Construction Leadership Insights

I like punk music: loud, fast, simple, and edgy

I am also deeply attracted to traditional ideas and ways of living that have stood the test of time…
…But I am skeptical of present society’s perspective on “the way things should be.” Since my teens, I’ve been into punk music like the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Sex Pistols (I was born in England, so I never got into The Ramones). One of my favorite aspects of punk is its critique of contemporary society. The “American Dream” consisting of mandatory home ownership (Fannie Mae ring any bells?), consumerism and the dream of retiring from work by 60 (I plan on working for the rest of my life) doesn’t appeal to me.

When it comes to acceptable views on schooling, career paths, and the value of vocational trades vs. “learning to code,” I’m dubious.
I have five kids, under age fifteen, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what careers they’ll choose, but I do have one clear conviction: going to college is not necessary for them to have a great career. If they go to college, I’m encouraging them to have a clear purpose in advance, and not to waste four years, and tens of thousands of dollars trying to “find themselves.”

That’s why I love the construction industry.
It opens doors to all types of people from blue to white collar: craftspeople, machine operators, designers, planners, leaders, builders, technicians, support staff, salespeople. No one is excluded from the industry, as long as they are willing to work hard, learn and stay the course despite the challenges and conflicts.

Recently, I sketched out a potential career path for my thirteen-year-old son
He is much “handier” then I’ll ever be, and is also comfortable thinking conceptually:

  • Age 16: Start working with his uncle (a general contractor) during the summers.
  • Age 18: Graduate from high-school and go to work full time for a couple of years in the field for a GC or subcontractor (I have a couple in mind already).
  • Age 20: Go to community college for two years to knock out general education requirements, saving a bunch of money, and still working part-time in the field or office.
  • Age 22: Enroll in university and get a degree in construction management; intern during the summers at different companies.
  • Age 24: Graduate with 2-4 years of field experience, and a good basic understanding of the office. Look for work in the field or office with an established construction company with a stellar reputation for safety, quality, and service (I know a few).

I realize that this is an “ideal” scenario, and knowing my son, he’ll be perfectly happy designing a different course, but it is at least a starting point for real conversations.

Speaking of conversations, I recently interviewed Tim Murphy, CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange:
To listen to the interview, click this link and subscribe to the Construction Genius podcast.

Highlights include:

  • A story about Tim’s nephew, who pursued a certificate in welding and found enormous success.
  • Parents’ roles in perpetuating the college emphasis, which doesn’t serve all young people.
  • The social capital college graduates achieve with diplomas from schools like Harvard and Yale, and the need to recognize construction as an integral element to our nation’s success.
  • The ability to pursue a career in the trades and quickly be debt-free and financially successful.
  • The increasingly urgent need in the construction industry for skilled labor.
  • Programs offered by the Builder’s Exchange that introduce and mentor high school students interested in pursuing a career in the trades.
  • A story about Eric’s son finding satisfaction in building his own IKEA bed.
  • A realistic path to career success in construction
  • Information on Cap-to-Cap, a local initiative bringing together business leaders and politicians in Washington D.C., to explore ideas for investing tax dollars back into the community.
  • The need for more workforce training funding and opportunities.
  • The often-unexpected benefits of a career in trades, like more time to spend with family.
  • Tim’s favorite local restaurant!

 If you’re interested, here are two of my favorite critiques of the system from a punk perspective:

Crass: Systematic Death

Dead Kennedys: California Uber Alles

I don’t agree with every word of the songs, but they are thought-provoking.

Don’t forget to check out the podcast.

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