Analysis: Skilled trades will name their own wages in the future

“The wave of the future is coming, and there is no fighting it.”
– Anne Morrow Lindberg

Nineteen percent of our high school graduates will complete a college degree of some type. We spend our energy, money, and talent to provide opportunities for this 19 percent. What are we successfully doing for or offering the other 81 percent?
“You must go to college to be successful” has been a thought and a mantra that has been poorly defined and, therefore, less than successful for most Oklahomans. Perhaps our mantra should be “You must be a continual learner if you desire to be successful.”
The trades—electricians, framers, masons, concrete experts, plumbers, roofers—offer opportunities to make a great living and to own one’s own business.

The need: For every one person coming into the trades, four are retiring. There is an immediate shortage of 200,000 construction workers.
The opportunity: A person with minimal skills and willingness to work can start tomorrow at double the minimum wage. Last year signs were posted at a heat and air company distributor offering a $5,000 signing bonus for a licensed heat and air technician. I know three people in the trades who earn over $100,000 per year with only a high school degree. Their “college” was becoming a licensed professional tradesperson.

As Suzanne and I walk our neighborhood, I have made the comment that I have a recurring nightmare that some time I will actually walk a half block and not see a lawyer. There is a reason to question the quality of your society when there is a lawyer on every block and you cannot find a plumber.

In June Todd Feehan, the owner of Dad’s Plumbing, and I will visit Kansas City to call on the Kauffman Foundation, the Mechanical Contractor’s Association of Kansas City, the National Electrical Contractors Association, the Kansas City Home Builders Association, and others to acquaint them with LIZROM, our trades training curriculum development company.
If you have an interest in contributing knowledge, learning a trade, mentoring, or offering our young people increased career options, call me at 405/412-7861 ext 2 or Todd Feehan at 405/201-0078.

NOTE: This commentary first appeared in the June 2018 print edition of The City Sentinel newspaper. Jack L. Werner, Ph.D., owns A to Z Inspections and can be reached at 405/412-7861 or His commentaries appear regular in The City Sentinel. A to Z Inspections performs commercial and residential inspections. Learn more at ( Jack has a construction degree from Oklahoma State University, and was Oklahoma’s first designated master inspector. He teaches inspections as well as courses for the Oklahoma state Home Builders. The National Association of home builders named him a master instructor in 2017.