I’m a big advocate for the skilled trades in general, and manufacturing specifically. I spend a lot of time and energy to get in front of the next generation of our workforce at high schools, technical colleges, military reintegration units, and other vocational training programs around America. Whenever I’m lucky enough to be granted access to such a program, I obviously spend some time speaking about the opportunities to work at FlexTrades and passing along the tribal knowledge I’ve picked up over the decades that I’ve found to be critical to success in any industry. But I’m always surprised how much time I spend answering questions about the skilled trades themselves.  

It reinforces to me how poorly those of us within the trades have marketed ourselves over the past half-century. But these questions are also an important reminder for me to remember that people outside of our industries don’t have the knowledge that insiders do. Because of this, it’s important to be able to speak to the basics – especially when talking to younger audiences. With this in mind, I’d like to share 10 of the questions I most commonly get about the trades (and how I answer them) with all of you. 

 

1) I’m not mechanically inclined or into working with my hands. Is there an opportunity for me to work in the skilled trades? 

There is an opportunity in the trades for everyone, regardless of what their natural aptitudes may be. First, being mechanically inclined is important but the continuing development of tools and technology make that less of a necessity every day. To be clear, you’ll still need to use tools to work in a hands-on position. I’m just saying those tools get easier to use well and require less expertise to do so all the time. This means the industry is trying to make itself more welcoming for all skill levels. But let’s say you are one of those people that just isn’t capable of that kind of work. There’s still a home for you in the trades! From sales to HR to project management to design to administration, trades-oriented companies need all the peripheral and support skills that any other company needs. Don’t ever forget that! 

 

2) Do I need to go to college to work in the trades? 

Plain and simple, no. This doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, just that it’s not a requirement. Whether working in construction, agriculture, or manufacturing, I have worked with individuals who followed all possible paths to success. They may look different, but they lead to the same place. If school isn’t for you and you need to get to work, starting in an entry-level position with a company that provides lots of on-the-job training and plentiful advancement opportunities can be a great way to grow your career. If you have a passion for a particular trade or a firm idea of what path into trades work you want to follow, going to the right local vocational program can be a wonderful option to start. Maybe a four-year degree experience is what you want. That doesn’t mean we don’t need you in the trades! Business, communications, engineering, design, and management majors are just a few of the degree paths that are still much in demand at companies across the trades. 

 

3) What is the best program to take to get a job in the trades? 

The best program to take is the one that fits your interests, skills, and schedule the best. That’s the easy answer. The more complex answer is that it depends on where you’re from and where you’re going. This means that the same school can have programs that are much different when it comes to the quality of their training or the quality of their network. The network can be just as important as the training, because even the best training doesn’t do you much good if nobody is trying to hire graduates from your program. You should also keep this thought in mind when considering local demand for talent. If a school has a great welding program but your desired geographical area has few welding or fabrication shops, you may still struggle to get hired even with excellent skills. All of this means the more homework you do before selecting a program, the less hustling you’ll have to do to get hired after completing it. 

 

4) I want to be an entrepreneur and run my own business. How does a goal like that fit in the trades? 

In short, perfectly! There are well over 250,000 manufacturers, and close to 500,000 construction companies, in just the United States. The vast majority (well over 75% in any given year) are considered to be mid- or small-sized companies. More than half of them employ 20 people or less. This means that most companies employing tradespeople are technically small startups owned and operated by entrepreneurs, and most of them came to that place by starting in bottom rung roles not by pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship or significant amounts of venture capital first. All these numbers add up to one inescapable fact, there isn’t an industry that is more inclined to upward mobility or entrepreneurial growth than the skilled trades. 

 

5) I don’t have many tools. How does a person start a skilled trade career without their own tools? 

By working for a company that doesn’t require you to provide them. This may sound simple but that’s because it is. There are barriers to employment in any industry. The expense of tools can be a big one in the trades. But not every company requires you to provide your own and many that do will provide assistance with your purchases. Tools can be a complicator, but the right research can make sure they’re not a deal breaker. 

 

6) I come from a small town without a lot of employment opportunities locally. How do I get started in the skilled trades? 

Maybe you start your own company. Maybe you temporarily relocate to begin your career so you can start building experience. Or maybe you come work for FlexTrades. We have projects all around America where your skills are in demand. Whether you’re just starting your career, or well along your career path, we have opportunities for you. Almost all of our work requires travel, but you’ll never have to permanently relocate, and you can homebase from anywhere across the country. If this sounds like you, check out our available openings now! 

 

7) Is it hard to start a career in the skilled trades? 

No. People interested in starting are very much in demand and there are many ways in which they can begin. Entry level work with a local company, apprenticeship programs through companies or unions, associates degrees from vocational schools, condensed training programs, military service – all these paths can lead you to a successful career in the trades. You just need to pick the one that’s right for you and then stay on it! 

 

8) Are there opportunities to grow my career once I get started in the trades? 

Of course! Just like any company, there are many ways you can job up. Seniority can get you better pay or more responsibility at some companies. Continuing education or ongoing certification can help you advance at others. Experience alone can help push you up the ladder since knowing the ins and outs of a company often gives internal candidates a leg up on the competition when it comes to new openings and advancement opportunities. The only thing that really can hold your career growth back in the skilled trades is your personal ambition or creativity. 

 

9) Will I make as much money as a “white collar” job? 

Most likely? Yes! While top earners in any one trade may not make what top earners in certain “white collar” fields make (think surgeons compared to great welders) when talking about the “average” worker it’s not even close. There is too much variation in annual average and median incomes, based on location, for me to start quoting them now. What I’ll say is that, wherever you live around the US, do a quick internet search using these phrases “median (insert skilled trade of choice, such as Welder) income for (insert your local zip code) compared to other occupations”. I promise your results will be surprising. 

 

10) What trade is most in-demand? 

That answer varies significantly with geography. For example, injection-mold operators are a lot more likely to be in demand somewhere that has many aviation or automotive manufacturers because they do a lot of injection-molding. However, I tend to encourage people to pursue maintenance careers when they know they want to work in the trades but aren’t sure which trade. Why? Because no matter what changes occur with equipment we use or how we use it, somebody will always be needed to troubleshoot, maintain, and repair that equipment. Maintenance is a great trades career for a lot of reasons but job security like that is one of the big ones. 

 

More FAQs 

I hope you found value in this list and that you’re more prepared to advocate for careers in the skilled trades in the future. If you’d like more answers, check out our blog page to see other questions we’ve covered in the past. Got a question or answer of your own to share? We’d love to help you do that! Send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to share them in a future blog.

As the seasons change and life begins to settle in, we often think we need a change of scenery ourselves. Fall is one of the most popular times for job opportunities to arise. So here are some tips from our technicians on how to fall into place with your new position successfully. 

 

 Be Prepared  

  • Check out your new job site on Google Maps, familiarize yourself with the area. What local stores are nearby? Gas Stations? Convenience stores? Can you find parking?  
  • Pack your essentials the night before and get plenty of sleep! Starting your new assignment well-rested will help you succeed! 

 

The First Impression 

  • Review your orientation schedule and job aids. 
  • Get to know you supervisors by engaging in conversation and asking questions. 
  • Carry a pen and notebook with you, jot down notes during the day! 

 

Become a Networking Guru 

  • Introduce yourself to your coworkers, learn about their interests, you can even add them to your LinkedIn network! 
  • Be mindful of suggestions within the workplace – constructive criticism can help you grow in your field. 

 

Take A Deep Breath 

  • Remember that this is just the beginning of your transition. Adjustment takes time! 
  • Confidence is key, perform your best! 

As a working parent, a celebration for ‘Working Parents Day’ (I say with sarcastic air quotes) seems like extra work, because I know I’m the one throwing the party or begging my kids to give me a break. Considering so many of us live a working parent’s life every day (more than 60% of U.S. families have working parents or dual earners), I will admit I appreciate the idea that our children should take 24 hours to reflect on all we have sacrificed for them and celebrate it on a day other than the 2nd Sunday in May or the 3rd Sunday in June. (End sarcastic tone… 😊) 

 

When my husband and I started talking about having kids early in our relationship, I knew being a stay-at-home mom was not going to be something that kept me satisfied. Stay-at-home parents are a special kind of person. I absolutely look up to them and admire them, but I knew I didn’t have it in me to be one of them. 

 

Fast forward to our children being born. Heading back to work after 12-weeks of leave was really difficult but it was something I knew I had to do for my own sanity. When we moved from central Illinois to the Minneapolis metro when our youngest was just 6 months old, the cost of living more than doubled and it felt like every kid in my daughter’s preschool class had a mom who stayed home and could volunteer at every teachers request. I struggled with what the expectation was of our community and if we were going to be able to give our children everything they needed while both my husband and I worked all day. 

 

Today, as our girls head back to middle school, I appreciate the fact that I have a success story to share with them, so they know what they are capable of. That you can go from working at a truck-stop diner right out of high school and finally graduating with your bachelor’s when you are 27 years old, to being the Director of Human Resources at a really great company that appreciates the importance of quality time with your family. I get to show them every day what being a successful businesswoman looks like and to the same effect, their father does too, just with his own story to back it up.  

 

In the end, I feel like Working Parent’s Day (minus the sarcastic air quotes this time) is almost more of a day for me to appreciate myself: that I’ve done everything I’ve done to be a positive example for my children. I must preface that by saying stay-at-home parents likely feel the exact same way, and for goodness sakes, they absolutely should feel that way – what they do is a full-time job as well. What it really comes down to is that I’m happy doing what I do every day and I get to share with my girl’s what happiness at work looks like.  

 

If you are like most of us, you will not find happiness and contentment in your first job, or your second job, or your third job, or even your tenth job but you will find it if you keep following your passion and doing what feels good to you. Just keep doing what you believe in, and all that work will pay off in the end. And then, that’s when you get to throw yourself that party or ask for a break.

This week was National Payroll Week which is observed in recognition of all employees and the payroll professionals who pay them. These groups are put together because they collectively handle, report, contribute or otherwise touch 70% of the US Treasury’s annual revenue. Wow! In honor of the week, we asked our accounting department what they think your accounting department wants you to know. We learned 5 big things from them. 

Regularly Review Your Pay Stub 

This is not only to ensure your pay is accurate either. Things to review include other pay items such as deductions and taxes. 

Please be sure to send any updates, changes, or information as soon as possible. There is processing time between when information is received to funds being paid, and this will help ensure timely inclusion in payroll. 

Make Sure to Keep Them Updated 

Please be sure to send any updates, changes or information as soon as possible. There is processing time between when information is received to funds being paid, and this will help ensure timely inclusion in payroll. 

It’s Just Math 

“Accountants aren’t any more qualified than you to divvy up the bill at a restaurant.” Bring a calculator and figure out the tip yourself. You’ve got this. 

Fun Fact 

The most common pay frequency in the U.S. is biweekly, which is used by 37 percent of private businesses. Surprisingly, weekly beats semimonthly as a runner-up at 32 percent. 

More Tips & Tricks 

I hope you found value in this list. If you’d like to learn more about your accounting department, give them a call or email and I bet you’ll be glad you did. If you’d like more lists check out our blog page to see more. Did we miss something about accounting that you’d like to share? We’d love to help you do that! Send to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to share them in a future blog. Stay cool and be safe this summer!

September is International Update Your Resume Month. Most careers require a resume as part of consideration for employment but too often people try to write a resume at the last minute. Since a well-done resume takes time and research to create, the last minute is the worst time for jobseekers to make one. Making this month the perfect reminder to get YOUR resume ready for the next unexpected opportunity to pop up. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you craft a resume that work for you rather than against! 

Honesty is the best policy 

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 1 in 4 hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds reviewing a resume but 75% of them have still caught a lie while doing so, leading them to not follow up with that candidate. This means that honesty is your best policy when applying for a job. Not only because it can hold you back but because you’re not setting yourself up for future success even if you do get a call back! 

Proof(reading) is in the pudding 

“You’re not hiring me to write so why does my resume matter?” I hear that all the time from those working more technical roles, like machinists and welders. But, in the era of online applications and telephone interviews, even for the technical trades your resume matters more than ever today. Why? Because a hiring manager sees your resume before they ever see you or your work, making it your best opportunity to put your most (or least) professional foot forward first. Thus, proofing for proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling help subconsciously reflect your strengths like thoroughness, attention to detail, and willingness to take the extra step. 

Be specific and detailed 

If nobody has told you yet, everyone in a hiring position uses resume-reading programs. If your resume is found on an online platform it’s found because it contained certain keywords that were used as search terms. This means that even the right experience can be missed by hiring managers if it’s not being represented by the words and phrases they’re using to search for candidates. How then does a jobseeker succeed? By using this knowledge to their advantage when writing their resume. For example, if you’re a welder looking to highlight your TIG (GTAW) welding experience a quick Google search will show you that kind of welding is searched for most commonly as ‘TIG’ or ‘GTAW’. Therefore, you should make sure to use both terms within your resume and you should avoid other punctuation marks like hyphens or backslashes. If you do so, more eyeballs will see your resume, and you’ll get more interview requests and job offers as a result. 

References: Professional vs Personal 

When asked to provide references most of us generally submit the people that know us best because they are the ones most likely to say good things about us. But remember, no matter how good, or true, the things your friends and former coworkers have to say about you are it doesn’t make them a professional reference. A truly professional reference is not just somebody that knows you or someone you’ve work with before. Rather it is somebody you’ve worked FOR (shift leads, supervisors, foremen, trainers, etc.) because those are the kind of references that can speak about you as a technician, person, coworker, AND employee. When you have a reference like that to make sure you have good contact information for them and give them a heads up you’ve used them as a reference. This last part is important. Make sure they reliably respond to outreach, because even the best reference in the world doesn’t do you any good if they don’t answer when called. 

 

I hope these tips encourage you to update your own resume and, hopefully, make doing so a little easier. If you’d like to find other ways to celebrate International Update Your Resume Day, there are many more options on the web. We’ve done blogs on other topics jobseekers might find helpful, interview tips. Check them out on our blog page. And, of course, if you have other resume tips or questions just send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to cover them in a future article. 

In a recent interview with one of our skilled technicians, Shane, I asked who inspired him to start his work in the trades. He went on to tell me how he owes it all to his mother. I just smiled and thought about how my mom was the biggest influence on my career path too. I’m certain Shane and I aren’t the only ones in that boat!

My mom worked as a middle school teacher for over 40 years. She touches tools as infrequently as possible. Most folks who know her would agree that her mechanical aptitude can be described as “limited at best.” It’s safe to say I learned most of my technical skills from somebody else. Despite this, every skill I have that has made me stand out from others over the years WAS learned from her. And there’s nothing technical about them.

Career Lessons from Mom

Your technical skills get you hired but your soft skills are what keep you hired and allow you to advance. I’ve said that to every class at every tech school I’ve ever visited. I learned the truth of that lesson myself over decades working with people possessing far more “craft” than I do. However, I learned the skills themselves from a life spent as my mother’s child. I had no idea they would all be relevant to life in the trades as well.

Work Ethic – My mom never missed a day of work unless she was physically unable to work. She’s never paid another person to do a job she could do herself. She does extra so others can do less. And she never complains about it. Unsurprisingly, she’s consistently viewed as an indispensable team member.

Organization – No matter how many events, projects, parties, or tasks my mom must juggle she never drops the ball. Calendars on the fridge, post-its in her purse, and notes in her phone all help my mom keep her work (and life) properly prioritized and on-schedule. Her rigorous planning means she rarely wastes time or effort and is universally assumed to be always on-point.

Punctuality – Being late doesn’t make you a bad person but it can make for some bad problems – especially when it comes to your employment. Being early never cost anybody anything except a few extra minutes. Show up everywhere early with something to fill your time and you’ll always be there when it matters. Do it enough and people will notice. My mother’s adherence to this principle didn’t just result in a good reputation. Punctuality means she is never the one seeking out critical information that was missed, but frequently is the one dispensing it.

Photo of young office woman looking on her watch while sitting at the meeting table surrounded by office equipment and her colleagues. Being punctual.

Communication – Sharing blood doesn’t mean that you share a communication style. That’s certainly true in my family. But whether my mom “speaks my language” or not, she still needs me to receive her information and provide mine to her in a manner we both can absorb. This means she’s constantly trying out new phrasing, imagery, and tools. She even got a Snapchat account to continue that effort with her next generation of communication failures (her grandkids). This commitment to communication has allowed her to understand (and be understood by) many generations of different ages, races, creeds, genders, etc. It has also kept her professionally relevant well into her fifth decade in the workforce. 

technology, old age and people concept - happy smiling senior woman taking selfie or having video call at summer garden

Professional Pride – Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability and then stand by it. This is true regardless of whether the final result ends up being good or bad. If you try your hardest and own your work, you will benefit by either an increase in esteem (external factor) or knowledge (internal factor). Both will always benefit your career. Knowing this has allowed my mom to change with the times to continue to provide the same quality of education to students today as she first did so many years ago, throughout very different eras.

This Mother’s Day I hope you all take the time to think about what your own mom has done to help form the person and professional you’ve become. Then tell her why and make sure to say “thank you”. She deserves it. If those of you who are mothers would like to further influence your child by getting them to think about a career in the trades, that’s a great idea! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this holiday (and the trades) than by having a conversation with mom.

Spring means a lot of things across America but in hiring and educational circles it mostly means one thing – career fair season. There are events everywhere put on by schools, community groups, and sometimes even by employers. A fair is easy to find, you only need to look online or in your local paper but getting satisfactory results can be a lot more difficult. You can already find a lot of info online to help prepare for a fair ahead of time. But we’ve come up with three easy, actionable tips so everyone involved with a career fair can find success while at the event. 

Organizers

Door Prizes – Foot traffic is the name of the game for employer events. Prizes and giveaways can help a lot when it comes to getting people in the building for your event. Fewer prizes with bigger values will always be a bigger draw, even if it means you must give them away in a drawing or raffle. 

Employer Maps – Students, alumni, and community members come to a career fair to find a job. Make it easy for them to find the kind of jobs for which they’re searching. The easiest way to do this is with a booth map showing where each employer is located and clearly calling out the skillsets/positions for which they’re hiring. 

Walk Around – Surveys after the event can be helpful when planning for your next one but walking around during your event allows you to connect with employers and job seekers in real time. This gives you the best chance to put on a great event by ensuring you can tackle problems and questions immediately.Surveyor asking attendees questions about the career fair they are attending 

Employers

Make Jobs Obvious – Attendees at a career fair are looking for jobs. Make it easy for people with the right skills for the jobs you’re filling to find you. Hiring welders or drivers or office admins? Then say it clearly and specifically in your signage and table literature rather than something ambiguous like, “Now hiring for ALL positions.” 

Use Images – A picture says a thousand words, so using a view pictures or videos can replace thousands of words in your signage. This saves money and space as well as simplifying your message and creating a neater overall booth appearance. Quality images also help you draw more ESL speakers or people that may not read well from a distance into your booth too. 

Know Your Product – This may sound self-explanatory, but it is a frequent problem at career fairs. Companies often send out people that know their hiring process best, but those people don’t always know the day-to-day details of the work itself. Having an event team that can speak to the full employee experience (onboarding, compensation, benefits, daily work duties, etc.) goes a long way to generating interested candidates. 

Job Seekers

Do Your Research – Some hiring events can get truly huge with hundreds of employers and thousands of job seekers. Showing up unprepared to such an event is a sure way to get overwhelmed quickly. To avoid this, do your homework first. Research employers on the internet ahead of time to create a list of target companies you want to connect with and to make sure you have questions ready for them once you do! 

Take Notes – You can make a great many connections, and learn a lot of information, in a short time at a career fair. Don’t trust your memory to remember it all! Whether you take an actual notebook, take pictures and notes on your phone, or just jot down details on the back of business cards – writing down who said what and when will be extremely helpful for follow ups and actual interviews. 

Make It a Game – The real benefit to a career fair for a job seeker is sheer volume. The more potential employers you talk to, the more likely you are to find the right opportunity for you. To capitalize on this, try incentivizing yourself to hit as many booths as possible. You can do so by pre-determining a “reward” for yourself if you speak with X number of employers or simply making a competition between friends to see who can connect with the most. 

We hope you find this list helpful in getting the most out of the next employer event you attend. If it winds up leading you to your next career, you may want some additional help too. Check out our previous blog about what not to do at a new job to make sure you win your first day! And remember, if you have ideas for things to do, or NOT to do, (or places and situations in which you shouldn’t do them) we’re happy to share those too! Just send them to our PMG Writing Team and we’ll cover them in a future blog. 

As a Project Manager there are many responsibilities to ensure that the entire operation is running smoothly. We sat down with a few of our project managers to hear how they keep their team and clients happy.  

Stephen DeTombe and Daniel O’Driscoll shared their best practices when it comes to keeping everyone content. 

Tips to keeping the team happy: 

  • Respect every team member 
  • Fully present during each conversation 
  • Follow through with their requests 
  • Remember the personal things they share with you (family, hobbies, favorite teams… etc.) 
  • Daily walk throughs on-site 
  • Face-to-face communication whenever possible 

Tips to keeping the client happy:  

  • Stay professional, courteous, and friendly 
  • Anticipate their needs 
  • Responsive to issues with efficient solutions 
  • Be an ally in their successes 
  • Face-to-face interactions with the client 

These simple actions ensure that we all reach success and completion!! Skillful worker stand together showing teamwork in the factory . Industrial people and manufacturing labor concept .

The future of manufacturing lies in the hands of automation. Industry 4.0 is where it’s at and that means robotics, PLCs, and CNC. If you’re in the CNC machining trade now, or would like to be, growing your career from CNC Operator or CNC Machinist to CNC Programmer is a great way to pave your career path and going back to school is a great place to start.The operator setup the CNC machine milling machine by press the controller keypad. The CNC machining center operation by skill operator.

If you’re committed to becoming a CNC Programmer, start by enrolling into a local technical college to get a CNC Programmer or CNC Programming certificate, diploma, or degree. Consider the following items when you’re determining where to go.

    • Does the school have curriculum approved by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS)? NIMS establishes standards for CNC Programming and CNC Programmer Certifications within trade schools.  
    • Does the school have quality equipment and software for hands-on experience? Mastercam is a very common programming language in the CNC world and will open doors for you in the programming world.  Operator working at programmable machine. CNC machine.
    • What is the length of the program? What amount of time can you commit to this endeavor? Getting a CNC Programming certificate will take less time than getting a CNC Programming Diploma which takes less time than getting an associate degree.
    • What is the cost of the program, can you commit to the cost, and is there value in what you’re getting for the cost?
    • Location, location, location. Do you need online options, or can you do in-person learning?
    • Consider working for PMG. One of the great benefits we offer our technicians is training reimbursement. We have a great program in place that allows you to build upon your current skills and education by reimbursing up to $2,000 for approved courses relevant to your trade.

Day one seems like a distant memory,
A leaf swept away by the icy breeze,
Distant—
—yet familiar.

A year ago, I was a leaf
Shaking in the cold air, pleading for the sun to rise;
Sweeping me up in its warm embrace.

Oh, the sweet wind carried me here.
Where pastel pink tulips dance under the breeze—
Blue jays warm the sun.

A year later I stay,
Within the comfort of my new home surrounded by light.
Each ray filled with adventure.

New leaves sprouting nearby,
Each whispering their own lovely tales
as I dance along the breeze
Eager to start again.

Inspired by the author’s first year working at PMG.

Jazmin Crittenden

Jazmin Crittenden

Technical Solutions Administrator