Technically, I’m a white collar worker. I sit in front of a computer, pounding away at the keyboard all day, every day, to earn the money I need to support my family. For me, this makes a lot of sense because being a writer best uses my strengths and personality quirks to full effect.
When I was in school, however, there was a definite push to tell everyone to be white collar. “You need to go to college,” they all said. Trade schools were presented like some kind of consolation prize, the place you went if you weren’t smart enough for college.
Honestly, that’s the wrong approach.
While I won’t bash people who work in white collar professions, and I won’t tell people they’re wrong for wanting white collar jobs, what I am going to say is that blue collar professions deserve the same respect.
Going back to my own school days, we were told that college was the ticket to success. Over and over again, we were bombarded with “go to college” rhetoric until we got it in our heads that not going to college would lead to less than satisfactory lives.
So, my generation swarmed college campuses. We studied things like computer programming, physical therapy, teaching, and whatever else we wanted to get a job in, then we went to work and started our own families.
A handful of my generation didn’t do that, though. They bucked the trend and went to trade schools or joined the military to learn a trade. After a few years, they entered the workforce too, and they got married and raised families.
Yet, somehow, it was easy to look down on those who took that other path. They were losers who were going to never amount to anything.
We were elitist idiots.
These days, it’s not hard to find stories of college graduates working low-paying jobs that may only barely touch on what they studied who are lamenting trying to pay back student loans on their meager incomes. While we pushed our kids to go to school, we didn’t tell them that they should major in something useful like STEM field, teaching, nursing, anything they could get a job with.
No, we sent them off to college to load themselves with debt for jobs that just didn’t exist.
But those whose kids went to trade school? They get jobs. They get good paying jobs to start with.
For example, the average starting salary for a teacher is $37,141 per year. The average starting salary for a welder is $37,176 annually. Further, some welders are making six-figure incomes via their trade.
Let’s be honest, at some point in time, each one of us is going to need a blue collar worker. Car repairs, plumbing issues, electrical repairs at home, or any of a myriad of other things. Even if you’re pretty handy, you’re going to need an expert at some point.
For example, I’ve fixed a lot of stuff in my time, but when the AC went out the other day, we needed to call a pro. I don’t know anything about HVAC, after all. Out comes the expert, a blue collar guy who learned either at someone’s side or in a trade school, and he went to work. In less than an hour, our home was cooling off nicely.
However, I’ve never needed someone with a degree in English lit, or history, or art. The average person only encounters someone with these degrees either as teachers or socially.
We need these blue collar folks, and folks in the white collar world need to stop looking down on these people. They work hard as hell. We white collar folks have it easy, and I know it.
You see, when I first got out of the Navy, I knew I needed a job. I went into construction, and it was brutal. Working in 90-degree heat, lifting sheets upon sheets of plywood and 2×4’s wears on you. When you start working on the inside of the house, it doesn’t get any better. Drywall is also heavy, and now the breeze isn’t cooling you off. In high humidity, the shade isn’t much of a help either.
That was my life, and it was tough. But you know what? I learned to respect those guys who do that work. They were tougher than I was in many, many ways. Day in and day out, they slogged through almost any weather to keep working.
Meanwhile, some white collar workers consider it a hardship if the coffee maker goes out on them.
Look, I’m not going to bash white collar workers. Like I said, I am one. Instead, I want to point out that if you’re one of those who looks down on the blue collar worker, stop. We need them, often a lot more than most of them need us.