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Diminishing The Skilled Trades

For a short time a few years ago there was a resurgence in interest in the skilled trades, professions like electricians and welders and auto mechanics. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame was the most prominent evangelist for learning a trade and it seemed to be a largely forgotten path in a world where everyone is told they must get a four year degree to live a middle class lifestyle. The examples were myriad of young guys with no college debt working in a skilled trade making a solid middle class living while their peers who went to college and got a degree in Gender Queer Scandinavian Literature were working part-time for $9/hour and struggling under a mountain of student loan debt. For many young people, learning a skilled trade was a way to become valuable in the employment marketplace for people who either had no interest in going to college or simply lacked the intellectual aptitude. 

Most welders don’t look like this

This was especially true for young White men. College is a hostile place for the same sort of White men who built those colleges and universities in the first place. When they aren’t being lectured at by professors about their “White privilege”, they are trying to navigate the social minefield outside of the classroom where a drunken romp with a willing girl can suddenly turn into an accusation of rape and the end of your college career. At the same time they accumulate loan debt while not picking up a marketable skill. While not every electrician or welder was making six figures, most of them were making a good salary and weren’t buried with debt. Yes the work was often physically demanding and dirty but that often seems better than slowly dying as your soul shrivels in some office somewhere. If you go into most skilled trades shops, at least around here, you will find the workforce is overwhelmingly White and male.

Then the Chinese bioweapon known as the coronavirus/Covid-19 got loose/was released and things changed almost overnight. Now we are supposed to pretend that 17 year old kids restocking the shelves at Wal-Mart are “heroes” for doing a job in the face of a virus that statistically presents no danger to them. Plus the government really opened the firehose of magical money, first with Trump Bux and now with Biden Bux, paying people whether they really needed it or not. Someone who lost their job or their business because of coronavirus got the same check as someone like me who did great during the worst of the pandemic. What anyone could have predicted happened: people paid to not work didn’t really see any reason to get a job, especially a shitty job at Target. When the demand is high and the supply is low, prices go up and boy did they go up for the lowest skilled workers in America.
The wages for unskilled work are skyrocketing from just a couple of years ago. Hobby Lobby is starting full-time workers at $17/hour. Costco is offering starting wages of $16/hour. Our local Wal-Mart is paying $14/hour for part-time stockers. 
At the same time, wages for skilled trades don’t seem to be moving much as most of them kept working during the shut-downs. A lot of local welding jobs are starting from $14-$19 per hour, and that means that people who work a difficult, demanding job that requires skills and training are making about the same as someone who restocks ribbons and candles at Hobby Lobby. 
It isn’t just retail, basic low/no skill assembly work is also seeing significant wage inflation. A local plant near us has signs all over the place advertising starting wages of $17.44 for basic assembly work and they just can’t find anyone. 
The pay gap between skilled and unskilled workers is shrinking fast and in some cases has disappeared entirely. You can make a lot more in skilled trades if you pack up and move to a hot market like the oilfields but if you are in a mid-sized city, it seems a lot less attractive to invest a year or two learning a trade just so you can make as much as the guy who makes sure the toilet paper is stocked at Costco.
After I started this post I found out that Mike Rowe has been talking about this as well, see: ‘Dirty Jobs’ Star Mike Rowe Just Totally Debunked the Argument for a $15 Minimum Wage
Again ask yourself, what does the average skilled tradesman look like? Then ask if you think this is a coincidence. Also note that many skilled tradespeople are independent and own small businesses and those kind of people are also on the chopping block. Financially independent people are too difficult to control.
It is hard to critically examine the economic situation in America and not see looming catastrophe. We are on the verge of a de facto universal basic income (more in the next post) and the national debt is exploding (see from John Wilder: Welcome To The Exponential, Including One Bikini Graph  ) although at this point it isn’t really “debt” as no one thinks we will repay it.
All the more reason to get clear of the blast zones of civil unrest and decouple yourself from the globalist economic system.


  1. jl

    Out here in the CA Bay Area there is a massive shortage of quality tradesmen, and a look at pretty much any crew will show you 80% +/- mestizo. In the heart of Silicon Valley, all the white boys think they're gonna code the next killer app or get a cushy gig with Facebook or the kind. Hell, most of them call roadside assistance to change a tire! If there isnt a screen or a keyboard involved, most people out here are useless. But sadly think they are priceless.

  2. Anonymous

    What does the average skilled tradesman look like? I am about to find out, as I have two estimates scheduled today for electric upgrades at my house, and two more pending. If any of them do not speak English well, he'd better have a Polish accent or he isn't getting my business. Ditto if he is a fresh-faced kid, I have to admit. I want experience and competence above all else. Extra points for being a middle-aged White guy like me.


  3. Arthur Sido

    I imagine a lot of this depends on region, out here you are hard pressed to see a crew building a house or doing a roof that isn't Amish but the more one on one jobs like welding and electrician are still overwhelmingly White.

  4. Arthur Sido

    I don't blame you, if you get a crappy roofer, your roof leaks. If you get a bad electrician? You get electrocuted or your house burns down. Don't settle for anything less than a middle aged White guy.

  5. Anonymous

    Done. First estimate was given by a very young guy named "Achmed" (short for Achmed Ramzi al Whoopsiedaisy, I am guessing) and his quote was so astonishingly high that I choked, audibly. Second guy never showed up and hasn't called to say why. Third guy just left, a White guy my age who quoted me just over half of what Achmed wanted, so he got the nod. He snorted when I told him how much the terrorist quoted.

  6. LGC

    I decided a few years back that I"m only hiring white guys. blah blah blah MLK, color, blah blah blah, tough shit. the mexicans only hire mexicans, the blacks of course only hire blacks, why can't I only hire my tribe? I'm supporting my tribe. (exception for drywall because I haven't seen a white drywall guy in 30 years).

  7. Mike Guenther

    My apologies. I was trying to be a schmarty pants.😎 I know the Amish as well as the Mennonites like we have around these parts, are about 99.99% white.

    I've been a carpenter/ woodworker for 40 years. As far as it goes, I don't care if a person is black, brown, white or purple, straight, gay or lesbian,( but not Tranny because that is just so wrong on so many levels), protestant, catholic, jew or muslim, as long as you leave your religion at home, and as long as you do your job and don't forget that I'm the boss, we'll get along just fine.

    I've been in supervisory positions for 25 years and the only proselytizing on the job was by a baptist street preacher who I eventually had to fire because there was more preachin' than workin'.

  8. Arthur Sido

    The Amish crew often have a Mexican to drive them, often illegal which means they get busted and deported which is a hassle. They don't care if they are Mexican or illegal as long as they work hard but they don't really like them and they especially don't like blacks who they see as mostly lazy.

  9. Anonymous

    All the blather about the minimum wage, unemployment, and stepping stones would make sense if anyone could identify any sort of career path that leads from a low minimum wage to a living wage. If you land a job, you get to stay there 'til you quit, get fired, or die. No chance to ever go from mail room to CEO.

    The oligarchs have ensured that all wage jobs are "stepping stones" and for a living wage "There just ain't no way to git there from here…"

    How many salaried managers are making significantly more than their minimum-wage counter-parts after all hours and payments are equalized. You can get 35 hours at $10/hour, or a salary $700 per week. After the 70 hour weeks you put in as a manager, the only thing you get more of is taxes and stress.

  10. Arthur Sido

    My first job out of college was in retail management and as a salaried employee I worked so many hours that the cashiers were making more per hour than me. You can move into middle management for sure from a minimum wage job but not much else.

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