“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” ~ Steve Jobs
For almost 70 years, it's been the universal assumption that top students would go to a 4-year university, get a bachelor's degree (at minimum), then continue on in an office environment, slowly making their way up the work ladder until they find themselves in the corner office on the highest floor. Only the students who cannot make it end up in trade school and blue collar work is seen by our modern society as a dead end path.
The truth is that blue collar work should be a serious consideration for any high school student thinking about what to do with his or her life, or people currently working in jobs they hate. Trade jobs have a myriad of benefits: great pay, strong job security, and numerous intangible advantages―from greater autonomy to experiencing the joy of working with one's hands and solving concrete problems.
Tradesmen made America what it is. Our buildings, roads, cars, homes, and our great infrastructure of abundant energy and clean water―all of these things were built by the greasy and calloused hands of blue collar workers. To think that these careers belong in a museum in our techno-entrepreneur world is a complete underestimation of the value these jobs still hold in our rapidly urbanizing cities and towns. America still needs new skyscrapers, updated roads and highways, and water systems to save us from drought. These are projects that require the handy work of tradesman, not the white collar office workers.
While there is nothing wrong with pursing a bachelor's degree and working in a cubicle, people who feel that they cannot work in such jobs should forget the old stereotypes and myths that the only good jobs out there are those that require a bachelor's degree. It's true that many jobs that require a bachelor's degree typically pay more than those that don't. But there seems to be this culturally-institutionalized belief that in order to live happily in our generation governed by consumerism and capitalism we must become wealthy, obtain corporate jobs, and adopt a luxurious lifestyle. That does not have to be the case.
Although we live in a post-industrialized age, let us not forget that our country's infrastructure still needs to grow and be maintained. And by no means am I dismissing the importance of white collar workers. But I would argue that this country needs a plenitude of both white collar office workers and blue collar tradesmen and quite frankly, there seems to be a noticeable imbalance between the two as our modern culture is becoming increasingly skewed towards the idea of going to college, getting a B.A., and then becoming an arduous office worker or an executive. It's almost as if colleges these days are now some kind of profitable gimmick that college districts seek to commercialize. It's ridiculous how much insurmountable faith is placed in what too many people believe to be the sole gateway to a brighter future. Higher education is frequently perceived these days as the absolute road to success in the professional world when it should be considered as a possible road to success along with the other possible paths that prospective students can choose from.
Our salaries do not need to exceed $30,000 a year in order for us to survive. If we focused more on wisely budgeting our money, resisting the temptation to use credit, and spending it more on the necessities and less on the non-essentials, we could live confidently with better self-control, stability, and financial security regardless of what job we have. If you embrace minimalism the possibilities of making a comfortable living broaden economically and financially speaking. Thus, the opportunities become truly endless in the job market. Do not conform to the materialistic and superficial passions of generation X―do not let your possessions own you or hold you back from experiencing what you want to experience and doing what you want to do. So explore every possible avenue. Whether one chooses to attend college, trade school, or obtain a work license/certificate, there is a place for everyone in our country's labor force.