Skilled trades the most satisfying career path

Date: 1st May 2014


An industrial revolution is taking place in our country at the moment – the Christchurch rebuild.  What does this mean for career opportunities in Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand?  We suggested in an earlier blog post that tradies have nailed the secret of life.  And we make the point again that some of the most important, and therefore most satisfying, careers out there right now, have to be in the skilled trades.

We came across this forum on Reddit and would like to share a post from a tradie in Canada.  Even though he is based in another country, it’s fair to say that his comments are highly relevant to tradespeople in New Zealand too.

The question posed was: What career path did you choose that you strongly advise?

This is a reply from livewithit

Anything in the skilled trades. Possibly the most under-rated career out there today.

Here in Canada, I’ve watched many of my friends graduate with a university degree, and barely even be competitive for a part-time retail position. Yet, here in Ontario, and especially Toronto, we are facing an ever-growing shortage of skilled workers, and a projected increase in work, (especially with serious, necessary infrastructure upgrades in Toronto).

Why? Because we beat into our high-school students that they need to get a university degree to be anything of value, or to be successful in life, and everyone views the skilled trades as a last resort, the kind of job for the kids who dropped out of high school.

Well, I know a number of licensed electricians, plumbers, HVAC workers, sheet-metal workers, elevator constructors, ironworkers, etc. etc. etc. who dropped out of high school and pull in over $70,000 a year. The ones who stayed in high school? The ones with ambition, drive, and pride in their work? Those tend to become foremen, supervisors and inspectors etc., pulling in over $100,000 a year. (Much more common than you think.)

If you can get in a construction union, for example, IBEW for electricians (my chosen trade), you now also enjoy full benefits and one of the most secure pension plans in the country.

Other benefits of the skilled trades? (Here in Canada at least): Start working right after high school. By doing an apprenticeship over a college or university education, you start working and making money right away, rather than going into debt, or spending tens of thousands on education before you even have a job. I’ll have enough saved for a down payment on a house by the time I’m 24. (Which in Toronto is a big deal; houses ain’t cheap.) My friends in university can’t even comprehend that idea.

Job security. Less and less new workers, more and more work. Very rarely is a competent tradesman in a good trade or union out of work. Options for career advancement. I don’t have to bust my ass for my paycheque for the rest of my life. Once I have 8 to 10 years’ experience in a specific trade, better, “cushier” options present themselves. Like inspector, supervisor, foreman — even opening my own company if I so choose. Option to start your own company. The great thing about starting a company that revolves around a skilled trade? You are the biggest asset. Your knowledge and experience in your chosen trade are the most important piece. Low initial cash investment, just some additional licenses and paperwork, and scale up as you get more work. Starting almost any other kind of company or business usually requires a much larger initial investment, and doesn’t have nearly as high a success rate, at least that I’m aware of.

Yes it’s hard work. But you get used to it, and with a little ambition, drive, and intelligence, it doesn’t have to be hard work forever. I’m an electrical apprentice at a good company, and I could not be happier with the career path I have chosen.

Can we help with your trades business?

Posted in: Alexandra, Latest News, Queenstown