Comment: Why more people are made to be #tradies

This week, new research revealed tradies could make $1 million more than university graduates throughout their lifetime. Still, the stereotype persists – for the most part – that becoming a #tradie is on the bottom rung of the career ladder.

Traditionally, the boys who weren’t well matched for school were told to leave in Year 10 to get a trade. It was well-meaning advice at the time, of course. My husband, Andy, was one of them. The thing is, Australia now has a tradie shortage.

The conversation we’re having with our kids about career paths isn’t helping. While few of us would admit it, there’s still a little bit of a stigma attached to choosing a trade, even though the money stacks up and Australia is screaming for more tradies.

The #tradielife isn’t for everyone. Let’s not pretend being a tradie is glamorous. It can be dirty, backbreaking work. In saying that, there is a lot to love about being on the tools, problem solving and not staring at a computer screen all day.

What I’d like to see is a shift in how we pitch trade as a career path.

Changing the conversation

How do we change the conversation with all school leavers (and others) about taking on a trade apprenticeship – not just the students who are not especially suited to the conventional school environment? The kids who are “good with their hands.”

It would be great to see more parents, for example, giving equal weighing to trade when discussing career options with their kids. There are compelling arguments as to why a career in trade should be tabled as a valid career choice.

School-based apprenticeships are providing excellent pathways and job prospects. Plus, it’s encouraging kids to stay at school until Year 12, which we know helps with maturity, in particular. Lady tradies are also shaking up the status quo. Go, girls!

The situation is changing slowly.

Choose what genuinely interests you

Coming back to basics, wouldn’t it be helpful to advise young people to choose a career doing what is genuinely interesting to them? That’s one part of the equation. The other part is to be strategic – what’s important to them, now and later?

Many trade business owners I know would argue young people are not turning to the trade industry (and in turn, the opportunity to earn the big bucks) because they’re entitled, not willing to get up early, and work hard.

My husband, Andy Smith, co-founder of Lifestyle Tradie and co-owner of Dr DRiP Plumbing, had this to say about it. (Warning: He’s not backwards in coming forwards.)

All careers have their good points and bad points – their highs and their lows.

The point is, let’s think seriously about how we present a career in trade to all young people instead of automatically funnelling school leavers into university, when there is no real interest or motivation to head in that direction.

We take tradies for granted

Few of us take the time to acknowledge the important role tradies play. We take tradies for granted, even though they construct, maintain and fix things that form the foundation of our everyday lives.

Importantly, these jobs are never going away. Ever.

In comparison, as automation and AI disrupts the labour market, universities are preparing graduates for jobs that won’t exist.

That’s why I find it incredibly frustrating that parents and educators are not advocating for trade as a career path to more kids.

It’s time to make trade business better

As a trade business owner, I know one of the criticisms of the industry is the way apprentices are treated. In some cases, it’s a fair call. I hear you.

But mostly, it’s not the fault of the trade business owner. They’re good on the tools. They just haven’t been taught how to run a trade business.

At Lifestyle Tradie, we provide practical business education and coaching for trade business owners, including how to build and lead a team.

(Send me an email, if you’d like to know more.)

There is every reason for more kids to start a trade. Let’s tell them about it.