asshole. 2. Not being an asshole takes work. 3. This work is easier when you realize that most of what you think you know is wrong, and that you can't easily separate the wheat from the chaff."

    Of course, the only way I know of acquiring those facts and learning the existence and necessity of those rules is to read lots of books, which doesn't really address what you're talking about.

  3. Middle Seaman Says:

    It has nothing to do with character building. In college your character is set in concrete. It is about the following quote from the post: "Even though you can afford to pay someone to do this for you, you're not too good for this work. It is not beneath you. You are not above it."

    You are not better than anyone or anything. We do have a very intricate class system and college educated individuals are perceived as better than plumbers and electricians. It is inherently wrong, because it leads bankers to scam everyone else because bankers are on top.

    At Xmas parties, I sit at the secretaries' table. The other are profs mingle among themselves. Everyone makes a living, I got lucky and got good genes and middle class parents. I also work hard as do the secretaries. I actually feel much smarter than most of the profs, but I am not better.

    If plumbing 101 will lower you a notch, it's a great course for you.

  4. Adam Says:

    I'm a college student myself, and though I don't currently have a job and typically have some money to spend (thanks to the generosity of some of my family), I don't *feel* like I come to things with a massive sense of entitlement. I recognize that attending a university is a luxury for me, one that many of my peers cannot afford to get. It is only very rarely that I feel like I deserve to be going to college over someone else; the occasional self-righteous, entitled prick just can't help but needle at my nerves.

    That being said, I do feel like "hard work" helped prevent me from getting that sense of entitlement. As a younger boy, I frequently had to help my dad on many of his projects: building houses, heavy yard work (brush cutting, mowing a couple acres, etc), mechanics, and general labor. I think my dad wanted me to become a handyman, like him, but I never took too well to the tasks, and never liked them.

    But that doesn't mean I can't do them or think that they're "below me." I can and will change the oil in a car or dig a ditch or weedwack or something, and I don't mind it too terribly either. It's just not a career that I want to pursue, it's not something I *enjoy*.

    It did help me, though. I certainly don't think less of people that do that sort of thing, and it helped keep things in perspective as I've grown older.

  5. wetcasements Says:

    Not to get all black helicopters on you, but there's a genuine possibility that in the coming decades things we Americans take for granted now (access to drinking water and food, fuel, and basic and/or emergency health care) might disappear in a puff as the Koch brothers and Rand Pauls and Paul Ryans of the world get their way. The 1% will happily move into heavily armed and gated communities al la Brazil while the rest of us will have to make do with our leather jackets and sawed off shotguns.

    Seriously, I think in 2012 a young person would benefit more from basic survival skills than at any point since 1941. With economic collapse, global warming, and a possible World War III starting when Russia and China take umbrage at an unprovoked Israeli bombing campaign in Iran, well, call me crazy.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    Exposure to things never hurt anyone.

    However, aptitude, is another matter.

    My Mother had two solo concerts at Carnegie Hall, performing classical aria's. I can't sing a lick…

    My Father was a machinist, and a Foreman at various shops. I can't fix a cat with a hatchet…

    I had exposure to classical music, and took piano lessons for 12 years.
    I worked in my Dad's machine shop during the summers while I was in HS, to save money for college.
    I was a pretty good pianist (but not a great one), and a terrible machinist.

    I learned a great deal being exposed to all of that.
    Part of what I learned, is that while I appreciate what my parents did, I didn't have the aptitude to follow in either's footsteps.

    In and of itself, I think that was a valuable lesson.

    And I think classes in manual labor, like classes in literature and other arts, builds empathy for others, and what they do.
    And THAT'S something that's sorely needed.

  7. Seth Says:

    @Ben is right that some of what you're proposing here will reinforce assholery, but I don't think that's reason not to do it.

    There's no pedagogy or curriculum that can cure incurable assholes. But getting people to experience things they wouldn't otherwise is a lot of what college is about. That's one of the rationales for the service-learning movement, which I have some issues with, but respect the general motives behind. It's one of the reasons we want people to study history: not because "Those who don't know the past are doomed to repeat it," but because it teaches people that the current state of affairs isn't natural, or God-given, and that things *could* be different. We want students to read literature because fiction teaches us to imagine alternatives to our current world.

    Anything that can make students (and faculty!) register our own basic humanity is a step in the right direction. I'm not sure manual labor is always "the answer" to that, but the impulse is just right.

  8. ladiesbane Says:

    Manual labor has other benefits. Actually making (fixing, cleaning) things shows a physical result for effort spent, which offers satisfaction based on objective evidence: this is what I accomplished today. Small, attainable goals are a big part of happiness. (Consider the popularity of video and computer games, too. Level up!)

    Sometimes a day spent in skull sweat is too much effort spent in only one direction, too, and working the muscles gives the mind a rest.

    Unfortunately, though, the same job that cultivates respect in one kid ("I've done that, and it's harder than it looks,") engenders contempt in another ("Pfft, I've done that, and it's not so hard.") The second kid starts to think all minimum wage workers are overpaid, and skilled trades are extortionists.

    Eventually, drunk off repeated viewings of "This Old House", he will try to snake a drain or add an outlet to an existing circuit. Hilarity ensues, but will he learn his lesson? Or will he be buying more useless crap at Home Depot the weekend after the shame wears off?

  9. Anonymouse Says:

    At least you're dealing with college kids who can at least demonstrably do *something* (that is, pass classes). Out here in my suburbia, I'm surrounded by "precious snowflakes" in their late 20s and early 30s. None of them have been to college, none of them have jobs, but they are just the most special of special, special angels as they live in Mommy & Daddy's house with their SUVs and their cellphones and gargantuan sense of entitlement as their parents mow the lawn while they put their feet up and play XBox. I'm not much older than these precious darlings and I just scratch my head as their adoring parents tell me how hard it is for "kids" these days. As near as I can tell, the current crop of know-nothings isn't even capable of scratching their own behinds, much less tanning their own leather or building their own dorms.

  10. anotherbozo Says:

    Ed, I wonder if you'd waive the Sewing 101 requirement for students who have to work their way through college doing various McJobs. I realize you may have a particular perspective when looking at the house across the street, rented as it is by three college students who each drive $60,000 cars, but there are a fairly large number of undergrads who need jobs not just between semesters but during them. These jobs are most typically not highly skilled, but they are certainly of the demeaning, down-to-earth and sometimes even manual variety. I got pretty handy with sponge and soapy water on k.p. for four years, not to mention cleaning floors and toilets as manager of a rooming house during my latter two years.

    I went to U.C.Berkeley, free at the time, but my parents had all they could handle just paying for my books. I got meals in exchange for busing dishes, and work in a tomato cannery during the summer. Of course there were students who had to do more than I did to support themselves.

    And then there was the controversial R.O.T.C., required of all male students then. This meant taking time off from Sartre and Planck's Constant to learn the fine art of Shoe Shine. Given the exploding cost of higher education these days, I have to believe there are a fair number of undergrads whose study is interlaced with jobs of varying manual skills who would be willing to learn other manual skills only if they led to better wages than what they get right now.

  11. Starree Says:

    @Ben

    I did manual labor in college in order to pay for it. I learned that manual labor IS hard and that people who actually do it for a living deserve my respect. It did not increase my sense of entitlement -I just applied my ability to do hard work to my studies. And later in college, as I expanded my intellectual capacity, I learned that "my sentences be ungrammatical" is actually a grammatical phrase in some dialects of English (just not the one we use in formal writing).

    So I'm all for mixing manual labor with college studies. And if the students learn a few extra skills in the meantime, good on them.

  12. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    I agree with wetcasement; peak-oil armageddon isn't that far out of a possibility. In which case you better know how to farm and preserve food or at least know a few people who do. Those hippie gardeners might become the most important people you know.

    While I disagree with Ed's pooping on vocational education, I agree that this kind of thing would be good for kids. It really does teach kids something about how the world works, which is the whole fucking shooting match anyway.

    It's also just good pedagogy to get something other than just the gray matter working. It's pretty clear from educational scholarship that standing in front of kids and lecturing at them is pretty much guaranteed to not work very well. They simply won't process or remember the vast majority of what you're saying. You need to get other things involved, like emotions, or their other senses. This might help do that.

  13. TomW Says:

    I want to be clear that I am generally critical of the "more vocational training is the answer" argument in American education./

    I think a case could be made for better vocational training. Too much of American vocational training is in the hands of for-profit institutions that charge an arm and a leg for training that is completely disconnected from economic realities. A system in which people spend $60,000 on culinary school and wind up as prep cooks making just above minimum wage is not working.

  14. ec Says:

    I almost think the biggest lesson out of schools that required the kind of manual labor described here is that it creates stakeholders in the institution itself. Ideally, students who are part of creating and building the school or institution they attend will be more invested in their own personal outcomes at the school but also in the future of the institution.

    My biggest problem with the current "send kids to tech schools" and "let kids learn a trade" lines that politicians are spewing is that I have yet to see a politician say that in reference to his own children – who likely or will likely attend a top university. Generally, the implication is that the "poor" students, the "minority" students should be considering trade schools.

    Somehow I don't think Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mitt Rommey, or President Obama will have many children or grandchildren attending a trade school.

  15. c u n d gulag Says:

    ec,
    Maybe they wouldn't attend them, but Mitt's kids, if they decided to get into the private education racket, could buy, and then, trade schools with their rich family members and friends.

    Yeah – I know – it's a weak gag…
    But give me a break, it IS Monday morning! :-)

  16. Hawes Says:

    Probably most students exposure to physical labor comes from "community service" that they do to burnish their college app. I like community service and think it teaches important values. But it also treats hard, physical work as a charity case. It's drive-by labor. Hey, I spent a day cleaning up a brown field!

    Much better is the sustained effort required to work for months on end at hard work. When you ache getting out of bed and yet you know that there is another row to hoe, another bale to tote.

  17. acer Says:

    @Ben @Seth @Starree

    I'd compare it to study abroad programs. Sure, it might give certain kids a false sense of worldliness and make them more obnoxious at cocktail parties, but I think it would serve its purpose regardless, and the pros would outweigh the cons. Creating a better class of assholes, if you will.

    I've long argued that, much like military service in Israel, a few years of bussing tables should be compulsory for Americans.

  18. PB@OC Says:

    Clusterfuck Nation (my 2nd favorite next to GT): http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/04/strange-jubilee-1.html – Covered higher ed from a slightly different direction this morning.

  19. Jonathan Says:

    [offtopic level="slight"]Hand jobs, in detail, with simulators and labs, really ought to be taught in high school sex ed instead of this abstinence-only nonsense. I'm sure there would be fewer teen pregnancies.[/offtopic]

    I fear that rich institutions' students will spend their "humility education" time skipping half-assed around organic gardens while students at less affluent schools might actually be expected to learn what they're doing.

    I've always been curious whether the nations with compulsory military service had a problem with richies buying their way into cushy positions. Any data?

  20. Kulkuri Says:

    You could forget all about character building, the kids don't care about building character anyway, you could explain to them that if they know how to do the things they pay others to do, they may not get ripped off by those doing the work for them. Personally I don't care if some educated idiot gets ripped off, it just pisses me off when the tradespeople try ripping me off because they've gotten away with it before.

    As someone who repairs his own cars, I've said for a long time now that automotive engineers and designers should have to work at repairing cars for a year or two before they get to design them. That way they will understand how difficult their simple design is to work on. They design them to make the cars easier to assemble at the factory, not to work on at the repair shop.

  21. Dave Dell Says:

    While I don't agree with everything Heinlein espoused, some things do stick in your mind.

    Robert Heinlein: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

  22. bb in GA Says:

    @kulkuri

    Don't bitch at engineers. We are the most wonderful….uh

    Actually, its management's fault (and GW Bush's too!) that about a generation ago we entered into an evil dreamworld of the vicious Koch Brothers called DFM (Design for Manufacture) Look it up. Keep that cost down and the profit up!

    Basically nobody who produces manufactured items gives a rat' ass about repairing or maintaining anything. If it fails, throw it away and get another one.

    //bb

  23. J. Dryden Says:

    Working a shit job for shit wages is an essential part of the passage into adulthood. And it can't be 'summer' work–work that sucks but which you know has a goal line–it has to be the kind of open-ended, 'holy fuck I could be doing this for the rest of my life' kind of work. Hopelessness is part of the human experience, and the desperation it inspires is generally what's needed to get people to realize that their parents lied to them, and that they are not, in fact, the bestest most awesomely special and amazingest person in the everest of ever. At which point, we either get to crackin' and figure out that since we'll be handed nothing, we better figure out how to earn it–or we subside into the beer-and-starch-induced spiritual coma that will make the next 40 years or so a comfortable ride.

    In either case, the "character" gained isn't just humility–which is good–but empathy, which is better. The day I 'grew up' was the day I looked in the eyes of the miserable, overworked cashier at the supermarket and saw myself, at which point I started to smile at her and say "please" and "thank you" when she did her job. Same with the wait staff at the local IHOP. And the teller at the bank. And the secretary at the check-in desk at the dentist. And all those people whose jobs are utterly necessary, and who–I now knew–get up in the morning to the sound of a shrieking alarm clock and pray for the strength to just get through the goddamned day.

    I'm under no delusions as to my status as a 'good' person. But I'm unquestionably a better person because I once worked a job that had me up to my elbows in garbage on a semi-nightly basis. Because somewhere out there, there's a guy for whom that is *LIFE*–and I owe him, because he took my place when I moved up the ladder, and he might not be lucky enough to follow me.

  24. Andrew Laurence Says:

    I'm not "better" than the people I pay to fix things. It's just that I earn enough money to pay them to do so, and I'm crap at fixing things, so it makes economic and mental health sense to pay someone else to do it. I'm actually envious of people who can fix cars or do electrician work, as I have no knack for them. Perhaps they're envious of my computer wizardry, perhaps not.

  25. Dave Dell Says:

    bb in GA – So that's what it is. Here I thought that it was to keep the service bays full. I take back all my stated intentions to repeatedly slap the engineers who designed whatever it is I'm struggling to maintain.

  26. A Babe of the Boom Says:

    Misleading title indeed!

    I thought you had discovered the real Republican jobs bill!

  27. BigHank53 Says:

    The Infiniti M45 has one of the most beautifully placed oil filters and drain plug of any modern car. It's on the front left corner of the engine, away from the exhaust pipes (I'm looking at you, GM), the suspension, and any accessories. Unscrew it and the oil pours right out into your drain pan. To get to the oil filter, however, you need the put the car on a lift and remove nineteen fiddly little plastic rivet fasteners so you can take off the aerodynamic lower engine bay cover. Nineteen of 'em. Shit.

    I had the advantage of working a blue collar job in high school, which taught me firstly that I could do the work, and secondly that I'd rather not. Unfortunately I suck at college coursework…

  28. Ben Says:

    Starree,

    I didn't say those experiences couldn't be enriching. They were for me and I don't doubt they were for you. My point is that, as with most things, it depends on who is having the experience. After an asshole does manual labor, there's no guarantee he'll be a better person. In all likelihood instead of just being an "asshole" he'll become an "asshole who did some manual labor". The experience could also lead to new assholery as I outlined in my previous comment.

    As for the grammar stuff, come on. Part of the job of Ed and his colleagues is to get the kids to understand that a certain vernacular, style and grammar is necessary to function in the professional world. If a student hands in a paper where the verbs are the wrong tense, their instructors have a duty to downgrade it and correct it. But, as Ed points out, an entitled asshole isn't going to listen to that instruction. That's the problem.

  29. Ed Says:

    Yeah, what BB said. What would lead anyone to believe that the manufacturer cares how easy it is to fix or work on their products? They're all designed 1) to be disposable and 2) to be so complex that you have to pay the dealership/retailer to fix it for you.

  30. J Wahl Says:

    I thought perhaps colleges could make mandatory some manual labor the summer before frosh year, but I now agree that such a small exposure could be counter-productive.

    Perhaps colleges could require that all students work a campus job, but could also make sure the ones not on scholarship are the ones getting the really crappy ones. Those working to get through college already know the price of hard work so the cushy jobs should go to them.

  31. EJ Says:

    Perhaps everyone should go to a hippy school, like I did. You can't grow weed without acquiring basic electrical, carpentry, and agricultural skills.

    (I'm only half-joking; it always amazed me what people who otherwise seemed like unmotivated burnouts could knock together when setting up a grow room).

  32. Sluggo Says:

    I spend about half my days in office and half in the field working with guys in the trades. I make a huge distinction between working with your hands and working with your back. Most of the time people confuse the two.

    Working with your back is hard and painful and is a very hard way to go thru life.

    Working with your hands, IE the skilled trades……plumbers, electricians, carpenters takes a lot of intelligence, creativity, flexibility and training. If you don't believe me, just try reading the building code!

    Frankly a lot of the people that I have met in offices (MBAs, middle managers), just are not smart enough to cut it in the trades.

  33. grumpygradstudent Says:

    Sluggo, that's a very good point. A buddy of mine co-owns his family's tiny concrete business. It's sort of in-between the "with your back" and "with your hands" level of skill, but he's been trying to move toward doing more interior work, and I hope to god it works out. I can't imagine what laying slabs is doing to his joints and skin over the course of time. On the one hand, I envy the folks who get to exercise for their job (and my aforementioned buddy is in great shape), so they can stay in something akin to decent health. On the other hand, I see those guys when they're 50, 60 years old, and I realize why people started going to college in mass. It would be nice to be able to walk when I get to that age.

  34. ladiesbane Says:

    EJ — the burnouts you described remind me of the math-hating kids I went to school with. They could stat ballgames in their heads, mentally work out change / tax / tips due from their restaurant jobs, update betting odds on the fly, and calculate drug purchases converting grams to ounces and repricing appropriately. "But I suck at math."

    They don't seem to realize a lot of financial jobs require less skill than their recreational pursuits do. #blametheteacher

  35. Edward Says:

    The people who would benefit even more from such education are politicians and ceo's.

  36. Xynzee Says:

    We could start w Mittens, Newt(ered), and the top GOP brass for that idea.

    No, about the only way for these entitled douches could ever be broken of their douchery is only if it's as J. Dryden says, the possibility that "this could be your life".

    My dad had a company car in the early 80s. I think it was a Phoenix (4 door hatch). He was talking to the mechanic about how hard it was to work on the engine. The mechanic said the turbo version was worse. They literally had to lift the engine out to change the oil filter.

  37. mtraven Says:

    I have a PhD, but I am still basking in the satisfied glow of having saved money on plumbers by successfully snaking out a drain myself this weekend. Home ownership has disadvantages but at least it is a chance to be hands-on once in awhile.

    But for evidence that stints of manual labor do not really prevent douchebaggery, see here, at a minor epicenter of libertardianism.

  38. Xynzee Says:

    @mtraven: some how they've missed the point.

    I work crappy hours, in a crappy job, with a bad back. *Because* the pay is crap, I pick up extra shifts not because I want to but because I *need* to. My fixed expenditures are X, and therefore must be met. I am unable to save etc etc.

    Now if I was able to secure work in what I am trained in and have experience in, I could get away with only three days of work/wk *and* save. Go figure.

    So some people are just born douches.

  39. blinded by science Says:

    Many's the time I would gladly have swapped my BA in English for a four-year carpentry apprenticeship. Yeah, the housing market might be down and a lot of carpenters out of work (as if that hasn't always been the case for English majors), but there's not a lit program in the universe that will teach you how to rebuild a hurricane-damaged roof.

    I'm not saying there are no rewards to being able to enjoy hunkering down with "Paradise Lost," but in the end, being able to frame a house for somebody who's own house just got levelled in an earthquake will carry a lot more weight.

    Plus, chicks dig guys who can do that shit.

  40. Rob Says:

    I can tell you because I work at a technical school that the job market for Electricians does not suck, not even remotely. Last year all of our electrical students found jobs, every single one. I can also tell you that those jobs are not going away because of pre-wired panels for houses. Residential wiring consists of only 1/6 of the curriculum of a 2 year degree consists of only a small portion of jobs in the market. I get your overall point though – but considering that 98% of our students found work last year, our retention and graduation rates are higher than any 4 year school in the state, and we currently have 12 employer requests per graduate (highest in 20 years), why again shouldn't more students go to tech school?

    And no, these aren't shit jobs for shit money and who cares if they're the rich kids or not. The country needs more students in tech school in order to rebuild our economy, not more kids going to private liberal arts schools to earn their philosophy degrees. Would you rather your kids be unemployed or making $25/hr right out of college as a machinist?

  41. Xynzee Says:

    @Rob: I read somewhere that one the problems with these big infrastructure projects is that there is no skilled American labour in things like welding.

    That's what 40-50yrs of not valuing trades will get you.

  42. LucyTooners Says:

    I can only speak to being college educated and working for an electrical contractor. Until electricity is no longer used to power our lives there will always be a need for electricians. The problem is that there is a huge generational gap between the experienced and the green horns in the electrical trade. Electricians that are technically trained make much better electricians than the ones that learned on the job. In the end it is the education that benefits the trade and the worker. In my neck of the woods we cannot find enough qualified electricians to fill the jobs. I spoke with a Master Electrician that works at Boeing and he told me the average age of an electrician there was 52.5 yrs old. That leaves a lot of room for the younger guys to move into those jobs if they are willing.

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    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
    topic to be actually something which I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complex and extremely
    broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I'll try to get the
    hang of it!