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The Case For Working With Your Hands

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the leaving-the-cubicle-farm-far-behind dept.

Education 386

theodp writes "At a time when the question of what a good job looks like is wide open, a book excerpt in the NY Times magazine says it's time to take a fresh look at the trades. High-school shop-class programs were dismantled in the '90s as educators prepared students to become 'knowledge workers' in a pure information economy. Was this a huge mistake? A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic instead of accumulating academic credentials is now viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive, complains Matthew Crawford, who took his University of Chicago PhD and opened a motorcycle repair shop. Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, 'You can't hammer a nail over the Internet' (never say never). Guess we all should have paid more attention to Nicholas Negroponte's landmark-in-retrospect Being Digital (ironically, no Kindle version)."

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Was this was a huge mistake? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28073849)

You fucking idiots.

IAAC (5, Interesting)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073871)

I am a chemistry graduate and I've always said that for a high science, chemistry is very blue-collar. Let's look at the facts:

We are on our feet all day and work with our hands.
Most people I know in the field have burns, scars, or callouses.
We listen to Radio 1 all day.

'course, I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it.

Re:IAAC (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073921)

cant this be said for mechanical , civil , etc engineering?

Re:IAAC (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073933)

No, in those disciplines the guy with the degree who draw the plans, and the guy in the hard hat who builds it, aren't the same person. I do a few hours of bookwork a day, and the rest is practical.

Re:IAAC (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073965)


cause from what i see in college it is the mech and civil people stuck with the lathe machines, smithy shop,foundry and strength of materials labs in the heat

Re:IAAC (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074259)

Yes of course. You are in University to learn.

As a Comp Sci/Physics person, I spent a lot of time programming basic data structures, well known algorithms, assembly, etc ... I have never done anything similar in my job.

Learning and jobs can be very different things. Hence the original poster's point.

Re:IAAC (5, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073947)

I am a chemistry graduate and I've always said that for a high science, chemistry is very blue-collar. Let's look at the facts:

You wash your hands before going to the toilet.

Re:IAAC (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074009)

Hey, you never know when you might accidentally discover the next Genital Herpes vaccine.

Re:IAAC (4, Funny)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074059)

Hahahaha, it's so true. When I was an undergraduate we joked about that, until I walked into one of the bathrooms. A respected professor was washing his hands, then dried them and went up to the urinal next to me.

Re:IAAC (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074167)

Yeah, but really, we should *all* be doing that. I mean, the body part in question is typically completely covered up from the time you shower and only exposed for the events in question (and certain other events that most people don't do throughout the work day). It is, therefore, much cleaner than your hands are.

Re:IAAC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074399)

I do that, and I don't work in chemistry. I'm just very protective of Mr. Happy.

Re:IAAC (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074121)

Depends what you mean by graduate, and a BS in chemistry is worthless and will get you crappy quality control jobs. You have to get a higher degree to do anything with chemistry that a trained chimp can't. I'm a chemist too.

Re:IAAC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074249)

Depends what you mean by graduate, and a BS in chemistry is worthless and will get you crappy quality control jobs. You have to get a higher degree to do anything with chemistry that a trained chimp can't. I'm a chemist too.

Not true. If you do well in school you can use your degree to get a job maintaining water chemistry at a nuclear power plant. From there I've seen several people then transfer to shift engineers (shift technical advisors) and then to licensed senior reactor operators (unit supervisors). If you play your cards correctly you can be making $150K/yr within 10 years of being hired and only with a BS in Chemistry.

Re:IAAC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074257)

Yes no matter your hard work, a BS in chem won't mean anything. You also better be white, male and tall to get a job. And then you won't be paid much if you aren't tall, white, and male.

That's why I switched to computer science because you are recognized for your accomplishments.

The trades aren't much better at all. You're dealing directly with the public and running your own business will never get you the money you can make working for someone else. So that sucks too.

There are no good jobs left in the USA. The USA has been sold out.

Re:IAAC (1, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074447)

Give the man a cigar. All these "work with your hands types" are missing the elephant in the room: They will just give that job to an illegal that will get paid peanuts [] to do the job. Of course before if you worked hard and got a degree you were assured you would be able to feed your family, today they will just hire an H1-B who will work like a dog and get paid peanuts [] because it cost him 1/10th the amount for a master's degree than it did you.

That is why we are going to have to fight at the grass roots level and support any part BUT the Dems or Repubs. The whole "red VS blue" is a total bullshit pro wrestling game where it doesn't matter who wins, YOU LOSE! Look at how much Obama is like Bush? Look at how many times you have read "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" why? Because he is cashing the same checks and answering to the same corps that Bush did. That "giant sucking sound" you hear is all our money being sent overseas and never returning. It is being sent with our jobs, or by illegals and H1-Bs that are sending the cash home while those in the USA find more and more posted jobs are just "How not to hire an American" BS postings. So all this talk of "will you have a job if you work with your hands instead of a degree?" is BS. You will NOT have a job because they will give it to a guy that lives with a dozen guys in a tiny apartment and will work for a wage that won't even put food on your table. Just as the job requiring a degree will be sent to Bangalore if they just don't bring Bangalore to the job. It is time to wake up before we lose what little we have left.

Re:IAAC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074253)

The joke among those in chemistry graduate school was, if you don't make it in chemistry you have a bright future in dish washing and cooking.:-)

hurr durr (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28073879)

inb4 i work with my right hand twice a day

Re:hurr durr (-1, Troll)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073971)

Shut up fartknocker uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh.

Agreed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28073891)

I know the feeling.
I'm a sysAdmin at a mine and spend 50% of my day 5000ft underground and have my share of knicks and scrapes. (A few good stories too.... Cisco does not play well with bat guano...)

If I had to start over... (4, Insightful)

hodet (620484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073903)

I don't have any regrets with my path and have had a long happy IT career but if I had to start over I would definitely get a couple of trades. So many opportunities to start your own company and thrive if you are good at it. Lots of hard work but the possibilities are endless. Look at the big expensive houses in your area and I bet there are quite a few "company" pickups with construction company advertising on them in the driveway. Of course you have to enjoy what you do, but how many kids today would have loved this kind of work, but didn't consider it because they were discouraged to?

Re:If I had to start over... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074227)

Is wanking a trade? If so, I should be rich.

Re:If I had to start over... (4, Funny)

deimtee (762122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074331)

Only if you're not self-employed.

college.. (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073909)

while not in school, all of the engineering colleges here have basic workshop in the 1st semester for all branches, which teaches the basics of fitting,carpentry and soldering, sometimes it is handy to have these skills

Home econ even... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28073911)

So, with an undergrad degree in CS, and a masters in EE, and just about to get an MBA... I still am a shit cook. That's right, I am a horrible cook. I know some of you out there are probably excellent cooks, but I also think there are a LOT of us who think we are really smart, but still can barely make macaroni and cheese, fish sticks, or grill some chicken properly.

Why has my entire educational experience skipped out on something so basic. Yes, it may seem that it is basic and a common activity that we should "just know how", but really.. sometimes you just need instruction on vital things that you wouldn't otherwise grasp. (such as hygene, or balancing your bank accounts, or.. maybe social etiquite or public speaking)

They make us great engineers, but they completely skip over the parts of how to be good, well rounded human beings.

Re:Home econ even... (4, Interesting)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074007)

My mum once gave me a book called "Cooking for Blokes" as a joke but it's probably one of the best presents I've ever had. It takes you through the basics from boiling an egg upwards to making various types of cuisine such as chilli, curry, Italian and Thai. I don't know how available it is in the US but I'm sure there's a "Cooking for Dudes" or somesuch available there. Learn how - it's very therapeutic, not to mention healthier.

Re:Home econ even... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074171)

what does this have to do with the post you replied to?

Re:Home econ even... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074247)

He complained he was a shitty cook, you shitty cock.

Re:Home econ even... (1)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074489)

How to Boil Water [] might be an equivalent. It's a goos primer on food prep, but it's also got great recipes in it. I got it as a going-away-to-college gift.

It's amazing, though, how many people don't even know how to do things for themselves. I spent the first three years of college in what was essentially a University-funded co-op house [] , part of the time as kitchen manager, and it shocked me to see how many people couldn't make food. I don't mean they were bad cooks, but that they didn't know how to do basic things like cook pasta or brown meat, and didn't want to learn (naturally, they all picked shifts as lunch cooks...)

There's going to be a lot of dead weight in my generation, it seems...

Re:Home econ even... (3, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074201)

When I was at school, aged 15 or 16, (not particularly long ago) they did try to teach us to cook. There were two major problems, however: it was under the heading of 'food technology', and the teaching standard was absolutely terrible.

The problem with that title was all the baggage that came with it. The course required things like design briefs and so on, because they had shoehorned cooking into the same (mandatory and poorly taught) stream as woodworking and other similar courses. The idea of rotating between cooking, woodwork and a few other modules that don't stick in my mind was a good one, but they made it almost totally useless by the way they structured the exercise. The teachers might even have been competent if they'd been left to show us the practical aspects of how to make 'x', but I remain dubious about that.

There was also a course called PSE (personal and social education). They have since attached about 3 further letters to the name, but the concept remains the same - a small amount of time dedicated to the teaching of general life skills as you suggested. It was also an absolute joke. Basically, just imagine a syllabus written by the hippie stereotype teacher from Beavis and Butthead and a government education minister. Their hearts were in the right place, but the implementation was a complete failure - the students didn't take it seriously, the teachers didn't know what they were doing and nobody really achieved anything. If they'd thrown us some useful factual information on these life skills rather than having a room full of bored teenagers sit and listen to feel-good crap that didn't really apply to their lives, it would probably have worked a lot better.

My point, I suppose, is that any attempt at direct, practical education that I've seen has been chewed up and spat out by the same buzzword-wielding bureaucrats who think it's a good idea to set targets for the entirety of the school-leaving population to go to university, only for many of them to waste three or four years and a huge amount of money that could have been used learning a skilled trade as the summary suggests.

Very true (5, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073929)

A skilled trade is an excellent way to make a good living; and is a way to do what you enjoy. cars need to be repaired, plumbing fixed, houses built and repaired. Those skills are both valuable and not easily replicated if you do quality work.

Of course, many trades require a pretty solid eduction as well. Mechanics once needed mechanical aptitude and the ability to work well with their hands; today it requires that plus an understanding of computers and advanced electronics / electrical theory.

Unfortunately, people tend to look down as anything not requiring a college education as lesser work.

Re:Very true (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074109)

Let them look down but I'm hauling in 50 grand a year fixing bicycles. And my buddy is grabing a good 65 grand mowning lawns. We both started our life long business when we where 13 and 15 years old.

Re:Very true (2, Funny)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074133)

And the good think is that both of the jobs you describe can't be outsourced so you have some security too.

Re:Very true (4, Interesting)

sleigher (961421) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074175)

People can look down on it all they want. I am sysadmin (unix/storage) now and have been for a long time. When the .BOMB happened I had to go into construction for a while to get by. I wasn't that happy about it then but I am very happy I did it now. The skills I learned have proved very valuable. I can build/fix whatever I want for my house myself, repair plumbing, do some electrical work, all from what I learned working for a general contractor. So instead of paying a plumber/spark $65/hr, I can do the work myself. Save money and have the satisfaction of a job well done.

Re:Very true (3, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074305)

Unfortunately, people tend to look down as anything not requiring a college education as lesser work.

I wonder if some of these people are the same people that are complaining that foreigners are coming over taking "American Jobs". Jobs that the educational system regards as inferior and that have a low social status. While perhaps not all jobs are equal; at least those providing maintenance of vital systems and vehicles should be provided with a serious educational alternative and not be treated like they are worth less than those with an academic degree. Being an electrician, for instance, might not be as "intellectually challenging", in the eyes of some, as taking a degree; but we need good electricians as much, or more, than your average university graduate.

Looking down at the 'skilled trades' (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074387)

Ya, I agree a lot of people do consider it 'mineral uneducated work', at least until they need their roof fixed or their plumbing stops working and they cant figure it out on their own..

Of course back when i was in school, the 'computer techs' down the hall from our engineering classes were considered a 'trade' as well, to be lumped in with the HVAC guys and made fun of.. ( not that i did, but far too many so called "educated" engineers did )

Re:Looking down at the 'skilled trades' (1)

sleigher (961421) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074501)

Well the same kind of mentality applies. I can talk to the "Network Architects" at work and they can show me a drawing of how the network works and the design features and all that. The question is could they sit down and build it using the hardware and associated protocols? Doubtful... Big difference in thinking and doing..... I can think all day about how the electrical in my house works, and understand the theory behind it. But can I wire my house so that everything works, and I don't burn it down? Maybe, but it is in my interest to have an electrician look at it to make sure. Not necessarily an electrical engineer.

Re:Very true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074461)

Unfortunately, people tend to look down as anything not requiring a college education as lesser work.

I agree. I caught so much crap from my friends, family, teachers, co-workers for not going to college. I opted not to go to college and stick with my job that I had during my senior year of high school. It turns out that I am better off financially then all of my friends and family who ended up going to college. And to be honest most of my friends / family who went to college are bored out of their minds. I work in the IT field for a independent service company that works with schools, businesses, government agencies and its a new challenge every day.

ITI's (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073949)

there are Industrial training institutes and different colleges have programmes where you can get a diploma in these trades

wouldnt that be better than a high school class?

Err... what? (4, Insightful)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073955)

"the latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries."

No, no they won't. Sure it's not as easy to push manual labor elsewhere - that doesn't mean it can't happen: Look at the engineering and textiles industries in Britain. Sure, there were lots of them, and their staff did work "in person and on site" - but that didn't stop the industry being screwed over by workhouses in distant countries that could produce the goods for cheaper. While the British equivalents may well have 'survived' to some extent, the shops and companies wanting the goods produced weren't willing to pay the cash to produce in Britain, and bought their goods elsewhere (Chinese textile mills, for example). Voila: your job is gone, whether you're manual labor or working via a wire.

Re:Err... what? (5, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073989)

Ok, lets say I'm a plumber, you have a clogged toilet. You aren't going to call some guy from China who will fly out and meet you there. Same thing with electricians, roofers, carpenters, etc. Heck, even the more "manual" parts of computer sciences (computer repair, sysadmin, help desk) won't be outsourced because someone has to plug in the cable, change the RAM, swap out HDs, etc.

Re:Err... what? (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074037)

' have a clogged toilet. You aren't going to call some guy from China who will fly out and meet you there.'

The way things are going with cheaply made crap ;^), I expect that soon they'll ship a new toilet from China by air and you swap it for the clogged one and ship the clogged one back! :)

Re:Err... what? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074189)

And who's unmounting and mounting the toilet? (Which by the way is more work than simply unclogging it.)

Oh, and unclogging is an easy job. You need two things: Industrial strength toilet unclogger, and one of those long "wires" that you can put into the toilet and twist, to drill trough it.

But you *really* have to be cautious with the unclogging acid, because it burns trough everything. Toilet seats, pants, flesh, carpet, etc.
Also do not store it anywhere, where anything else is. Because I know from own experience, that it slowly diffuses *trough* the plastic bottles and cardboard boxes it comes in, and then attacks everything it comes in contact with.

Re:Err... what? (2)

peektwice (726616) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074221)

No, the plumbing companies create a false shortage of plumbers, lobby the government for a new type of work visa, and get low paid workers from third world countries to come do the job for 30% of what Americans will do it for.

Re:Err... what? (1)

Ogre332 (145645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074457)

Wouldn't happen. Plumbers, electricians, and the rest have large unions who help fill the politicians campaign coffers.

Re:Err... what? (2, Interesting)

Diddlbiker (1022703) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074351)

But services do get replaced by goods. Goods that are produced cheaply in foreign countries. I'm not saying that plumbing goes that way, but other services do, or did.
Shoemakers and tailors are virtually non-existent in the US - when clothes and shoes are worn out we simply replace them with something new. Heck, we replace them with something new way before that.
Electronics: same thing. Who is spending money to have their 8 year old tv repaired when it starts to smoke. Who has an 8 year old TV?
I can imagine that at one point it is going to be cheaper to have your dishwasher swapped out for a loaner unit while your broken copy gets sent to Bangladesh and back for repairs.

But I agree that being a repairman or electrician is far more secure than being a programmer.

Re:Err... what? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074391)

Sure, but those goods get replaced eventually by services. Before the invention of the computer and electronic calculator, there were people who spent hours painstakingly doing math for tables. When the electronic calculator and computer were released to the masses, their job was almost obsolete. However, other fields opened up with the demise of the human calculator, programmers, etc. The demise of a service replaced with a good almost always gets replaced with more jobs in services than before.

Re:Err... what? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074415)

While i agree, consumer electronics is getting to the point you don't repair them, its cheaper t just buy a new one instead of pay someone an hourly fee close to 75% of the new shiny more powerful machine. When was the last time you had a TV repaired? Or a cell phone ( which also used to be stupid priced not long ago )

While talking about businesses, in theory the box lasts until its depreciated, and when it breaks after that its dumpster food.

Sure a few "repair careers" will be left, but 90% will be washed aside in the 'throwaway' society.

Re:Err... what? (2, Insightful)

hodet (620484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074019)

I didn't RTFA but I think they are talking about trades. How do you outsource the electrical and plumbing of a building project in your city to India? Local hands on work needs to be done locally. You are talking about goods being manufactured in a central facility for consumption in other geographic areas.

Re:Err... what? (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074069)

'How do you outsource the electrical and plumbing of a building project in your city to India? Local hands on work needs to be done locally.'

Waldoes []

Re:Err... what? (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074153)

My landlord outsourced the plumbing to a foreign country. It never works, and when someone comes to look at it, he's Polish.

H-1B visa (2, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074451)

How do you outsource the electrical and plumbing of a building project in your city to India?



Re:Err... what? (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074021)

I think they mean things like fitting windows, plumbing or car repair, where the job cannot be outsourced at all. Not factory work which was the first to disappear to the Far East.

Re:Err... what? (1)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074293)

The problem is that you're confusing "goods vs. services" with "in-person services vs. potentially-distant services". You can outsource production of goods (like textiles), and you can outsource information services (like programming), but you can't outsource "in-person" services (like plumbing).

Experience (3, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073963)

Before I was in IT I gathered work experience in running a cash register, detailing luxury automobiles, auto mechanics, every aspect of building and remodeling a home from building forms for concrete to putting an attic vent on the roof, landscaping and lawn maintainence, fast food, babysitting illegal mexican painters, and odd jobs doing things I don't even know what to call.

Now if I can just find my way to put all of this together like Steve Jobs did with his background, I'll be good to go.

Re:Experience (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074269)

He had one thing not on your list yet: LSD.

There's the question of IQ (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073969)

No one want to discuss the fact that "average intelligence" means that half the people are at and below average intelligence. The idea that everyone must graduate from high school and go on to college is the root of the problem.

A simple used to be you could stop at a gas station and a couple of guys would come out, fill up your car, check your oil/water and clean your windshield. They didn't need a BA in business. What are these guys supposed to do now?

Re:There's the question of IQ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074023)

No one want to discuss the fact that "average intelligence" means that half the people are at and below average intelligence.

What you are describing is called median, not average.

Re:There's the question of IQ (2, Insightful)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074185)

"Average" can refer to median, mode, or mean [] .

Re:There's the question of IQ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074341)

...which, in the case of the IQ distribution, are all the same.

Re:There's the question of IQ (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074433)

You're right, but most people understand 'average' to be the aritmetic mean...ask them 'how do you calculate the average' (OK, trick question), and they'll give you the formula for the mean.
Median, some people have heard of it since the newpapers started to use it more.
Mode? You'll get a 'huh?' look... /end pedant

Re:There's the question of IQ (2, Informative)

Omniscient Lurker (1504701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074193)

IQ (best thing we got to measure intelligence) is normally distributed, therefore the average is the median is the mode. 68% are within 1 standard deviation and 99% are within 3. 50% are below the mean/median/mode, 50% above. 0% exactly on the mean/median/mode.

Re:There's the question of IQ (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074225)

Intelligence comes in different forms, in different flavours. Our education system is archaic. []

Re:There's the question of IQ (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074395)

They make happy meals now. There is still work for that segment of our population.

Re:There's the question of IQ (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074423)

They make happy meals now. There is still work for that segment of our population.

That is being outsourced also.

The job of taking orders at the drive-through could soon be outsourced.

Jack in the Box Inc. has been testing a program in some Charlotte-area restaurants that outsources order-taking to a call center elsewhere.

Company spokeswoman Kathleen Anthony said the technology is intended to improve speed, accuracy and service. The San Diego-based restaurant chain hopes the process will free up on-site employees to process orders, accept payment and address other needs.

Anthony said the orders are routed to a Texas call center operated by Bronco Communications, and she said some orders may be routed outside the country. []

Re:There's the question of IQ (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074465)

A simple used to be you could stop at a gas station and a couple of guys would come out, fill up your car, check your oil/water and clean your windshield. They didn't need a BA in business. What are these guys supposed to do now?

We're going to have to find a way for people to Not Work. Sooner or later nobody is going to have to. Eventually a robot will make a better burger than a person can make, et cetera. We have two possible futures ahead of us, the one where we're put into slavery and forced to work just to keep us busy, and the future where we find some new paradigm (sorry) in which it's not necessary for people to work all the time, or there are new things for them to work on.

Just think about what happens when all the cars go electric... automotive repair will be practically restricted to body, paint, and suspension work. What are all the people who fix cars now going to do? Especially since body and paint work are becoming niche applications over time; some of the newest designs for vehicles use space-frame engineering with plastic body panels and molded colors.

Re:There's the question of IQ (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074507)

But, everybody does need to graduate from high school. At this point you can't even get into the military without at least a high school education. I'm sure there are jobs that don't require it, but they're few and far between, definitely not paying a living wage.

As for college, the big mistake we made was by insisting that everybody go to college, but refusing to pony up the scholarship money to do it properly and refusing to ensure that there were enough jobs available upon graduation.

Reaction to blue competition (4, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28073997)

The reason education shifted to producing knowledge workers over trade skills is because those jobs were disappearing in the 80's and 90's. They haven't come back and are still shrinking as a part of the economy. When we had a construction boom, much labor was imported. Our desire for cheap meat means most of the employees at meat packing plants are immigrants. Automation and cost effective foreign labor is driving most factory jobs away. Technology in autos is creating a situation where you rely on computer diagnostics to fix cars. The slack from not having trade in high school is being taken up by community colleges, and most HS graduates need strong math and verbal skills to do the remaining blue collar jobs. Now that a large number of knowledge worker jobs can and are being outsourced because it is cheaper, we must adjust education again to create the next generation of workers once we figure out what they are. The early 80's made us shift education in the 90's, the late 00's will make us shift in the late 10's. We'll have to wait to see what innovations come out of this downturn to figure out what the next job boom will be. Sorry, there are just not enough plumber, mechanic, or carpenter jobs being created that we can all move back to the 1960's.

Dr. Crawford's complaint (4, Interesting)

rpillala (583965) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074011)

People who choose to become mechanics instead of accumulating academic credentials are only viewed as eccentric in certain circles. I'm sure the satisfied customers (one hopes) at Dr. Crawford's repair shop will view the situation differently.

If a resurgence occurs in the vo-tech schools, it ought to include some kind of component of entrepreneurship. I don't run a business myself, but I think this would include a larger helping of the academic subjects (a more math-intensive business program, with a calculus basis) than it does now or has in the past. My main issue with vo-tech programs is that they seem to prepare students to be easily supervised, but don't provide much in the way of mobility or independence.

Ok, I was stupid/too hasty (1)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074053)

Whilst yes, I did indeed ignore the fact they're talking about repair/service trades, I think the point still stands, that you can never definitively say "My job is safe from outsourcing" etc.

Whilst you can't outsource plumbing etc. what stops a massive multinational company from controlling the entire market? (In the same way super markets came in and killed local shops etc.)

Re:Ok, I was stupid/too hasty (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074243)

Because services are hard to monopolize. You usually get a better deal with a supermarket than a local store, you get more variety, cheaper prices, sometimes fresher food, etc. With plumbing, etc. its a lot harder. Most local plumbers have all the equipment they need, there aren't many revolutions that will change the game in the next few years so those tools will keep working. Then there is the fact that the large company can't thrive in the smaller towns especially with the rising cost of gas.

About the only thing that I can see really being monopolized is possibly computer repair. Because the big box stores buy in bulk, they always have parts on hand that would possibly need to be bought by a smaller business. Also, tools that work in 2009 will be largely obsolete by 2015.

No mobility in blue-collar jobs (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074071)

Even though blue-collar jobs might provide some job security in that they can't be given to people far away, that same quality keeps you chained to one community, nervously watching your few vacation times fall away. The best part of working in a "knowledge economy" field is that you can go wherever you want whenever you want. Sure, I have to take steps to ensure I keep my job in an unstable economy, and I have to be prepared to jump to another opportunity if necessary. But it's a whole lot nicer to travel most of the year and do my work from a laptop on some of the most glorious beaches in the world than it is to be trapped in a podunk town all but 1-4 weeks a year.

Re:No mobility in blue-collar jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074135)

The IT professionals that are working from beaches I'm sure are few and far between. I know many of them that are very unsure if they will have a job next year as outsourcing and cutbacks are running rampant.
Me, I've been painting cars and knocking dents out for many years. Bad economy or not I guarantee you people are still wrecking cars.
BTW...I'm writing this from my waterfront home on the Emerald Coast of Florida so I will suffer with my few weeks stuck in my home town. Just because I'm "blue collar" doesn't mean I don't make good money. It just means I'm a bit stinky at the end of the day.

Re:No mobility in blue-collar jobs (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074215)

The IT professionals that are working from beaches I'm sure are few and far between.

Who said I was talking about IT? While IT is part of the knowledge economy, there's many other fields out there. I mainly do translations and proofreading, for example, and there's no end of work in sight.

BTW...I'm writing this from my waterfront home on the Emerald Coast of Florida

Nice. But what if you want to go trekking in the High Pamirs or clubbing in Hong Kong? How are you going to bring your car painting job there?

Re:No mobility in blue-collar jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074353)

My apologies, I generalized. You are absolutely right, I can't take my job with me. But I'm also the kind of person who doesn't like to "take work home". I don't do side work at the house, I won't even work on my own vehicles at home. When I take time off I leave the shackles of work behind.
Can I take more time off than the average person? Yes. But then again I'm one of the lucky few that's top in my profession and have a great reputation to go with it so I'm allowed more flexibility than the average joe.
I guess the point I wanted to make was you can go blue collar, make very good money, have many employment (or self-employment) opportunities and enjoy a quality life style IF you are good at what you do.

Re:No mobility in blue-collar jobs (1)

maddskillz (207500) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074277)

It's the best part for you,not for everyone. Lots of people would rather spend their time doing other things then travelling.

Re:No mobility in blue-collar jobs (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074375)

I hear that claim from time to time, but in practice I've never met anyone who got the chance to travel freely and didn't take it, unless they were already shackled down by a spouse or children.

Re:No mobility in blue-collar jobs (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074437)

But it's a whole lot nicer to travel most of the year and do my work from a laptop on some of the most glorious beaches in the world than it is to be trapped in a podunk town all but 1-4 weeks a year.

So what do your wife and kids think about that?

What my daddy told me (1)

Gim Tom (716904) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074073)

When I was a child my daddy told me to be a plumber or a Volkswagen mechanic. I did not listen and got a degree in engineering and had a long and enjoyable career in IT. However, I ALWAYS was "hands on" and enjoyed it. I have more respect for the people who really know their trade than for many with advanced degrees who only know the theory. I learned as much from LISTING to and watching the people actually doing the work as I ever did sitting in a class room. If this country is going to recover from the economic disaster we have created we have GOT to start MAKING things again. As most of the readers of Slashdot know being totally dependent on "Intellectual Property" for your existence is total Bull. IP can be part of SOMETHING but it can not stand alone. USE YOUR HANDS not just your mind.

I for one enjoy my time with my hands (1)

Mazcote Yarquest (1407219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074103)

I am fortunate in my career as I turn a screwdriver and route information "over the wire".
I am also renovating my house, an old barn, myself.
If my chosen profession goes away, unlikely as it is, I can always be a carpenter or an electrician.
As I tell my daughter "only a fool refuses to work with their hands".

Highschool (5, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074111)

There were two problems with HS in the late 90's I know I was there. The first problem was this weird stigma attached to anyone who was interested in the industrial technology or shop courses. They certainly were viewed in a negative light by most of the administration. The instructors of those courses were treated badly compared to the other teachers as well. The pervasive view was that that those courses were offered for people who could never complete enough credit hours in academic courses to graduate any other way. This certainly was true for some of those students, Having told my parents and guidance there pleas to avoid these subjects were falling on deaf ears, I know that there were plenty of other plenty smart people in those programs who like me could breeze through just about and HS course except maybe a subject or two that did not come entirely naturally.

The next problem was that they scheduled shop courses so they were only offered in periods that would conflict with the upper level academic courses. You could not take honors English and drafting, for instance. There was no way to schedule electronics and AP physics ( which ironically cover much the same materials ). The entire system was built to separate students into two groups and make sure that they never met again.

Well after being on the college preparatory side of the wall for the first two years, in possession of a 3.9+ GPA, I elected to jump the shark. I am not going to pretend there was not some adolescent neo-punk motivations as well driving me in what I was being lead to think was a radical direction. I could always read whatever literature the honers English group was working, all you had to do was visit the library. I did that, I still had friends over there so I knew what they were doing. I could not as easily afford a serviceable O-Scope or a drafting table and tools. It made far more sense to me to "run with the tough crowd." I could just as easily grab a calculus book from the school library and build on the math skills I had. Which again I did because it let me understand things in my electronics course.

I found most of the instructors of those courses were better teachers too. They had lots of problems the other instructors did not have. The biggest being all those kids who did not want to be there that had been put there for under performing in the other programs. Still if you were interested they were largely willing spend some extra time with you and go into the subjects in greater detail or let you work on your own more advanced projects for credit. They also were tell you when you made a mistake. They had all been there forever had tenure and nobody they could impress even if they were trying except us students. It was a much more honest and much more educational environment if you were as a student willing to participate and invest a little in it.

Despite the warnings from the establishment, shunning for the other prep students, I turned out ok. I went on to attend a good liberal arts college, where I graduated with honors. I never regraded or felt I had done myself an disservice by my decisions in high school, much the opposite.

We as a society need to learn some egalitarianism about knowledge. Its always good to know things. Sometime its more useful to spend your time learning one thing than another but knowledge is never bad. I am not some sorta hick because I can rebuild an automobile engine, frame a house, or any other odd skills I might have picket up. I can know those things still write SQL as well as one while I grow pale sitting in an office chair.

People are generally better at things they are interested in doing. It takes all kinds to run a society and we should value all skills.

They don't know what a good job looks like? (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074115)

I can think of a few criteria.

* Steady paychecks
* Excellent benefits
* No dress code
* Only ever have to deal with cool, smart people
* Don't even have to deal with those, most of the time
* "Full-time" arrived at by working long hours for 5-7 nights, building up comp time at 1.5x
* Comp time then gets used, resulting in a 5-10 day "weekend"
* Unless you run out of comp time, no one expects to see you at the office.
* Cool duties
* Cool shiny toys (my new one is an 8.3-meter mirror - that's bigger than my house)
* Chance of being involved in something profound being discovered/created

Skilled trades may very well meet a bunch of those criteria too. I know there are plenty of top-notch mechanically or electrically inclined engineers, technicians and general fixers of things where I work.

It's all about the money. (4, Insightful)

bombastinator (812664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074123)

The trades weren't pushed out of high schools because they were "retooling" they were pushed out because there was no money to teach them. Teaching trades requires expensive equipment that must be kept up and insured against accidents. Teaching IT requires obsolete donation computers that cost nothing and have very little upkeep. If Moore's law slows the donation computers will probably dry up too and then there will be nothing at all.

Hooray for shop class!!!! (3, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074145)

Too many IT people have no clue when it comes to basics like stacking equipment, safely handling heavy loads, threading cables, or airflow. Worse, they're positively dangerous with screwdrivers, wrenches, or wire cutters. And basic mechanical skills lend awareness for programmers to the concepts of "big bulky modules that you have to leave space for", "leave enough slack in the interfaces for you to be able to put things where you need them", "leave in accessible test points where you can check your signals". And I'd vastly recommend basic electronics classes in "why clock signals lie" and "why you use _one_ voltage, _one_ data format, and synchronize to _one_ clock signal throughout your system". The lessons of "why would I do this as a bulky, parallel transfer rather than a serial transfer" are also illuminated by having to run your own wires.

Like system security, such physical constraints are best learned early, rather than brought into the design after the fact when you've already laid out your circuits or your data flow.

Well, DUH! (5, Insightful)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074161)

I mentor HS students. Most that I deal with are so incredibly incompetent that I am truly afraid for our society- these babies will be asking their parents to carry them out into the world with no prep.

There are kids that don't know what a screwdriver is or how to use it. Seriously. I had to hold a session on how to use a screwdriver. Gave them a drill with a bit in it and they could not figure out how to drive the screw into the wood.

This is also the group that would intentionally break their cell phones so their parents could pay the 50$ 'insurance fee' to get a new one. Just repeatedly drop the thing over and over and over and over.

I also watched one of them stare at the table saw blade as it was rotating- asked him what he was doing- and he said he knows he's not supposed to but he was wondering if he could tap the blade while it was spinning- if he was fast enough (look up table saw finger injuries- you'll understand why I was sickened).

Shop class, like gym class, should be mandatory for all students. So what if all they turn out is a crummy pencil holder- they did it. Want to make shop more interesting? Show them how to do CNC on wood- that's programming and wood working all in one go.

Right now this generation is nothing but consumption- they'll play their ipods, their little online games, and they go on to college coddled the entire way without a single original thought in their body.

Then again, perhaps I only see the stupid ones.

Re:Well, DUH! (2, Interesting)

syntheticmemory (1232092) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074273)

I've mentored kids as well. One is in her late 20's, does artwork and raises oysters. The second one just graduated from SCAD. The youngest of them just finished his junior year in college, and is on the board of his Charter School. Personally, I went from engineering college to making jewelry, working as a designer and model making, and picked up CAD/CAM 10 years ago. Designing one off items for people is challenging, building those items, sourcing the materials, subcontracting specialty work, all require time and thought.

Re:Well, DUH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074309)

That is because these kids were shortchanged by the baby boomers who were out of school and didn't want to have to pay back into the system that created them.

Kids have no electives anymore because the baby boomers want all the money for themselves.

I work with my hands a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074177)

I work with my hands a lot. On average 4 to 8 hours a day on my logitech RumblePad and at least 1 hour a day in intimate moments.

Anonymous Coward (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28074209)

Here's the speech by Mike Rowe from Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs show: . He raises some interesting points about hard labour while still remaining funny. Just thought I'd share.

Working with the hands improves problem solving (5, Interesting)

RonTheHurler (933160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074219)

No matter what your profession, it seems that working with the hands improves anyone's problem solving skills. Boeing and NASA are now requiring R&D personnel to have experience working with the hands, no matter how strong their academic record is.

Watch this video - []
(20 minutes)

The research linking the hand to brain development is found in the book - The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. By Frank R. Wilson.

Here's another article about handiwork and education (left sidebar - Why should a kid build a catapult) []

In my work I regularly get feedback from teachers who say that nothing has inspired their kids to *want* to study math and physics more than the catapult project they did.

Considering the daunting issues we face as a culture, with Global Warming and the problems with fossil fuels, we need more and better problem solvers in the world than ever before.

If it was up to me, shop class would be mandatory in every high-school, and it's curriculum would be coordinated with the physics and math courses too.

A mistake (4, Insightful)

Groggnrath (1089073) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074231)

I for one wish every Engineer, and every Mechanical Engineering student had to spend a year as a mechanic. Once you realize how bad some things are designed from a repairability aspect, it changes your perspective on design. I've torn into many a machine, and seen bad designs first hand. Overcomplicated parts, too many parts, too many different size bolts and nuts, parts placed so close together you have to remove 10 things just to change a belt.

The same could be said for any designer. I feel before you're able to design anything, you should be forced to use it, fix it, and understand the consequences of bad design. It would improve the quality of things that do get built.

Re:A mistake (2, Funny)

Poingggg (103097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074389)

So true! A saying I once read and never forgot: "The task of a design engineer is to make the work of a repair engineer as hard as possible"

The biggest problem you have (4, Interesting)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074245)

Is colleges think so elitist sometimes that they look down on even teaching people how to TEACH people how to do trades. My college (Montclair State University) had one of the oldest tech-ed/vocational-ed programs in the country when I joined. The president erased the ENTIRE program and created a "Fine Arts Masters" program, breaking up our shops and labs into mini rooms that each FAM student got full use of, shunting tens of thousands of dollars of wood and metal shop equipment into those labs for FINE ARTS use only, most of which we as a department had paid for ourselves though the auto shop the school closed on us 2 years before.

And what was their justification? Well NJ that year had changed the wording of the standardized curriculum from Fine AND Vocation arts to Fine OR Vocation arts, and since Fine arts was easier to teach in high school, there was no need for vocation arts anymore. The other justification? The US is not a industrial nation anymore so there is no need to teach kids how to work that type of equipment or in those trades. This was 2002 BTW.

Oh and that curriculum change? The next year NJ changed it back, making only one out of ALL of its state schools, 3 of which had programs that dated back around of even before WWI capable of churning out teachers who can actually teach Tech Ed. Now NJ has to back door most of its vocation teachers and even then, nearly half the jobs are being left unfilled with more retiring every day.

Interesting article but . . . (1)

crumbz (41803) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074255)

I couldn't help feeling that the author was channeling Robert Pirsig. I kept expecting a lecture on "quality" at any moment.

"Was this was a huge mistake?" (1)

murpium (1310525) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074291)

Apparently it did not make some people "knowledge workers"

Internet Nailing? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074319)

You can't hammer a nail over the Internet

Now... does that not sound like a challenge? I bet it CAN be done!

The real money is often at the interface. (1)

DoninIN (115418) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074349)

The real money in many of the fields is at the interface, the guy who can program controls and work on controls and know all about the inner workings of them, has a job at the manufacturer, but the guy who can fix it, who can work on equipment that is controlled by computers, is often getting a really nice paycheck. Ditto for the innovators who can invent upgrade etc. How much to install an ethernet? I know there was a quote for $10,000 to interface all our machine tools via ethernet. So there's about $1,000 for the conduit and cable, $200 for ethernet. $8,700 for putting network cards in machine tools? Doesn't sound like a bad gig to me. But yet "shop class" would be required.

other factors (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074361)

There are a lot of factors that are contributing to this trend. Vocational programs can require expensive equipment. For example, the community college where I teach physics recently spent a large amount of money to upgrade its printing program to digital equipment. I'd also imagine that insurance would be more expensive for a machine shop class than for an English class. At the K-12 level in the U.S., they're so focused on standardized testing these days that everything else is going away: music, vocational education, etc. Another vocational program at my school is horticulture, and I think one of the problems they're having is that they can't teach large sections, because the students need a lot of personal supervision. Small sections are seen as less cost-effective. I think there's also a heavy layer of class and racial prejudice that affects the horticulture program negatively, because here in Southern California, gardening is supposed to be what you hire Mexican immigrants to do.

Triumph motorcycles and the bigger issues (4, Interesting)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074407)

The article goes on at length to (rightfully) decry the chasm between work and the management of it, how actual tasks that are useful tend to get divorced from policy, procedures, and presence on the management radar. At its root, this attitude is what makes it possible to outsource to other continents. There's no longer a feeling that management and directing vision need to coexist in the same space in order to stay aligned and keep working well and synergistically. (And that may be the only time in the last few years I'd consider it appropriate to use that management-jargon-co-opted word.)

Since the author is a motorcycle mechanic, I thought I'd toss this out. When I was a young man, bike enthusiasts were decrying the fall of Triumph. That once-great motorcycle company was dying. They sold few bikes. They had run through many unsuccessful models that weren't very good bikes when they were working well and didn't work well very often because they were poorly assembled. It was enough to make an old gearhead shed a tear.

And then a story came out, perhaps apocryphal, that pinpointed the precise moment when Triumph stopped their forward progress and began their long fall. Some time in the early 1960s, so the story went, the upper management had gotten so successful that they started looking like upper management. They were driven to work. They dressed in expensive suits. They came to view themselves as businessmen. Or, rather, as typically happens with businesses as they become big, the guys who were bike lovers gradually got replaced in the executive suites by guys who were supposed to be good at the business of business, guys for whom the actual product was unimportant.

Finally, one day, there was a big, routine board meeting and one of the last of the old guard, who had ridden his bike that day, showed up to the meeting room in full leathers. He was informed that such was not appropriate. A rule that "proper dress," specifically meaning "no leathers," was required at all business meetings. The break between management and the iron on the road was now complete. Management had been outsourced to people who were distant (mentally, emotionally, and philosophically, if not physically) from the actual work.

At that point, Triumph was toast. It took years for the motorcycle brand to die. I remember one of the (perhaps the very) last bike they produced, a brilliant triple in sporting trim. I remember thinking it was a death rattle, the last gasp of a company that didn't know what in the bloody hell to do to stay alive and had, in desperation, actually let the engineers and bike lovers have a crack at producing something. It was far too little, far too late.

What I'm saying is the same as, in part, the article. Not only is working with your hands a good thing, when any company is run by people who are *incapable* of hands-on work or, at minimum, hands-on appreciation of that work - the company is doomed.

Change of careers (1)

Firrenzi (229219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074481)

I used to be a self taught IT technician. Nothing overly high reaching, but enough to manage a network and look after pc's. The long and the short of it was the job burnt me out. With no official quals under my belt I had a hard time getting another job in the industry (circa 2004). So I decided to become an electrical apprentice with the local government supplier (distribution).

Best thing I've done:
Pay's not too bad as a second year adult apprentice
working conditions are good
I haven't worked hard since I started, no pressure.
I can still utilise my IT skills in scada and maybe later on in the network control side of things.
The pay is as a first year tradesman out of their time is about the same as a recent graduate (and can go up from there)
Awesome job security (everyone needs power)
Working is still challenging and interesting.
Out and about without a boss breathing down my neck
Scope for further study

The risk goes up, but the company is *very* safety conscious
Some occasionally filthy environments
Attitude exists that you know nothing because your 'just the apprentice'

All in all, having the general IT skills gives me an edge in an industry where some tradies still struggle to use a computer (usually the older ones, but some of the younger ones aswell).

Think about it, it might be worth in your area/state/country or then again YMMV

This is why plumbers make money (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28074485)

I came from a relatively poor family, but was blessed with parents who were hard-working and skilled in many 'manual' areas. Whilst other kids were playing at the week-end, I was helping my Dad grow vegetables, fix the car, wire the house, whatever. Evenings after school were spent helping my mother cook, repair clothes, clean the house...

I'm now doing OK, (thanks to them pretty much forcing me to get a decent education), and live in an expensive area. I'm in much demand when my 'professional' neighbours cannot get the car started, the lights to work, the sink unblocked, whatever...they're sick of paying a fortune to wait hours for some idiot to come out and half-do something I can fix for free in 5 minutes.

Let's stop blaming schools and education systems - parents have a role to play too! (I'm trying to teach my kids practical skills too).

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