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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.