What Beard Are You??

Beard Styles Guide

September 3rd is World Beard Day! What is Beard Day? It occurs every year on the first Saturday in September. On this day, people internationally celebrate their face ferrets. In the beginning of history most men had beards to keep warm. 

 This day is observed to celebrate and promote those who were gifted with good facial hair genetics. If you want to get started on growing your chin curtain here is a link to the perfect beard growth starter kit.


To those who participate in the beard life… here are some tips on how to maintain your manly mane.  

  1. Trim your Beard. If you have a goal to grow your mane, make sure you are trimming the hair. Link to Beard Kit Here 
  2. Keep it Clean. Consider purchasing a beard wash to stay fresh and avoid irritation.  
  3. Tame and Style. Use some beard oil and comb that facial hair.  
  4. Take your Vitamins. For optimal hair growth keep up on your health routine.  

If you follow these tips… maybe one day you will be able to catch up to Mr. Hans Langseth, whose beard was over 17 feet long. 

Hans Langseth 17 Foot Beard


National Grief Awareness Day is August 30 this year. It began almost a decade ago. The intention of this day (and National Grief Awareness Month throughout all of September) is to raise overall awareness of the many ways those affected by grief cope with loss, provide resources to those going through personal losses, and to remind us all the importance of supporting people we know to be grieving. Like many silent struggles, there are many tools available to the individual experiencing grief but there is often a stigma associated with needing or using them. To try and reduce the stigma around conversations about grief, I’d like to talk to you about my personal experience using one of the tools available to millions of Americans attempting to manage their grief – their EAP (Employee Assistance Program). 

What is Grief? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received. The feelings associated with grief can vary greatly from person to person and so can how long it most strongly affects people. People can also use a wide range of tools to cope with grief, both internal and external. If you’re uncertain about whether your grieving process is normal, consult your health care professional. Outside help is sometimes beneficial to people trying to recover and adjust to a death or diagnosis of a terminal illness. 

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? 

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. EAPs traditionally have assisted workers with issues like alcohol or substance misuse; however, most now cover a broad range of issues such as child or elder care, relationship challenges, financial or legal problems, wellness matters and traumatic events like workplace violence. Programs are delivered at no cost to employees by stand-alone EAP vendors or providers who are part of comprehensive health insurance plans. Services are often delivered via phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, e-mail interactions or face-to-face. 

How do you use an EAP for grief assistance? 

My father died on Halloween of 2021. Dad and I were close and his passing was not peaceful or pleasant. I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily struggled since losing him, but I can’t pretend I’ve thrived either. Some days I find myself crying in the car for no reason and others I feel like my focus is affected. When I was first reminded that our EAP through FlexTrades had resources for dealing with grief I checked them out online and found them helpful. When another bad day hit me months later, I decided to call and use one of the 3 annual sessions with a trained and licensed councilor which my EAP provides. I was connected and prescreened to make sure I was not in need of emergency assistance then we simply had a conversation. We talked about the things I’ve been feeling and the things many others typically feel in my situation. Then we discussed avenues and alternatives to coping. Finally, we talked about professional service providers in my area and the counselor even was able to provide a list of those I could call in my area that matched my requirements and were covered under my insurance plan. It was easy, non-judgmental, helpful, and surprisingly cathartic.  

Ways to cope 

What I learned from that counseling call was that my, and everyone else’s, experience with grief is unique. There is no right or wrong way to act or feel nor is there a “proper” amount of time for those feelings to last. But there are simple ways you can cope with grief. 

  • Give yourself permission to take as much time as you need to help you move forward through processing your loss. 
  • Surround yourself with caring, supportive people. 
  • Find safe ways and places to express your feelings without hurting yourself or others. 
  • Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Maintain as much of your “normal” routine and schedule as possible. 

Empathetic grief is normal 

Grieving isn’t just for those experiencing loss but for those who care about those who’ve lost. If you are a friend of someone currently experiencing grief don’t be frustrated if you’re struggling to support them. It can be difficult but try to remember these 5 things as a guide. 

  • Be a supportive, caring listener. 
  • Be a “safe friend” accepting your friend’s feelings, even those that are more negative. 
  • Continue to reach out a month or more after the funeral. 
  • Help your friend slow down their decision-making process when making changes following loss. 
  • Let your friend know that it’s ok to not be “normal” yet at work and socializing, regardless of time-frame. 

Recently, one of my streaming services had The Machinist in a list of movies recommended for me to watch next. I’ve seen the movie before and, at least from a critic’s perspective, it’s a fine film. Dark, suspenseful, surprising – it really does check a lot of boxes that normally indicate a great movie. But thinking about the film reminded me that it’s potentially frustrating to watch if you’re a machinist or somebody else working in a shop environment. For those of you who haven’t seen The Machinist yet, I’ll tell you why. 


When was the last time you were in a shop, even a very small one, and didn’t see anyone utilizing their personal protection equipment? For me, it’s been a VERY long time. Having the right PPE is so important we actually published a checklist for technicians. However, you can watch every single shop-scene in this movie and not see a single set of safety glasses or hearing protection. Not even one! Some core scenes in this film are set around injuries that happen, or nearly happen, around production machines. Yet, somehow, nobody chooses to opt for extra PPE, even after they see a coworker gruesomely hurt. I dislike this part of The Machinist the most because it perpetuates a narrative about manufacturing that hasn’t fit the industry appropriately for decades. 
Screenshot of shop with no PPE in sight

Machine Tool Safety

Speaking of those machines, where are the guards? Why so lax on proper procedure? At one point, the main character brings up OSHA workplace standards regarding Lockout/Tagout requirements. Does his supervisor or coworkers appreciate his input? Of course not! Instead, he gets grumbles, snide remarks, and rolled eyes. All because he’s reminding them that there is an industry regulation already in place to prevent exactly the kind of injury that occurs later in the film. First, having spent plenty of time in a shop, I can tell you this attitude is inaccurate. I’ve forgotten LOTO myself a couple times when rushing and, I can promise you, it wasn’t my coworker who was embarrassed when it was brought to my attention. Second, portraying such disregard for such fundamental procedures in a film famed for being “realistic” creates a false sense of accuracy too. This in turn goes on to undermine industry integrity for everyone unfamiliar with production environments. 


The theme of misrepresentation in this movie continues when you consider the physical environment of the shop itself. The Machinist is a dark and dirty movie, so it’s understandable that cinematographers chose to reflect that with the shop set they created. Understandable but sadly still a totally inaccurate representation of most modern machining facilities today. In a post-Kaizen, Six Sigma-focused industry the “standard” shop is now much different. Well lit, well ventilated, and clean is now the norm for everything from the machine to the shop floor. Part of the reason that the skills gap even exists in the trades is because media continues to portray the industry with such dated imagery. 

Workforce Attitude 

Another contributor to our current labor supply problem in manufacturing has a lot to do with the perceived attitude of our workforce. People in blue collar roles are commonly shown to be unwelcoming, unhelpful bullies. 

Man motioning decapitation at main character

Members of younger generations entering the workforce today are a product of an education system full of anti-bullying policies and they are unwilling to tolerate the idea of something else in their workplace. Movies like The Machinist add fuel to this fire making potential machinists and fabricators think that all their coworkers will be rude, uncaring jerks just waiting for a chance to retaliate. This is most unfortunate of all the film’s missteps because those of us already working in and around the trades know the opposite to be true. Namely, these aren’t our father’s factories we’re working in or their colleagues we’re working alongside. Rather, machinists today work in facilities using the most modern tools, processes, environments, procedures, AND mentalities. 

That’s why The Machinist is a terrible movie for machinists. If this article still makes you want to watch the film yourself, it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Whether you’ve seen it already or not, I hope it also makes you watch it differently than you would have otherwise. Our industry needs more thoughtful consideration about how we’re represented and how we represent ourselves. Got another movie you think is terrible (or wonderful) to watch for people in the trades? We’d love to hear about it. Send suggestions to our Writing Team and maybe you’ll hear what we think about it in a future review.

The prices at the pumps have been higher than ever recently. In fact, US gas prices were the highest they’ve ever been which has many people wondering why they’re high and if the prices will go down. Some are also wondering how it’s made. In reality, the two go hand-in-hand.  


Gasoline is made from crude oil (also known as petroleum). Crude oil (or petroleum) is a fossil fuel which means it is produced from the remains of plants and animals. These plants and animals lived millions of years ago and are covered by sediment which when exposed to weather, erosion, and other environmental factors, produces hydrocarbons.


Hydrocarbons can be liquid or gas. In this case, due to high pressure levels, the hydrocarbons formed under the ground are liquid hydrocarbons. These liquid hydrocarbons are what we know as crude oil (or petroleum). So, how does that become gasoline for vehicles? Let’s check it out!  

Step One 

When a crude oil source is found, drilling begins. Drills bore holes under the surface of the Earth in the area where crude oil has been found. Fun fact: these drills can go as far as one mile deep! The hole created by the drill acts as a well. With the addition of water into the soil, mud is created and this mud pushes cracked rock to the top of the hole at which point it is removed. This also ensures the crude oil stays below the surface. Once it has been determined the reservoir is ready for oil extraction, a pipe is inserted into the hole.  

Step Two  

This pipe is called a casing. This casing has holes in it that allow oil from the reservoir to enter the pipe and bring the oil to the surface of the Earth. Once recovered, the crude oil is stored in large tanks. From those tanks, oil is transported to a refinery via pipeline, ship, or tank cars on rail.  

Step Three 

At the refinery, crude oil is broken down into a variety of other materials to include gasoline and diesel fuel. In fact, gasoline was discovered when crude oil was originally refined to produce oil and kerosene for lamps, prior to the invention of electricity. With the addition of heat (ranging from roughly 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 1100+ degrees Fahrenheit), crude oil is distilled. Distillation is where we create the various byproducts of crude oil. The byproducts made are dependent upon carbon atoms. Remember, crude oil consists of liquid hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons consist of carbon atoms that link together. These links of carbon atoms can vary in length and depending upon the length, will have different properties, characteristics, or behaviors. 


Examples of these chains: a chain with one carbon atom is known as methane. Kerosene consists of 12-15 atom atoms in one chain. The more atoms in one chain, the heavier the byproduct. 

Oil Distillation Process

Step Four 

Once distilled, the byproducts require further refining. Additional refining processes include catalytic cracking, coking, reforming, and alkylation. These are all fancy words that describe the different ways in which the crude oil coming out of the distillation column is further refined and purified. Once finished, it is sent to refinery storage tanks.  

Step Five  

This step is all about blending. From the refinery storage tanks, gasoline is sent to smaller blending tanks via tanker, barge, or pipeline. Here, gasoline is typically blended with ethanol. Blending is done to create different grades of gas. Remember, when you pull up to the pump at a gas station, you see a variety of options. Diesel, E87, E88, etc. These are the grades of gasoline. Different grades of gasoline are made to meet different performance requirements of a vehicle. An example of this is gasoline produced for use in the winter. To improve a vehicle’s ability to start with a cold engine, gasoline is blended to a consistency in which it will vaporize more easily

Step Six 

Once blended and ready for use, tanker trucks deliver the finished fuel to a gas station. The gasoline is stored in tanks underground at each gas station and from these tanks, are pumped up and out of the gas pump once you start it up. If you’re interested in more about that process, check out this article from howstuffworks.com. 

Flow of Crude oil and Gasoline to your pump

So, how does this all tie into the cost of gasoline prices? Well, it comes down to supply and demand. If supply is low but demand is high, prices are higher too. Therefore, if we are not drilling (onshore or offshore) for crude oil or if we are not receiving imported crude oil, we are not refining. If we aren’t refining, the supply is low while demand stays the same or increases. Of course, drilling is a hot button topic and when it comes to importing, supply chain and geopolitical events (which we’ve recently seen) will decrease supply. Thus, gasoline prices and gasoline production go hand-in-hand.

The start of the next school year is just around the corner. Anyone with a TV or a smartphone knows that. We see lots of articles and lists about what is best and worst for students to buy or use. Most of this information is aimed at the traditional K-12 or college student. What about those getting ready to start technical or vocational programs? They are still going to school and have many of the same needs and concerns any student does. However, those preparing for technical careers need to consider additional requirements due to the specific demands of their program or the physical environment of their lab (shop). The following recommendations are sure to help anyone training for the trades to show up on day one just a little more prepared. 

  1. Backpack Every student needs a backpack but students in technical and trades programs need a backpack that can carry tools and hold up to the elements. There are many great options on the market, depending on your needs and tools. Some can get expensive though and price is still a consideration for those just beginning a career. This tool backpack from Milwaukee is the best combo of features, quality, and price you’ll find on the market. And it even has a padded sleeve for your laptop!
    Milwaukee Backpack
  2. Tech Organizer Technical education and technology go hand in hand, so keeping wires untangled is a major concern. The modern student has an ever-growing collection of gadgets, chargers, and cables. Organizers are a great way to keep such things protected and easily accessible. A quick Google search can reveal a lot of options for organizers. Bigger is normally better, especially if you must carry a brick charger for your computer, but slimmer is easier to store. Also, while durability is almost always a concern in the trades, a pouch like this will normally be stored within another bag. This means you can feel free to opt for a cheaper option when you have the choice. A great middle ground selection is this one from mDesign. 
    Tech Organizer
  3. Pen & Paper When you start a technical training program, you’ll spend plenty of time in the classroom. You’ll also find yourself in the shop or the elements frequently. This means your writing equipment needs to function in all conditions. There are plenty of pricey choices available but there are inexpensive options out there that still perform their best when the weather is at its worst. Consider this paired trio from my personal collection, a Rite in the Rain weatherproof notebook and a Zebra F-701 loaded with a Fisher Space Pen refill. The notebook won’t get damaged if you spill on it and will retain its shape even in your pocket. The pen is sturdy and runs pressurized ink cartridges, like Fishers, but costs much less than other options. Combining these items allows you to write in wet conditions, upside down, even in space (seriously, that’s why they call them Space Pens) so you’re sure your notes will always outlast the conditions. 
    Weather Proof Notepad
  4. Post-Its Speaking of writing, if you want to leave a note around the site or your shop you want it to be seen. Post-It notes are great for this but don’t always love the dust, grease, dirt, and grime of many environments. 3M fixed this when they released Post-It Extreme Notes. These will work indoors or outdoors. They’re water-resistant, have 100x the holding power vs the originals, and they’ll still attach/detach without leaving residue.
    Post-It Extremes
  5. Network Everything you learn in a technical program will be important. But, just like anything else in life, what you know generally matters less than who you know. It’s essential that the modern tradesman starts building their network as soon as they start building their tool collection. This network of instructors, co-students, friends, family, and people connected to your school or trade will not only help you prepare for your first job, it’s very possible your network may be what leads you to that first job or the next. I’ve previously covered an easy way anyone can build their professional network using just 10 minutes a day. Read about my 30-day LinkedIn Challenge to learn more. 

I hope you found these recommendations helpful. If you’d like some help choosing other equipment like lunchboxes or building your tool collection, you should check those blogs out as well! And remember, we’re always looking for ideas. If you have one for a future review or list, please send it to our Writing Team and we’ll be sure to cover it in a future article. 

Your eyes: 2 things you are probably taking for granted, simply assuming they will always be happy and healthy without having to put much effort into maintaining their health. In reality, taking care of your eyes so you are able to see those beautiful great grandbabies of yours when you are in your 80’s does take a little work, but I promise it is worth the effort!

Below are just a few reasons why you should take advantage of that vision insurance you have been paying for and not utilizing:

  1. Suffering from headaches? Ever thought it might be related to eye strain? It’s certainly worth seeing someone so they can help pinpoint the problem (or eliminate that concern).

  2. Grades suffering at school? According to Optometry Times, ‘one out of every four children have vision problems.’ If you are like me, your kids complained about not seeing the white board for months before you took their concerns seriously and realized maybe they weren’t just begging for attention. Make sure your child sees an eye doctor annually so learning or reading difficulties related to eyesight can be recognized/diagnosed early.

  3. Things looking fuzzy? Your eyes are constantly changing and those glasses you have been wearing since high school (20 years ago) may be back in style, but those lenses are in desperate need of an update! Get your eyes checked so you can determine if an update is needed (they’ll probably even set you up with some new lenses to pop into those funky old frames if you are not willing to let go quite yet).horn rim eyeglasses sittin on top of an exam chart forground sharp and background soft

  4. Stop it early! Having an annual eye exam is a great opportunity to have a professional look at the overall health of your eyes, even when you are not showing any symptoms or concern. Optometrists can detect eye diseases early in hopes of preventing serious damage.

  5. Concerns about other common health issues? Having an optometrist peek at your peepers allows them the chance to check for the onset of many other diseases or diagnosis, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Who knew?

If you are a FlexTrades employee, you have access to affordable vision insurance! Be sure to take advantage of your eye exams annually and get those green/brown/blue/hazel beauties the attention they so desperately deserve.

Did you know that FlexTrades has an entire behind the scenes safety team!? It’s called “Safety First”. FlexTrades’ #1 priority is to keep our people safe on and off the job!

“Safety matters because you matter” – Brenda Lovitz, FlexTrades’ Safety Manager.

We have been bringing awareness to the importance of staying hydrated. All across the United States the temperatures have been HOT this summer.

Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated:

  • Drink water throughout the day… attempt 8-10 ounces every 1-2 hours. Drinking water at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently.
  • If you are working in the heat… you will require more water consumption.
  • Try to avoid… energy drinks, surplus of caffeine, or any alcohol. If you do choose to consume any of these, you will require more water consumption to stay hydrated.
  • Eat regular meals through the day… this will help you retain the salt that you lose when sweating and moving around.
  • Carry a water bottle with you… having this with you will make it easier to drink water.

Infographic about how much water you should drink

Safety First is what FlexTrades Plans, Practices and Prioritizes.


Personnel Management Group Inc. 



PMG, Inc. Announces Rebrand to FlexTrades 

PMG built our reputation on the flexibility of our skilled trades technicians and the solutions they help us provide to the American manufacturing industry. Now we want that flexibility to be evident from the first time you hear our name – FlexTrades! 


Minneapolis, MN July 25, 2022. PMG, Inc., a premier traveling workforce solutions provider serving companies across all industries of manufacturing, announced today that it has completed a major rebranding. This rebrand will allow the company to more clearly represent who they are and what they do while also reflecting the flexibility of the solutions they offer clients and the employment they provide their skilled tradespeople. 

Established in 2004, PMG is a leader in deploying skilled industrial and engineering talent to clients in need of creative solutions to address production gaps. PMG leans on its nationwide workforce while managing all associated details, big and small, to deliver the right talent match for each client project. The rebranding to FlexTrades is comprehensive across all platforms. A new logo, colors, documents, branded materials, and website will launch in coordination with the name change.  

While much of what they “look like” will change along with the name – nothing else will. FlexTrades will continue to provide the same highly skilled resources they always have to production-focused facilities across the nation with the same level of service and satisfaction their clients and technicians alike have come to expect. 

“Our name and logo may be changing,” said Dave Jacobsen, FlexTrades CEO & Founder, “but what we do and how we do it won’t change in the slightest. The mission of PMG is to make a difference every day through its impact on American production. That will continue to be the FlexTrades mission today, tomorrow and into the future.” 

Visit www.flextrades.com to explore the new website, brand, logo and more to learn how FlexTrades can make a difference for you. 

About FlexTrades 

FlexTrades is a premier traveling workforce solutions provider offering bespoke services to manufacturing, logistics and distribution companies across all sectors of the industry coast to coast. Established in 2004, FlexTrades is a leader in deploying skilled industrial and engineering talent to client facilities experiencing production shortfalls, skill gaps or operational backlogs. FlexTrades leverages its vast network of skilled trade technicians while seamlessly handling all travel logistics, administration, and personnel management to ensure the right talent for each project. The FlexTrades mission is to make a difference every day through its impact on American production. The success of this commitment is evident in the thousands of individuals annually provided with work that matters and by the ever-growing satisfaction of clients, technicians, corporate team members, partners, and communities. 

Media Contact: 

Josh Erickson 

Public Relations & Engagement Specialist