There are many positions that can be filed under the umbrella of the skilled trades. Among the positions are those in automotive, manufacturing (ex. a machinist), HVAC, building trades, and welding. These types of positions can also be referred to as “blue collar”, although there are many positions that fall under this term that are not skilled trades. 

Generally speaking, skilled trades are jobs performed using a person’s hands that require something beyond entry-level type of skills. This type of skill can be learned in a variety of ways, but generally by performing in either a hands-on training program or an apprenticeship.

The skilled trades are one of the areas that are becoming more difficult for employers to fill positions in each passing year. As the nation becomes more focused on advanced education and professional type of positions, the pool of talent available shrinks for employers. The skilled trades can be an excellent way for a person to have a stable career and income, where the fear of unemployment is lower than other industries.

The following are some tips and items to consider if you a seeking or job searching in the Skilled Trades:

• Be Prepared to Pay Your Dues – This area is not called the “skilled trades” for nothing. It means you are “skilled”. This may mean not only going through an intensive specific training program, but also serving in an apprenticeship program that may take several years (and which you will only receive partial income). This is especially true in areas such as plumbing or electrical. The aforementioned are also two areas where you will need to be licensed. Typically, there is a cost to becoming licensed and a person needs to successfully pass an exam to receive this distinction. On a related note, many of these positions may be part of a labor union. If this is something that you do not want to be part of, then focus on employers that are non-union. If you are interested (or don’t mind), then knowing which union and what will be the related dues should be important.

• Non Glamorous Work – Now, glamour is all in the eye of the beholder, but typically this work is done in less than optimal conditions. This may mean being under a sink, or working outdoors in oppressive heat or teeth chattering cold. You even could be working in a facility as a machinist in minimal climate control. If the physical environment is crucial to you, then perhaps an area other than the skilled trades should be your focus. However, since many manufacturers are in clean state of the art facilities, it’s best to get a tour of the facility prior to see for yourself as to your working conditions.

• Reliability – Of course, reliability is important in all areas, but it is a particular focus in the skilled trades. If you are working in the mechanic, HVAC, plumbing, etc. field, then someone is counting on you to show up and complete your work as promised. If you are seeking a position in this field, then stress to the Hiring Manager how you have been reliable in the past. If you have received any type of recognition, such as Perfect Attendance, make sure to note it.

• Problem-Solving – Do you have problem-solving, analytical skills? If you are someone that can review a problem and come up with a solution, then skilled trades may be for you. This will usually need to be done with limited supervision or other advice. If you are interviewing for a skilled trade job than note how you have solved problems in the past, especially when you have solved something that others could not fix.

• Work Independently – In some situations, you may be working as a team, but often working independently will be required. This places additional focus on your reliability and problem-solving attributes. The Hiring Manager will need to feel comfortable that you will be able to work effectively and safely with a minimum level of supervision required.

• Physical Demands – As you can imagine with jobs that require you to work with your hands, most skilled trade jobs can be physical in nature. This means that you may go home mentally tired, but you most definitely will be physically fatigued. These are positions that may wear, especially over time, on your body. If you are seeking this type of a position make sure you can perform the essential elements of the position. Be prepared to discuss any “non-essential” elements that you may require an accommodation.

A position in the skilled trades can be an ideal way to secure a career in these challenging economic times. Review the items listed above to either determine whether a career in the skilled trades appears right for you, or how you can secure your next position in this field.

As always, best of luck in your job search!

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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