This morning as I was getting ready for work, there was a piece on the radio about the skilled trades worker shortage. It’s a common theme, you’ve probably heard something about it: The journeymen are all speeding towards retirement age, and there simply aren’t enough apprentices coming along to fill the soon-to-be-available leadership positions. Listening to the on-air discussion, I grinned while lacing up my steel toed boots… Not only are there more and more trades jobs on the horizon, but us skilled trades workers are reaping the benefits of the effort of all those older workers! These were mostly men, who negotiated contracts and wage standards meant to support their entire families, for which they historically were providing the primary income. Which is to say, a “small” salary in the trades is a hell of a lot bigger than a “medium” salary in the world of administrative assistants… And let’s not even talk about the non-profit sector.
So here’s another reason why I chose to be an electrician: Because I wanted a living wage.
It’s fucking surreal sometimes, to really think about the fact that the best work I’ve done is also the stuff that’s contributed least to paying my rent. Earning enough money to not only cover my expenses but also get out of debt (and avoid getting further into debt) has been a huge distraction from all the excellent stuff I could be doing. You know when people say that they wouldn’t work if they didn’t have to? I simply don’t believe it. Oh, sure, I imagined they’d take a few months to veg out and clear their minds… But after that, I really do honestly have faith in the human desire to feel needed, to find satisfaction from doing something useful. Wages get in the way of us finding our callings: We’re too busy trying to make a living.
So anyway, yeah, capitalism’s not doing too well right now, in case you haven’t noticed. Never having been a big fan in the first place, I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised: It’s simply unmanageble, this twisted economic system. Having said that, I’ve yet to visit the encampment of my local Occupy movement… Because I’m too busy working, at the first decent-paying job I’ve had in years. How totally bougie of me, ha!
Seriously, though, it means a lot to me, to be able to count on making enough money for more than just my expenses… And not just so that I can buy boots! Hmmm… Actually, that’s a good example: It’s a relief to be able to invest in quality footwear that will last me a couple years, instead of having to either continue to make do with the old (and literally crumbling!) pair or buy some crappy cheap thing that’ll need replacing in another few months. It’s a small thing, but so important to my personal quality of life. So: I have a steady union job, I’ll continue to get raises every six months as I gain experience, I’m learning useful skills that will make me increasingly employable, and I can afford decent boots… This is how capitalism drove me to become an electrician.