Appreciating the value of skilled labor

On-the-job Traning by Erik707 (Flickr)I don’t know about you, but where I work, topics at the lunch table can vary greatly. A little while ago, the topic that came about was the value of skilled labor in America. In American culture, we value jobs that we consider to make a person “successful” and under-appreciate what we call “menial” or skilled labor jobs.

You have to wonder: What makes a person successful and why is that person’s job considered valuable while another person’s job is considered undesirable? Have we led the next generation to believe that a person’s value lies in the size of his or her paycheck instead of the intensity of his/her work ethic?

It makes me worrisome to think that kids that are graduating from college or high school right now are afraid to take a job that requires skilled labor. I worry that they are being pressured into pursuing careers that we have deemed desirable – CEOs, management, entrepreneurs, marketing, financial – while avoiding the jobs that are are considered below average – electricians, grocery stockers, waiters, cooks, dry cleaners, retail, etc. I strongly believe in the value of an education, but I also believe that higher education is not a requisite for everyone and every job. If my furnace stops working in 12 degree temperature (as it has done twice this winter), I’m going to call an HVAC service, but I don’t need him or her to have a college degree to perform the work. I need him or her to have the knowledge to get the job done and the work ethic to do it properly.

Our society has it all backwards. We tend to under-appreciate and disregard the people who make this country what it is. So here’s my call to action: Express gratitude to the service workers who affect your life every day. Say thank you to the people you see – the cashier, the waitress, the postman, the garbage man – and send up your thanks to the people you don’t see – the night shift workers, the manufacturers, the warehouse workers. These are the people who drive America. These are the people who make the American dream possible. Here’s to you – the American worker!

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