Joe Lamacchia, author of Blue Collar and Proud of It, is the leading advocate for blue collar jobs as a career path. His book provides information on blue collar job options, how to train for a blue collar job, and where to find a blue collar job.
I asked Joe to share his expertise and advice for workers seeking a blue collar job. Joe provides insight for people moving from a white collar position, for older workers, for women, and for students investigating blue collar job options.
Given the difficult economy and the job market, what type of opportunities are there for degreed workers to move to a blue collar job?
To start, there is no need to think of this as "moving down" or a down grade. There are many people who *choose* to change from white collar to blue collar jobs. There are so many opportunities and possibilities in the blue collar sectors.
Green collar jobs are plentiful and exciting. Green is growing and these green collar jobs combine the skills of blue collar trades people with environmental industries. Building wind turbines, installing solar panels, weatherizing municipal buildings are all green collar jobs.
There was $144 billion from the national stimulus package set aside for infrastructure jobs and this is going to generate thousands of jobs. Our country's bridges and roads and tunnels are literally crumbling. These projects will all generate the need for skilled tradesmen and women.
I hear from quite a few job seekers who are interested in giving up their traditional career, but aren't sure how to go about it. Do you have tips for career changers?
Career changing can be tough but it isn't impossible. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you have to have patience and a willingness to learn.
Almost any experienced tradesman would be willing to train an eager, dedicated, hard working individual. Maybe you have to get a weekend or part time job to learn the ropes or perhaps even offer to work a few hours for free in exchange for the training. But find your passion or at least find something that is really interesting and engaging. If you hate cars don't try to force yourself into becoming a car mechanic. But if carpentry has always been a hobby of yours you might decide to pursue this in a more serious way.
Local trade school and even community colleges offer night and weekend courses to get you going on certificates and training.
For women, what advice can you share on breaking into a male-dominated field? How do you overcome the objections that women can't do that and increase the small number of women in the trades? With apprenticeship programs is there equal consideration for women applicants, and, if not, how can a woman make herself competitive?
There are many programs and organizations around the country that are dedicated to helping women get into the skilled trades. Some of these offer training programs and apprenticeships while others provide guidance and support. Check out Blue Collar and Proud of It for all of the specifics on the organizations and programs. Most importantly, this is absolutely, positively women's work.
Women make excellent welders and electricians -- especially since these trades require serious hand to eye coordination. Women are working on cars, working as truck drivers, and even in the sky as ironworkers.
Unions are very receptive to women and in fact often recruit women. These fields are much more receptive and open and friendly toward women. Plus, unions offer women the opportunity to earn good money, a pension, and reasonable hours so that they can still be with their families, if that is a factor. I'm not saying that it's all easy all the time for women, but the blue collar world has come a long way.
How about older blue collar job seekers (especially those transitioning from a white collar job)? Any tips for getting hired?
Dedication, the willingness to get trained and the willingness to work hard. That's my advice for anyone at any age. But just because you're in your 40's or 50's doesn't mean you can't change careers. Pick something that interests you, consider what has to be done to train and prepare for the job, and then go out there and prove yourself.
I talked to one woman who got laid off at 55 and ended up going to truck driving school. She loves to drive and travel and found her second career much later in life. Age is often seen as a benefit in the blue collar world, and much more so than in many of the white collar industries. Age often signals maturity and a willingness to learn and work hard.
For high school students, how do you counter the push into college that you mention? How can blue collar jobs be promote as a legitimate career path (which they are)?
College is a great option for some, but it's not for everyone. It's very important to do something that you want to do, that you can feel good about.
If you need to be outside, touching and feeling and moving and building then you should feel excited to go blue collar. We need our plumbers and carpenters and car mechanics just as much as we need our doctors and engineers and scientists. We can't run our homes and cities and towns without blue collar workers. I think that's something to be proud of. At the end of the day you can see the results of your work, you can help individuals or communities and you can feel good about what you're doing.
People working in the skilled trades can make great money and they can love what they are doing. Don't be afraid to follow your passions and your heart and go after something you really want. Only, you have to work hard, very hard. Success doesn't come easy, no matter what field you go into.