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#29220 - 09/11/03 11:11 AM Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
macwire Offline

Registered: 11/17/02
Posts: 42
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Occaisonally I still go down to my old alma mater, the college I got my Bachelor's degree from. The other day I was walking around campus, looking up old professors and employees I'd known, when I overheard a conversation between some college students and a professor.

Basically that convo made fun of the blue-collar construction trades. It seems the professor's brother was an electrical contractor, and even though he had taken some business courses, he'd never gotten a degree and apparently did not care to get one.

The professor and the students were all having a collective laugh about that, bringing out all the stereotypes of the hard-drinking, loud-mouthed, ignorant blue-collar worker. This annoyed the hell out of me, and I felt like launching into a tirade about just how little good my degree had done me. But I held my peace because I figured they'd just call me the loser because I'd gotten a degree in a field that went south just as I graduated. Must be my fault, right?

Has any of you ever experienced any kind of stigma from friends, relatives, acquaintances or even customers about your career choice? Any of them look down their nose at you as being too "dumb" to get a degree of anything like that?

Personally, the more I look at the skilled trades career path, the more I wish I'd never bothered getting a degree. If I'd gotten into an electrical apprenticeship program 10 or so years ago instead of starting to go to college part-time, I'd most likely be SO much further ahead financially than I am now, it almost hurts to think about it.


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#29221 - 09/11/03 11:58 AM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
mamills Offline

Registered: 11/30/01
Posts: 739
Loc: Wharton, Texas, USA
Hi Macwire:
Before I make a couple of observations regarding what you have written, let me tell you a little about myself. When I was a kid, it was always my intention to be an electrician when I grew up. When I went to college, somehow my path changed and I wound up receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree 29 years ago and went to work at a small two- year junior college as an audio-visual media specialist, the job I have to this day. I honestly feel that my degree has done nothing to prepare me for the work I do now.

I occasionally overhear "colleagues" at my place of work berating blue-collar workers in one way or another, sometimes saying horrible things about them. And I have heard the same stereotypical descriptions of being "hard-drinking, loud-mouthed, [and] ignorant," along with a few other descriptions that I would not use in any kind of company, polite or otherwise. But one thing that I notice about my "colleagues" who hurl these insults about, is that these highly degreed people (with masters degrees and doctorates...with noses pointing skyward to match )is that they do not come close to having the same kind of honest, get-down-and-get-to-work work ethic that the vast majority of blue collar workers possess. At my college workplace, I find myself "identifying" far easier with the good people on our maintenance staff - housekeepers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, groundskeepers, and so on. These are the people who have a good work ethic, they put their hearts into anything that they do, and they do it with a much greater spirit of cooperation and comradery than any of the "higher level" employees. I have no doubt that any of these people could have gone to college, received a degree and gone to work in some higher paying situation, but for one reason or another, they simply did not. And I certainly would not be presumptuous enough to pass judgement on these people. They are fine people, they excel in their work, and I consider them my friends.

Anyone who would look down their nose at these honorable people needs a swift kick to bring them back to reality!

BTW, I kick myself every day for not following through with my original career plan...I guess that's one of many reasons why I enjoy this forum so much - the ability to be around you workers.

Mike (mamills)

#29222 - 09/11/03 01:26 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
walrus Offline

Registered: 07/25/02
Posts: 671
Loc: Bangor Me. USA
I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, passed my EIT before I graduated and soon after graduation started my own business working in and around gasoline equipment. Got a limited electrical license and then went back to school nights to get my Master electrical license. I'm as blue collar as they come, if someone doesn't like it, oh well. A guy I do business with always tells me to not get mad at a customer, just wait, they'll need something and hit'em where it hurts, the wallet , thats how I get even

#29223 - 09/11/03 02:50 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
Electricmanscott Offline

Registered: 01/12/02
Posts: 1478
Loc: Holden, MA USA
I have to say that the guys I see everyday in the supply house are mostly foul mouthed hard drinking dirty types that I wouldn't let into my house. This is not to say we all are (I am not of course) But many are. It is amazing to me to hear the constant barage of F bombs dropping there and on the jobsites. The stereotype is well deserved.

#29224 - 09/11/03 03:27 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
Bjarney Offline

Registered: 04/10/02
Posts: 2561
Loc: West-Southern Inner-Northeast ...
It depends a lot on middle-management climate, but one {by no means fast-paced} approach in larger organizations, as a maintenance electrician, is to comment—a little at a time; later by formal invitation—on locally generated specifications and drawings that involve a project that you will “inherit” after construction. Start simply with very basic statements on simpler aspects that you find to be clear inconsistencies that will likely end up costing more money over the life of whatever is being built; {id est, you may have to deal with on a daily basis that will clearly cost your employer money to address potentially decades after final construction signoff.} Be prepared to carefully detail, reference and justify your reasons why something on paper doesn’t add up, and if left unmodified will turn into long-term heartburn for your employer {and you.} The Prime Directive should be convincing managers and engineers/designers that a little money spent now will save a lot more in the future. Keep your input as technical as possible and minimize anecdotes and emotionally based “justification” as much as you can.

A good place to start is finding built-in NEC violations At The Design Stage that will usually show up as bloodthirsty insistence on a change order by the construction contractor. {Sometimes, construction foremen live and breathe for the “quick cash” that may be “required” for curing engineering goofups.} Don’t forget that it works both ways—if you work for/as a contractor, on-the-job ideas that can simplify and improve the finished product and make it more profitable are key to gaining respect and advancement in your job.

It is important to organize and file [by whatever means works for you] your comments and supporting notes so that you may be able to easily re-address your input a decade down the road, if necessary. You have to be prepared, at times, to be ‘shot down’ and accused of having half-baked ideas, but there’s always next time—where new information you find or simply a clearer restatement of ideas can be applied.

This is one way to limit the “I get no respect” treatment that can be associated with the trades.

#29225 - 09/11/03 05:16 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
maintenanceguy Offline

Registered: 12/02/01
Posts: 303
Loc: Southern NJ, USA
When I was an engineering student, I got a summer job working for facilities maintenance. That eventually led to taking over for one of the "real" mechanics while he was hospitalized for a couple of months.

One day, I was fixing a window in a student dorm's lounge and overheard a bunch of freshmen engineering students studying for an exam. They were stumped on a calculus problem I had studied two years prior.

So when I was done, I, wearing my university housing uniform, set my toolbox on the table where they were working, and explained line intergal theory, helped them set up the equation, and solved the problem for them longhand with a pencil I borrowed from one of the kids.

They sheepishly said "thanks" as I walked away. I figure they started worrying about the employment opportunities for engineers on that day.

I completed 3 years, ran out of money (actually ran out lots of times so the 3 years took me 5), got married, had kids, bought a house, and never finished my last year although I planned too.

But I'm still in facilities maintenance.

#29226 - 09/11/03 05:36 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
harold endean Offline

Registered: 02/16/02
Posts: 2248
Loc: Boonton, NJ
As for my 2 cents. I went to college for one 1/2 years and I hated it. I could not sit still in school (Nor could I sit still at my desk doing billing or estimating!) and I loved being outside all the time. I dropped out of college and started in the alarm business and I never looked back. This time of year I always get happy about because kids and others have to go back to school and I don't! I love it.

#29227 - 09/11/03 05:54 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
macwire Offline

Registered: 11/17/02
Posts: 42
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Heh, took me 10 years to get a Bachelor's degree, between 2 years at community college, about 3 years at a four year college taking one major (Electrical Engineering), flunking that major, taking a year off, changing majors, and finally finishing in another major (Computer & Information Science).

The ironic thing is, during my year off I first found out about the electrical apprenticeship, and seriously considered it. But I decided I needed to finish getting the degree. If only I knew then what I know now....

The MacNut

#29228 - 09/11/03 06:12 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
spkjpr Offline

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 226
Loc: Sedalia,MO, USA
I as a contractor would rather work for a blue collar man any day. The highbrows seem to be the cheapest people there are, gripe about everything and always say the bill sure was high. I have had blue collar people ask me if I was charging them enough! Although I also see Scott's types with the F bomb dropping too, last night at work myself and another maint guy even talked about the language loud enough so the dolts who were using said words in front of women could hear. That is my main pet peeve, using offensive language in front of women. Dad taught me better and some also comes from working in a hospital, women to men ratio was about 20 to 1.

#29229 - 09/11/03 06:55 PM Re: Stigma of Being "Blue-Collar"?
Big Jim Offline

Registered: 07/18/03
Posts: 377
Loc: Denver, CO USA
I've got a couple of degrees on the wall and I've worked my way into a low level management position with the government. I've been here long enough that I'm eligible to retire this year. I am seriously considering bailing out and going back into the trade for the next 5 or 10 years. My father-in-law erected precast buildings in my town most of his life. To this day, we drive around town and he occasionally points at a building and says, "I built that." It may mean something to say you made the company a million dollars but there is just a different kind of satisfaction when you look at some thing and think, "I'm a part of that."

[This message has been edited by Big Jim (edited 09-11-2003).]

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