Some people paid their dues to earn their career opportunities since before being of the legal age to work in that state. There’s a grinder in Denver, CO who started working at an oil & lube shop at fourteen years old, thanks to the cousin being the manager and making it possible.
That kid went on to assemble apparel fixtures for a summer at Kmart, in the 100-degree heat inside of semi trailers parked in their lot. Then he worked through the classic McDonald’s experience, retail, janitorial, pool cleaning and other jobs throughout high school.
He paid his own dues after high school by grinding away cleaning tables as a buser, hauling buckets of ice and full kegs of beer as a barback, learning customer service as a waiter and even risking his safety as a bouncer at restaurants and bars over those years.
It would take him five and a half years to complete the education that others typically finished in four. On top of the restaurant jobs, he paid his dues by grinding on doing construction general labor, handyman work and drywalling.
None of that – including the education – provided the hands-on training for his career that an apprenticeship provides, so he also completed four internships. Only one of them was paid training. After that he worked for pennies on the dollar in the nonprofit sector because of the skill-building value of the experience.
“You’ve got to pay your dues,” the expression goes.
The dues paid by the Generation X dude in the example above pale in comparison to those by some Baby Boomers making their way through decades of social change.
Probably no generation alive today knows about paying their dues like the parents of Baby Boomers. They called it the Greatest Generation for a reason.
Really it could be argued that the more generations you go back, the more brutal the dues were that had to just be accepted as the price to pay to be a human of that era.
So maybe the Millennials have been given a bad rap.
If you sit in on any committees with the instructors of construction trade schools, you’ll hear talk about how today’s students don’t want to look up from their smartphone screens, and recruiting into the skilled trades is tougher than ever.
According to Anthony Carnevale, economist and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Millennials should consider a career in the trades for a variety of reasons.
The Baby Boomers in the trade are retiring, creating demand and opportunity for those entering the field as the Gen X-ers move up from apprentices to journeymen to master masons.
The averages cited in studies comparing income of those with university degrees versus those without one “lie,” according to Carnevale. Too often, they lump retail cashiers with master masons, electricians or carpenters.
Carnevale went on to say, "You can get a particular skill in a particular field and make more than a college graduate.” The average electrician makes $5,000 more a year than average person with a bachelor’s degree was the example he used.
So why aren’t more Millennials entering the trades?
Some trade school instructors will mention that young people today prefer more social-skill based sales careers, or desk jobs because that’s the path many of their peers have taken.
According to the NAHB Economics and Housing Policy Group study conducted last year, the number one reason cited for not entering the construction trades by career-undecided Millennials was wanting “a less physically-demanding job.”
However, recruiting isn’t the problem, according to Jerry Gondek of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association (OPCMIA) Local #577. Some Millennials enjoy the idea of building something tangible and real.
“We’ve had some luck with recruiting 18-24 year olds,” Gondek said. “The problem is keeping them interested past the first few rounds of hard labor dues to be paid as an apprentice.”
Let’s give Millennials a chance – while maybe managing their expectations and understanding of what paying ones dues means in the world of concrete – so they are better equipped to form more concrete careers.
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