Saturday, September 19, 2009

Young People Today

I want everyone to know there are in fact some young people out there who still take pride in doing things well, and given the opportunity will do just fine in the trades. I volunteer twice a week at one of our local high schools Technical Trade Class. The fellow in charge of the class has put together a group of retired trade’s people to mentor as well as teach the students their particular craft. To me he is a real hero, as for many years he has endured all of the nonsense that goes with modern day education, and every year he has to fight to keep the program going. In addition, he has to cope with the education systems obsession that everyone must go on to college, and working with your hands and brains is second best.

The mentors for the class include a Carpenter, Sheet Metal Worker, Cabinet Maker, Electrician, and of course an Old Plumber Dude. The students rotate every 6 weeks or so between the mentors, and therefore get some exposure to each trade. This way, they can find out if working in one of the trades being taught is something they might like to do in the future. Are some of the students clueless when it comes to working? Absolutely, but a few of them are not, as our little town is surrounded by many ranches and farms. As a result, many of these young people are used to doing chores and working hard. A few more of them have helped their dads or family members doing different things, so they also have a head start in the class.

My plumbing course includes installing piping in a Plumbing Module I had made up. The first step is doing some classroom work, where we go over safety as well as how to identify and take off fittings, size piping, lay out fixtures, as well as how to determine grade. We also make up some isometric drawings of the piping we are actually going to install in the Plumbing Module. Next, we go out to the Plumbing Module, where we rough-in and set finish for a Water Closet, Shower, and Lavatory. While working there, I stress that everything must be plumb and level where need be, and there has to be exactly 1/4 inch per foot grade on the horizontal waste and vent lines. Once they realize that I will not give an inch as far as doing things right is concerned, and will not hesitate on getting in their face if they goof off or disrespect me, things go very well.

I have had some people suggest that this is too much for today’s students to absorb. Nonsense, they need to be taught what is expected of them when they get out of school, not coddled while living in some make believe world. To that end, this is not some touchy feely do not hurt anyone’s feelings type of class, as all of the mentors treat the students as if they were actually working on a construction job-site. We hold the swearing down to a minimum, but do not hesitate in taking someone to task if they screw-up are in danger of getting hurt. Preaching safety in the workplace is a priority, and everyone works on it constantly.

I personally delight in constantly ragging and teasing the other trades, because that is what you do on the job, right. I refer to the sheet metal guy as “The Tin Knocker”, because that is what he is and does. I also suggest that Electricians receive far too much money for pulling some Romex though a hole. They respond in kind with their thoughts concerning Plumber’s, which I dare not put in writing. As a result, we all have a lot of fun while everyone in the class learns something about life and working in the real world, what a concept.

In the class that finished up this past June, one student found a job as a plumbing shop person with one of our local PHCC members company, which is very cool indeed. Another young man is now taking an HVAC class in Junior Collage, as he wants to pursue a career in the trades. A student named Ben is going on to collage, and is pursuing a career in “Green” Forest Management. We mentors feel very good about this, as we all had something to do with it.

This class is one of the best things I have seen at any level, let alone high school, as it costs the school nothing for the mentors, and truly helps the students. I feel that if it was implemented in every school, it would go a long ways toward helping many young people find their way in life. For the mentors it is also great, because we do not have to follow a curriculum that has been designed by some out of touch, collage obsessed, theory driven bureaucrat. We simply teach the students what we know works in the real world. That would be how to become good at their craft, and make a better than average living in the construction trades. It does not take a lot of work to set this up, especially if there is a shop class already in place. There are hundreds of retired trade’s people looking for something to do with their lives, and a phone call is all it would take to get some of them involved. Someone just has to take the bull by the horns and do it!

Just my thoughts,

Gene B

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