Removing the stigma around trades

Kudos to BCITO (Building Construction Industry Trade Organisation) for their latest ad campaign.

Source: YouTube

Titled ‘A Tricky Chat’, it shows a young man who very tentatively announces to his parents that he wishes to pursue a trade rather than go to university. Akin to a ‘coming out’ experience, the commercial highlights the stigma and long-held perception that a trade career is seen as ‘dirty work’ and is less intelligent than a university pathway.

I like this ad because it bravely challenges the traditional notions that prevail with many parents and young people today. Having worked at an all boys high school last year, I spoke with several senior students who felt pressure to undertake university study even though they would much prefer to work practically. For some, a trade was seen as a last resort. Something that you did if you got bad grades. Something to pursue if you had no other options. The main influence? Home.

What struck me was how small the pool of students were, of those contemplating a trades career. Even though there is greater access to employers and industry events, the disconnect between subjects and trade pathways proved a limiting factor.

I found it interesting that many of the students I dealt with wanted to pursue a business/commerce degree at university. Being a commerce graduate myself, I found the programme to be an extremely general qualification and it wasn’t easy to determine pathways upon completion. My perception as a young person was that business/commerce meant making lots of money and knowing how to run businesses (how naive was I!). Don’t get me wrong, I do value university education but I think we need to be better prepared for the realities of study.

While schools are quickly trying to catch-up and be ‘up with the play’, I urge parents and guardians to be open-minded when guiding their young person with their career options. Do not deter them from thinking about trades. Help them find information about them, show them videos, let them talk to people in the know. Be curious and ask them questions about it. There are many young people who are practical and naturally gifted with their problem solving and manual dexterity ability. Oh, to apply this to a trade.

What many people forget is that a trade career is not limited and can grow into many other things. Many tradespeople run their own businesses, pursue project management, become consultants, and diversify into other trades or ventures. Oh, and many will earn significantly more money then me, despite the fact I have two undergraduate degrees from the University of Auckland and a graduate diploma from AUT.

It would be great to see more ads of this kind.

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