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Dummies Need Not Apply

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March 28, 2017

A skilled trade requires smarts

Pardon my rant, but when something annoys the hell out of me I have trouble keeping quiet. One of the things that sets me off is when college-educated people look down on the trades as something less intelligent people ought to aspire to.

image of electricianLess intelligent than who? (Or whom, in case any high-fallutin’ grammatical purists are reading this.)

Less intelligent than so many college students with inflated grade-point averages who cannot read and write as well as my grandfather could with his fourth-grade education?

Less intelligent than the professors who give out inflated grades like so much candy to these spoiled brats? (Students receive an A in 40% of all classes, according to one study.)

Less intelligent than all those college graduates who owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and cannot land a job good enough to pay it back and so live at home with Mom and Dad well into adulthood?

Less intelligent than the high school counselors who told those losers they had to go to college, unless they weren’t smart enough, in which case they ought to pursue a trade?

That last one really gets to me. So many counselors think only kids who are “not college material” should think about becoming a plumber, electrician or HVAC technician. Next time their toilet backs up or furnace breaks down in the middle of winter, they should call one of their buddies with a PhD in philosophy and see how well that works out.

Let’s set the record straight once and for all. You cannot hope to become a plumber, electrician or HVAC technician unless you have above-average intelligence and common sense.

When you apply to be an apprentice to learn one of these trades, you will have to take tests just like you would if you applied to a prestigious university. Some of these tests will require pretty good knowledge of the math and science you should’ve learned in school. These tests will also probe your mechanical aptitude, which may not be something you learned in any classroom, but which is essential if you are to succeed as a skilled craft worker. Some apprenticeships may even require that you take the Wonderlic or a comparable test to assess things like motivation and personality.

First, the bad news. Just as some students are “not college material,” at least as many fail to make the grade as a skilled trade apprentice. A lot of forlorn college graduates would fail to qualify. (A lot of forlorn college graduates who are tired of waiting tables are applying for trade apprenticeships these days.)

The good news? If you are smart, can pass the tests, work hard and do become a skilled trade worker, there is no limit to how successful you can become. Odds are great that you will at least earn a better-than-average living – with little if any student debt to pay off. If you are in the upper ranks of craft workers in terms of workmanship and reliability, you may well end up earning a six-figure annual income. If you have entrepreneurial spirit, you might even end up getting owning a trade business and getting rich beyond your wildest dreams.

But none of it will happen if you’re a dummy. As John Wayne once famously said, “Life is tough. It’s even tougher when you’re stupid.”

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