Community. It’s a word that gets used a lot in the news, in corporate statements, at local events, everywhere. But what does it really mean? The dictionary will tell you that a community is a group of people living in the same place, having a particular characteristic in common, or otherwise feeling fellowship with others because of shared attitudes, interests, and goals. Here at FlexTrades, community includes not only the people we work with, but the personal connections we make with them outside of work.

FlexTrades’ mission is to make a difference every day for everyone: clients, employees, and the communities we call home. Most of the time we make that difference in ways that are fun to celebrate. We help clients conquer challenges, customers achieve goals, and employees succeed professionally. But sometimes the biggest difference can be made by simply offering a helping hand when it’s required the most.

Here’s a story about a member of our community who needed support and the grassroots effort to make sure he and his family got just that.

We first connected with Brian Warren years ago. He’s the Program Coordinator for the Precision Machining Engineering Technology program at Meridian Community College in Mississippi. Brian saw one of our job postings online and promptly reached out to schedule an employer presentation for his upcoming graduates. That’s the kind of thing Brian does for his students, the “extra” stuff. 

Over the two decades he’s led Meridian’s machining program, he has done so many of those extra things. Brian connects his students with employers. Not just locally, but truly on a national scale, to open their eyes to the larger opportunities machining can create for them. He encourages students to build skills beyond the machine, like networking, to help advance the prospects of the industry and their personal careers. And Brian works tirelessly to help ensure underrepresented student populations find a home in machining, too. Given all of that, it should be no surprise that his program produces excellent machinists and programmers who have made a real difference for their community and American manufacturing.

That kind of commitment, vision, and give-first attitude is why we love working with Brian. It’s also why we felt compelled to find a way to give back to Brian when his family received news that turned their world upside down.

In early fall of 2023, a lump began to develop on the right arm of Brian’s then 2-year-old son, Jake. Originally, this lump was misdiagnosed as non-cancerous. But right before Christmas last year, the Warren family learned that young Jake was actually suffering from a pediatric cancer known as Ewing Sarcoma. Jake’s arm and life were both at risk, and his parents, Brian and Marsha, were thrown into chaos. 

Jake was facing surgery, to begin 2024, followed by 16 weeks of chemo. Marsha had to resign from her job as a Licensed Practical Nurse to care for Jake and stay with him during weeklong stays in the hospital, hours away from home, for treatment. And Brian was left to hold things together as best he could while putting thousands of miles on his vehicle to and from the hospital all while continuing to support his students on their path to graduation. The mental and physical anguish experienced in such a scenario is obvious, but the financial burden incurred while pursuing cancer treatment is also overwhelming.

Brian and his family needed help and their network, including FlexTrades, rallied to the cause.

Members of our ReTool team work closely with technical program instructors across America and have come to know Brian very well over the years. When they learned of Jake’s diagnosis, they immediately brought the news to our attention and the question was asked, “What can we do to help?” The obvious answer was to attempt to raise as much money as possible.

Originally, Jake’s treatment plan was expected to be around 5 to 6 months. After responding well to chemo and a surgery that also went well, the Warrens thought they would learn that Jake was cancer free. Those hopes were dashed when they were told in a post-operation appointment that two small sarcomas yet remained in Jake’s arm. Now the treatment plan has been reset and will extend, at minimum, into early 2025.

FlexTrades has a core value of “Give Back.” We’ve been successful fundraisers for everything from bicycle donations to school supply drives to supporting Special Olympics. Because of this, we knew we could help this family in our manufacturing community, as well, but how? 

Since we were looking to take a big slice out of the Warren family’s financial burden, we decided to throw a pizza party to share this mission one slice at a time with the manufacturing community across our home base of Minnesota. That’s when Pizza for Pediatric Cancer Support was born, now we just needed some partners.

We found our first partner in FlexTrades’ Leadership Team when they immediately supported this event and donated prizes to promote early registration. Our next partner was The Pointe in Prior Lake, Minnesota. They’re an official shuttle location for our annual Polar Plunge fundraiser to support the Special Olympics, and they host our work team every year. The Pointe was our first call to host, and they didn’t hesitate to jump in with both feet to support this cause. They donated the location, servers, and sodas while also giving us a deal on pizzas in an effort to maximize fundraising dollars.

Now that we had an event and a location, we needed participants. Our Marketing team created an Eventbrite site to capture digital registrations for the event while also launching several email and social media campaigns to generate awareness and interest. Our Sales team made our clients aware of the cause and offered to cover the cost of attendance for any who were local to Minnesota. And our Technical Recruiting and Project Success teams made the same offer to any of our technicians on active assignments local to the Minnesota area. Finally, our Give Back Committee got the fundraising started with a grant from our charitable budget.

With a plan in place, a date set, and all our team members working together, we were excited to gather in support of such a worthy cause. But we didn’t know yet how big of a difference we could make. When the morning of June 22 arrived, so did our event team. With signs and t-shirts in hand, they transformed a corner of the event space into a mobile exhibit telling Jake’s story, inviting onlookers to learn more. Bartenders even offered to display a tip jar to help raise funds while the event was in progress. 

And what an event it was! 

We ended the day with close to 100 registration tickets purchased and dozens of in-person attendees. Co-workers shared hugs, laughs, and a few tears. Local diners, unconnected to our event, were inspired to donate to the cause, as well. And, as a side benefit, many corporate employees got to meet some of our traveling skilled trades professionals face to face for the first time. One of our welders even brought his entire family simply to be a part of supporting another family connected to manufacturing.

It was a wonderful day and it ended with a great result. When all the funds and donations were counted, our efforts raised more than $2,000 for Jake and his family! We’re grateful for all the help we received in our endeavor to assist the Warrens, but their struggles aren’t over yet.

Jake’s GoFundMe (embedded below) has raised over $50,000 to date, but that’s only half of what they are expecting to need before their journey ends.

If you would like to help us continue to assist the Warren family, please feel free to donate whatever you can. Every penny raised will no doubt make a tremendous difference for Jake and his family. 

 

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable shift in the career aspirations of younger generations. Much to the delight of industry advocates like “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe, skilled trade careers are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, especially among Gen Z. This trend is most visible on social media platforms like TikTok, where the hashtag #BlueCollar has amassed more than half a million posts this year alone. Young tradespeople are sharing their day-to-day experiences, inspiring a new generation to consider careers in skilled trades over traditional college routes.

The Social Media Movement

The rise of social media has given a voice to blue-collar workers, allowing them to showcase their skills and the value of their work. Influencers like 27-year-old electrician Lexis Czumak-Abreu, who has over 1.1 million followers, are leading the charge. Her posts, which include clips of her installing utility outlets and wiring homes, not only highlight the technical skills involved in her job but also portray a fulfilling and lucrative career path. Stories like hers are becoming more common, showing that skilled trades can be both financially rewarding and personally satisfying.

Why Skilled Trades Are Attractive

There are several reasons why skilled trades are becoming more attractive to younger people:

  1. Cost of Education: Unlike traditional four-year colleges, trade schools are generally more affordable, helping students avoid the crippling debt that often accompanies higher education.
  2. High Demand: The demand for skilled tradespeople is growing. For every five tradespeople who retire, only two replace them. This gap creates numerous job opportunities with competitive salaries.
  3. Job Security and Prosperity: Skilled trades offer a path to prosperity without the need for a traditional college degree. Tradespeople like plumbers, electricians, and welders often earn substantial incomes, sometimes exceeding $200,000 annually.

FlexTrades: Leading the Charge in Skilled Trades Employment

At FlexTrades, we are proud to be at the forefront of this resurgence in skilled trades careers. We understand the unique needs and aspirations of today’s tradespeople, and we are committed to providing opportunities that offer freedom, choice, financial benefits, and travel.

Why Choose FlexTrades?

  • Freedom and Flexibility: We offer our employees the freedom to choose assignments that fit their skills and preferences. Whether you prefer short-term projects or long-term engagements, FlexTrades has options that can suit your lifestyle.
  • Financial Benefits: Our skilled tradespeople enjoy competitive wages, comprehensive benefits packages, and opportunities for financial growth. With FlexTrades, you can build a prosperous career without the burden of student debt.
  • Travel Opportunities: For those who love to travel, FlexTrades provides opportunities to work in diverse locations across the United States. Experience new places while doing what you love.
  • Premier Employer: As the premier employer of skilled tradespeople in the United States, FlexTrades is dedicated to supporting your career development. We provide ongoing training, support, and resources to help you succeed.

Join the FlexTrades Team

If you’re inspired by the growing trend of young people turning to skilled trades, consider joining the FlexTrades team. We offer a supportive and dynamic work environment where your skills are valued, and your career can thrive.

Explore the opportunities available at FlexTrades today and be part of a movement that’s redefining what it means to have a “cool” career. Visit our website to learn more and apply for current openings. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, leaders are constantly seeking innovative methods to gain a competitive edge. While traditional strategies like market analysis and financial planning remain essential, an unconventional tool is gaining traction among savvy professionals: astrology. Astrology holds potential as a valuable resource for understanding human behavior, predicting trends, and making strategic decisions.  

In celebration of FlexTrades’ 20th birthday this May, I delved into its astrological birth chart out of curiosity. Given my interest in astrology, I wanted to see how the present planetary positions might influence my workplace. Stay tuned until the end of this blog to get a glimpse into the process we used to discover FlexTrades’ astrology and how we intend to use it. For now, let’s explore how astrology can be utilized to enhance business practices and drive success. 

Understanding Astrology in Business 

At its core, astrology is the study of celestial bodies’ positions and their influence on human affairs. While some may view it skeptically, many successful individuals and businesses have leveraged astrological insights to their advantage. Astrology operates on the belief that celestial alignments can impact individuals’ personalities, behaviors, and even broader societal trends. 

In the context of business, astrology offers valuable insights into consumer behavior, market trends, and optimal timing for decision-making. By understanding the unique characteristics associated with different astrological signs, businesses can tailor their marketing strategies, product offerings, and customer interactions to resonate more effectively with their target audience. 

Utilizing Astrological Insights 

  1. Consumer Profiling: Just as marketers create buyer personas based on demographic data, they can also incorporate astrological insights to refine their understanding of consumer preferences. For example, individuals born under the sign of Leo might be drawn to products that emphasize luxury and self-expression, while those under Virgo may prioritize practicality and attention to detail. 
  2. Timing Strategies: Astrology offers guidance on auspicious timing for launching new products, initiating marketing campaigns, or making major business decisions. By consulting astrological calendars, businesses can align their activities with favorable planetary alignments, maximizing their chances of success. 
  3. Team Dynamics: Understanding the astrological profiles of team members can enhance communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution within organizations. By recognizing individuals’ strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles based on their astrological signs, managers can foster more productive and harmonious work environments. 
  4. Strategic Planning: Astrology provides a broader perspective on cyclical patterns and long-term trends, enabling businesses to anticipate market shifts and adapt their strategies accordingly. By identifying recurring planetary alignments associated with economic cycles or industry-specific trends, businesses can proactively position themselves for success. 

Considerations 

While astrology offers unique insights, it’s essential to approach its use in business with a critical mindset. Skeptics argue that astrology lacks empirical evidence and scientific validity, making it unreliable as a basis for decision-making. Additionally, relying too heavily on astrological guidance may lead to confirmation bias or oversimplified interpretations of complex market dynamics. 

However, some of the most successful companies in the world, like Coca-Cola, are proponents of astrological business practices. They emphasize astrology as a complementary tool rather than a sole determinant of strategy. When used in conjunction with traditional data analysis and strategic planning, astrology can offer fresh perspectives, creative inspiration, and a deeper understanding of human behavior. 

Some like to think of astrology as a weather report, much like grabbing an umbrella when rain is predicted, or choosing an alternate route for your daily commute if you’re aware of certain areas prone to flooding and traffic jams during rainy weather; knowing astrological forecasts can help you anticipate and plan for upcoming events. 

Conclusion 

In the dynamic and competitive landscape of business, companies must explore unconventional avenues for gaining insights and achieving success. Astrology, with its rich history and unique approach to understanding human behavior, holds promise as a valuable resource for businesses seeking a competitive edge. By incorporating astrological insights into consumer profiling, timing strategies, team dynamics, and strategic planning businesses can unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. 

Ultimately, whether one chooses to embrace astrology or remain skeptical, its influence on human culture and decision-making cannot be denied. In the realm of business, those who dare to explore its potential may discover hidden opportunities and insights that lead to greater prosperity and success. 

How To Decode a Business Birth Chart 

The first part in decoding a business birth chart involves gathering founding information. This includes the date, time and location of its birth—the more specific the better. Tracking down the exact time is likely the most challenging piece. Some ways you can do this are: using the timestamp from a significant purchase like a business license or website domain name or the time your doors opened for the first time.  

As someone who uses astrology in my personal life, I knew how important determining the time is because it helps give a more accurate reading by utilizing the rising sign (AKA your Ascendant). Your rising sign represents your social personality or the energy that you put into the world.  

For FlexTrades we used the first mark on our company’s historical timeline—May 13, 2004 “Open for business with two employees”. This felt like a very clear sign to use May 13, 2004, for our birthdate and 8:00am for our birthtime.  

From here you can calculate the business natal chart by using astrology software like Astrograph.com or consulting a professional astrologer. The resulting chart will depict the positions of the Sun, Ascendant, Moon, planets, and other astrological components at the time of the company’s establishment. 

From here, you can consult a professional astrologer to walk you through how astrological house positions and current planetary placements may impact your business.  

Curious to know more about FlexTrades’ astrology? 

Here is a sneak peek into FlexTrades’ Big 3 (Sun, Ascendent/Rising and Moon signs) and the characteristics that represent those signs. 

  1. Sun (will and purpose): Taurus 
  2. Ascendent/Rising (social personality): Gemini 
  3. Moon (emotional nature): Pisces  

Taurus is an earth sign, known for its stability, and reliability. Taureans are grounded, provide a strong foundation, value security, and seek stability. They are also determined, persistent, dependable, and consistent.  

Geminis are highly adaptable individuals who embrace new experiences with enthusiasm. They are natural communicators, have a strong intellectual curiosity, and enjoy exploring new ideas, concepts, 

Pisceans are compassionate with a natural inclination to help those in need and are drawn to humanitarian causes. They are also imaginative, idealistic, and naturally inspire those around them. 

It’s no surprise that the prominent traits emphasized in FlexTrades’ Big 3 support our brand’s personality and archetype exploration efforts. This enhances the perception of FlexTrades to our diverse audience – including technicians, clients, and the communities we serve. At FlexTrades, our commitment lies in making a difference every day by being reliable, intelligent, down-to-earth, and honest. We show up consistently and authentically to serve our technicians, clients, and communities exemplifying thought leadership, transparency, and possibility 

Leveraging Astrology for Business Success Insights from FlexTrades (1)

Here’s a glimpse at FlexTrades’ natal chart, created with astrograph.com’s free birth chart tool. Lucky for us novice to intermediate astrology readers, the astrology software tool will provide insights into planetary symbols, aspects, placements, and their significance. We recommend consulting a professional astrologer to gain a comprehensive understanding of your chart and how the planetary placements and aspects could influence your company. Happy forecasting and strategic planning! 

In the early hours of March 28, 1979 the largest nuclear accident the United States has ever seen is about to unfold. At 4:00am, the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station suffers a pump failure and cooling malfunction which leads to a partial nuclear melt down. Fortunately, this partial meltdown did not lead to any loss of life, and the lessons learned have helped to make America’s power plants safer than ever.

Most manufacturing facilities don’t have the potential to devastate an entire region like a full nuclear meltdown could. But the health and safety of employees is at serious risk if safety procedures aren’t followed, or if they aren’t in place to begin with.

A recent article we presented outlines the CDC’s Hierarchy of Controls. At Three Mile Island, the nuclear reaction (the most dangerous part) cannot be eliminated or replaced. Therefore, excellent engineering and administrative controls were in place to isolate the most dangerous effects of the meltdown away from the operators and inspectors monitoring the situation.

Below is a timeline of key events on this day 45 years ago and some of the aftermath.

March 27, 1979 – Setting the Stage

Maintenance efforts to clear resin filters have created a dangerous situation for the plant operators. Water enters air lines through a stuck valve creating a ticking time-bomb that unfolds the next morning.

4:00am March 28, 1979 – The Accident Begins

A pump failure leads to a reactor shutdown. The stuck valve from the previous day does not allow cooling systems to work in the reactor, causing it to quickly overheat. The meltdown has begun as operators are notified with alarms.

7:45am March 28

A small release of radioactive gas is recorded off-site and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is notified.

8:00am March 28

Additional support is needed quickly. Response teams from the NRC, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are mobilized.

9:15am – 11:00am March 28

In Washington DC, President Jimmy Carter is briefed on the accident. Back in Pennsylvania, non-essential personnel are ordered to leave the premises to limit unnecessary exposure.

Afternoon into Evening March 28

In the afternoon, the first air samples are taken by helicopters to monitor radioactivity in the atmosphere. As the day comes to a close, the situation is stabilizing, and the core continues to cool to safer levels.

March 30, 1979

Radiation from an auxiliary building is released which causes a new wave of concerns. Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburgh is worried for citizens in the area and begins discussing an evacuation plan. Vulnerable citizens within a five-mile radius are advised to leave the area.

March 31 to April 1, 1979

A large hydrogen bubble has been identified inside the pressure vessel that contains the reactor core. If this hydrogen bubble were to breach the pressure vessel, large amounts of radiation could escape. Fortunately, the hydrogen bubble reduced in size, and since there was no oxygen present, there was no risk of explosion.

President Jimmy Carter visits the site.

Mid-April 1979 – Investigations

Two investigations are set in motion. The President appoints a 12-member commission while the NRC forms another group to investigate. The purpose is to identify what happened and determine if there are any health and safety risks for those on-site and in the area.

The President’s commission releases a report several months later. They suggest industry standards be developed to better manage nuclear power plants. It also cites the need for operators to receive better training and closer supervision.

1980’s – Cleanup and Health Studies

In July 1980, over a year after the accident, the first manned entry of the reactor building is done.

Throughout the 1980s, the “head” (roof) of the reactor vessel is removed. Reactor materials are removed and shipped off-site. By 1988, the facility’s license is changed to “possession-only” to enter a state of long-term monitoring.

Epidemiological studies are done to study the health effects of the accident. In 1981, they find that the amount of radiation released was too small to detect any negative effects to those close to the plant. In 1982 and 1988, two different studies find that infant mortality rates were not affected. In 1985 and 1989, two studies find that no significant abnormalities in cancer rates were present either.

1990’s to Today

In the 1990s, the site continues to be decontaminated of radioactive materials and waste.

Additional health studies continue to find that cancer rates did not increase in the area. However, some residents and employees felt psychological stress from the event for up to six years in some cases.

By 2009, the reactor is permanently shut down and defueled, but it will remain monitored for years to come.

Conclusion

As mentioned in the beginning, manufacturers don’t typically face the large-scale environmental and ecological risks of a nuclear reactor melting down, but the risk to life and limb is very real for millions of tradespeople. What lesson can we, as manufacturers, learn from an accident like Three Mile Island?

Engineering controls create safer work environments by separating employees from the source of hazards. Solid administrative controls and sufficient training on them will help employees understand how to work safely, and what to do if something goes wrong.

Sadly, regardless of great safety controls, accidents still happen. When they do, it’s critical that they are reported, and that an investigation is done to determine the root cause. With additional information, updated safety measures and training can be incorporated to prevent a similar accident in the future.

Dear High School Students and Those Considering Your Next Steps,

You’re at a crossroads, facing one of the most significant decisions of your life: What comes after high school? While college is often presented as the primary path, it’s not the only route to a successful and fulfilling career. The world of manufacturing and skilled trades offers a wealth of opportunities that align with the practical, financial and personal aspirations of many young adults.

Quick Entry to the Workforce & Financial Benefits

Entering a trade can provide a faster transition to starting your career, often requiring less time than the four-year commitment to college. Trade programs typically last from a few months to two years, allowing you to gain the necessary skills and start earning sooner. The financial aspect is also compelling. Trade school can significantly reduce educational expenses compared to university tuition, lessening the burden of student debt. For example, the average cost of trade school tuition in the United States is around $5,000 per year, compared to the tens of thousands spent annually on a four-year degree.

Breaking Barriers & Building Futures

Trade school isn’t just for men; it’s a viable and rewarding path for young women who are eager to build a successful career. Women in trades can thrive in environments that value skill, determination and creativity. Pursuing a skilled trade career offers stability, competitive salaries and the satisfaction of hands-on work. The diversity in trades means there are numerous opportunities to find a niche that aligns with personal interests and strengths, from construction and automotive to technology and renewable energy sectors. Women entering the trades are breaking stereotypes, contributing to a more diverse workforce and proving that these careers are not defined by gender but by expertise and passion.

Growing Demand & Job Security

The demand for skilled tradespeople is on the rise, with sectors like manufacturing, construction and green energy experiencing particularly high growth. For instance, solar panel installer positions are projected to grow by 52% through 2030. This demand creates a robust job market and offers job security that is often unmatched in other fields.

Hands-On Learning & Real-World Application

Many of you thrive with hands-on learning and practical application, traits that align perfectly with careers in the trades. Apprenticeship programs offer the opportunity to earn while you learn, gaining real-world experience under the mentorship of seasoned professionals. This approach not only provides a solid foundation of skills but also allows you to apply what you learn immediately, making education both relevant and engaging.

Opportunities for Advancement & Innovation

The trades are not a dead-end path; they offer substantial opportunities for career growth and advancement. With experience and additional certifications, you can progress to supervisory roles, manage projects or even start your own business. The field also encourages innovation, with technology integration offering new ways to work and solve problems, ensuring the trades remain both dynamic and evolving.

Essential to the Economy & Society

Skilled tradespeople play a crucial role in maintaining and advancing our infrastructure and quality of life. From building homes to maintaining energy systems, these careers are essential to society’s functioning and offer a sense of purpose and contribution that is deeply fulfilling.

Pursuing a career in manufacturing and skilled trades is not just a backup plan — it’s a viable, rewarding and often overlooked path to success. It’s about matching your interests and strengths with opportunities that offer not only financial rewards but also job satisfaction and the chance to make a tangible impact on the world.

Embrace the possibilities that lie in the skilled trades, and consider how this path might be the right fit for you.

If you have questions about the skilled trades, feel free to contact the FlexTrades team at any time. We’d be more than happy to offer our support and guidance.

FlexTrades might be considered one of the top travel agents in the United States based upon all the flights, road trips, and hotels we book and advise on year after year for our technicians. As a result, we know the tips and tricks for making travel easier and cheaper, and we’re sharing that list with you.

Tips & Tricks for Travel

Cheap Flights

  1. Don’t choose a destination, then your travel dates, and then find a flight. Rather, first find low-cost flights (from your departure airport) and then decide the destination that intrigues you the most on the dates that work well.
  2. If the above doesn’t work for you, then book your flights with strategy. There are windows of time that seem to work best depending upon whether your flying domestically or internationally.

  1. It used to be said that there were specific days of the week that were better than others when booking a flight but that’s now considered a myth. However, there are days considered cheaper to fly thanks to business travelers.

Departure Days

  1. Google Flights is considered by many as the best way to find flights and there are best practices for using Google Flights too (find them here). But it’s not necessarily the best way to book flights. Always try to book flights directly with the airline.
  2. Finally, if you’re not against credit cards, using an airline credit card can score you additional dollar savings with perks like free checked luggage or complimentary Wi-Fi in addition to lower cost or free flights if you secure enough points or miles.

Cheap Road Trips 

  1. First and foremost, if you’re driving by car, try not to travel on peak traffic days or during peak traffic hours. Peak traffic days like holidays (or even weekends) often bring higher fuel costs (and lodgings costs).
  2. Gas can be one of the biggest costs when traveling by car, but it can also be the easiest way to save money. Google Maps will not only help you plan your route, but you can also view all the gas stations along the way and their current fuel price.

           

  1. If that’s not your thing, consider a fuel rewards app like Gas Buddy, which helps you not only save money but also earn rewards. And, if it’s helpful, Gas Buddy will calculate an estimate of the cost of fuel for the entire ride, too.
  2. Focus on fuel efficiency. You can do this by driving at the speed at which your vehicle gets the greatest fuel economy (typically around 55 mpg) or by getting a tune up on your vehicle prior to travel.
  3. Whether you have a personal vehicle or not, public transportation is a great alternative to traveling in your car. Whether you do it for your entire trip (Amtrak here we come!) or you do it once you’re at your final destination, you’ll likely find costs are lower than they would be with a vehicle. Public transportation avoids parking fees, fuel costs, and wear & tear on your vehicle. Another plus to public transportation? Seeing everything that’s around you as a passenger, rather than a driver.
  4. Last but not least, save money on food. Here’s some tips and tricks on how to not only eat within budget but also eat well while road tripping.

Cheap Lodging

No matter what type of lodging you prefer, you can always find a good deal on it. There is no need to sleep in your car to save money or blow your budget somewhere to lay your head.  Below are some options to stay within budget but remember, it’s not just about budget it’s also about traveling safely and securely.

  1. Hotels are, of course, great places to stay. Here’s some tips & tricks for finding hotels within your budget and remember to use these best practices when booking a hotel. And don’t forget to earn rewards with hotel chains by signing up for their loyalty programs.
  2. Airbnb or VRBO
    • Some may say these aren’t cost efficient but if you’re real about what you need vs. don’t need and/or where you stay, you can find some budget friendly options!
  3. Hospitality Exchanges
    • This “exchange” allows a traveler to stay in the home of a local either for free or very minimal reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses. As someone using this option, you too, must be willing to host when others need a place to stay.
    • Couch Surfing
    • BeWelcome
  4. Hostels
    • Just like any other lodging, hostels vary in terms of cleanliness, available amenities, and quality. However, they can still be a very budget-friendly lodging option.
  5. Home Exchange
    • Is a great place for this. Additionally, with websites like mindmyhouse.com, housecareers.com, and luxuryhousesitting.com, you can match with homeowners who need house sitters. For watching over their home, pets, and minor cleaning, you can secure a free place to stay at your intended destination.
  6. Stay on a Farm or at a Monastery
    • Staying at a farm or monastery is definitely a unique approach to lodging but it’s one type of lodging that allows for a lot of learning!

The proof is in the pudding. You don’t have to save money for years on end to travel, rather you can save money while traveling and still get the adventure you’re looking for!

At FlexTrades, we offer very specialized services to our clients. Our workforce is made up of some of the most skilled tradespeople in the United States. They can walk into a new client facility and, with very little spool-up time, produce an output that meets and exceeds expectations. But our clients aren’t just looking for those incredible skills, they are also looking for a highly motivated workforce who will show up on time every shift.

To accommodate our client’s need for a reliable workforce and accommodate technicians who need time off during a project, we offer RTO (Requested Time Off). But how is that different from PTO (Paid Time Off)?

PTO – Paid Time Off

Most of us are familiar with PTO. Many companies offer their employees PTO as a part of a benefits package. According to this LinkedIn article, the average US employee earns 10 days of PTO per year. Within manufacturing, after 20 years, a veteran employee receives an average of 21 days. Most companies expect employees to give ample notice before using PTO so they can make scheduling adjustments. PTO is intended to allow employees time off for vacations days, sick days, and personal days.

RTO – Requested Time Off

An important part of the service we offer to clients is reliability and high attendance for the duration of a project. But we understand that life isn’t on hold while you’re on a project!

If an employee has a planned event where they know time off will be needed, they can use RTO. For example, if a family member is getting married, or if an important religious holiday happens during a project. We ask our technicians to coordinate with their Technical Recruiter and Project Success Manager to schedule RTO during a project.

RTO is unpaid time off during a project. However, with great pay, guaranteed overtime, and daily per diem for all our positions, FlexTrades employees can comfortably take time off between projects, too.

Flexible Time Off Between Projects

We have some true road warriors who go directly from one project to the next or choose to extend a project multiple times. However, many of our technicians take a well-deserved break between projects. Check out this blog to see some of our tech’s favorite summer activities when they aren’t working.

Technicians who get their insurance benefits through a parent or a spouse often take more than 30 days off between projects.

Those who get their insurance through FlexTrades keep those benefits for 30 days between deployments. To maintain active coverage, they usually begin the next project within 20 to 25 days.

If a technician works with FlexTrades all year, they might accept three or four projects with a break in between each. On average, their number of days off in a year will be significantly more than with a traditional employer over that same period.

Emergencies

Even with the best planning, life can throw a curveball. Unfortunately, a family emergency or a funeral are a reality that can happen at any time. In those difficult times our dedicated Project Success Managers work closely with technicians and clients to arrange special accommodations as needed while mitigating any potential impacts on deployments.

Conclusion

Our ideal candidate is willing to travel and is ready to commit to being available for the duration of a project. But work-life balance is something employees need, and good employers do their best to offer. Whether that is achieved through RTO, PTO, or flexible time off, understanding what benefits are available is a key part of any career decision. 

Are you staring at the calendar realizing that spring break is right around the corner, and you haven’t made any plans yet? Don’t panic! While it might seem daunting to plan a last-minute trip, there are still plenty of fantastic destinations to explore without extensive planning. Whether you’re craving outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or simply some relaxation time, here are some last-minute travel suggestions for a memorable getaway this spring break.

Arizona:

Scottsdale/Phoenix: Known for its stunning desert landscapes and vibrant city life, Scottsdale and Phoenix offer a variety of activities for every type of traveler. Explore the local cuisine scene with an array of restaurants offering southwestern flavors. For outdoor enthusiasts, hiking trails in the Superstition Mountains and adventures at Saguaro Lake await. Golfers will appreciate the numerous world-class golf courses in the area too. And, of course, no trip to Arizona would be complete without a visit to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon.

Sedona: Famous for its red rock formations, Sedona is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. Take a stroll through its charming downtown, indulge in some retail therapy, and embark on scenic hikes with breathtaking views.

Sedona, Arizona (1)

Lake Havasu: For a mix of relaxation and adventure, head to Lake Havasu. Marvel at the London Bridge, enjoy water activities like swimming, kayaking, and fishing, or hit the trails for some picturesque hikes.

Colorado:

Copper Mountain: If you’re a fan of winter sports, Copper Mountain is the place to be. With its family-friendly atmosphere and excellent skiing opportunities, it’s perfect for a spontaneous snow-filled getaway.

Hawaii:

Maui: Be a beach bum on the stunning shores of Maui. Whether you’re looking to surf, snorkel, or simply soak up the sun, Maui offers endless opportunities for relaxation and adventure. Don’t forget to indulge in some fresh seafood at renowned eateries like Morimoto Restaurant.

Maryland:

Washington, DC: Experience the beauty of spring with a visit to Washington, DC during cherry blossom season. Explore the city’s historical monuments, museums, and vibrant neighborhoods, perfect for history buffs and culture enthusiasts alike.

Minnesota:

Duluth: Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Duluth offers a perfect blend of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences. Hike through Gooseberry Falls State Park, visit the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse, sample local brews at breweries, and enjoy some fishing on the lake.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Nevada:

Las Vegas: For a lively and entertaining spring break, head to Las Vegas. Experience the excitement of March Madness, catch a spectacular show at the Bellagio, or explore family-friendly attractions on the Strip.

New York:

Saratoga Springs: Immerse yourself in history and culture with a visit to Saratoga Springs. Explore museums, stroll through charming streets, and indulge in local cuisine at cozy cafes and restaurants.

South Dakota:

Black Hills: Discover the natural wonders of the Black Hills region with visits to Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower. Embark on scenic drives, hike through stunning landscapes, and marvel at iconic landmarks.

Tennessee:

Gatlinburg: Escape to the Smoky Mountains for a peaceful and rejuvenating spring break. Explore hiking trails, soak in panoramic views, and experience the charm of downtown Gatlinburg.

Texas:

Austin: Embark on a culinary adventure in the vibrant city of Austin. Take an official or unofficial BBQ and/or taco tour, indulge in mouthwatering flavors at renowned eateries like Cooper’s Downtown and Torchy’s, and soak up the lively atmosphere of South by Southwest for music lovers.

Utah:

Salt Lake City/Park City: Hit the slopes for some late season skiing in Salt Lake City or Park City. With its world-class resorts and stunning mountain scenery, it’s the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Vermont:

Manchester/Dorset: Experience the charm of Vermont with visits to Manchester and Dorset. Explore maple farms, artisan shops, and locally owned galleries, or simply unwind and enjoy some R&R in this picturesque New England setting.

No matter where you choose to go for your last-minute spring break getaway, remember that the best adventures often happen when they’re least expected. Just pack your bags, hit the road, and make the most of your spontaneous travel experience!

If you found this article at 11:58pm on February 14th, you’re almost out of time! Stop reading this and call or text your significant other right now!

If you’re reading this before Valentine’s Day, you’ve come to the right place. It can be tough to be away from family and friends on holidays, and if you celebrate Valentine’s Day, that’s no different. But don’t worry, you have plenty of time to do something special to show you care. Most of my suggestions only require a few taps on your phone and a few minutes of planning.

Let’s get into it.

Send An Email Or Text

Sending an email or text is easy and can be done quickly. These aren’t as personal or intimate as some other options, but they can show your loved one that you care.

If you’re feeling fancy, write a short poem. My go-to poem to write is a Haiku. They are short and they don’t need to rhyme, so it’s perfect for me! Here’s a quick explanation on how they work.

Writing a haiku

It’s not silly if it works

Just give it a try

Send A Card

Just about every convenience store in America sells Valentine’s Day cards. I find that Papyrus cards often have my favorite designs.

In addition to writing a note, print a few of your favorite pictures of you and your partner, or a recent picture of yourself on your travels. If your partner is sentimental, they will appreciate being able to display the card and photos on a refrigerator, desk, or nightstand.

Of course, make sure to get it in the mail on time!

Make A Phone Call

Did you know that hearing a loved one’s voice can improve your mental health? Whether it’s a holiday or not, if you need a pick-me-up, a conversation with a loved one can really hit the spot.

If possible, plan a time for the call so you are both free from distractions and can have a nice conversation.

Video Calls

We all have smartphones, tablets, and computers so it’s easy to make a video call. I challenge you to throw on a funny filter to see if you can get a cheap laugh out of your significant other.

Virtual Date

I kind of buried the lead here. If you can block out a few hours, a virtual date is a fantastic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Actually, you can do this any time you’re away from home and want to spend some quality time with your partner.

On a virtual date, you can do most of the things you might do on a stay-at-home date. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Cook or order the same meal and eat together. If you’re going for romantic, set the mood! Get dressed up, light a candle, and dim the lights.
  • Make some popcorn and watch a favorite movie or TV show together. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have watch party features built in. And apps like Teams, Zoom, Skype, and Discord allow you to share your screen while on a call.
  • Have a game night. If you both play PC or console games, that’s an option. Otherwise, there are dozens of free games you can play in a browser or on your phone.
  • Go on a walk together. Use your front facing camera while you’re chatting. If you see something interesting flip to the rear camera so you can share the experience. Just be extra careful crossing any roads!

Sending A Gift, Flowers, Or Chocolate

For many, gifting is a love language. Finding the perfect gift can be a great way to show your affection. For Valentine’s Day specifically, companies like 1-800-flowers are a great way to send a holiday gift.

You know your partner best! If they aren’t into flowers and chocolate, just about every retailer out there has online ordering.

Like sending a card, make sure to place your order early so it shows up on time!

Conclusion

If it’s now the wee hours of the morning on February 15th, I hope you were able to get that call or text out on time. If not, there’s always next year!

If you can still make plans for Valentine’s Day, I hope this blog gives you a few ideas. And remember, you can always plan an in-person “make up” date for when you get home! 

Throughout history, the manufacturing landscape has been dramatically reshaped by groundbreaking designs, inventions and products. At the heart of these transformative contributions are the ingenious, hard-working creators and the visionary leaders propelling these innovations forward. As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s an honor to spotlight the remarkable black inventors and leaders whose ingenuity has left an indelible mark on manufacturing.

charles richard patterson

Charles Richard Patterson (1833 – 1910) was a trailblazer as the founder of C.R. Patterson & Sons, the first and only African American owned and operated automobile company, which began as a humble carriage-making enterprise.

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Elijah J. McCoy (1844 – 1929) revolutionized railway maintenance with his invention of an automatic lubricator for oiling steam engine parts, giving birth to the expression “The Real McCoy” for his unmatched quality.

Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848 – 1928) was instrumental in the development of electric light, inventing the carbon filament for incandescent bulbs in 1881 and playing a pivotal role in the urban installation of electric lighting. His contributions extended to assisting in the patenting of the telephone and inventing the first railroad car bathroom and an early version of air conditioning.

Jan Ernst Matzeliger

Jan Ernst Matzeliger (1852 – 1889) significantly impacted the shoemaking industry with his shoe lasting machine, which dramatically increased production efficiency by automating the attachment of soles to uppers.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver (1864 – 1943) is renowned for his agricultural innovations, developing techniques to rejuvenate soils depleted by cotton and promoting crop rotation methods alongside pioneering industrial applications for alternative crops.

Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919), after developing a unique line of African American hair products to address her own hair loss, established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories, becoming one of the first self-made millionaire women in America.

Charles W. “C.W.” Chapelle

Charles W. “C.W.” Chapelle (1872 – 1941), the first head electrician of US Steel and an aviation enthusiast, made history with his award-winning airplane design at the 1911 First Industrial Airplane Show and played a key role in founding the first African American airplane company.

Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones (1893 – 1961) is celebrated for inventing the first automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks and railroad cars, revolutionizing the transport of perishable goods and laying the foundation for Thermo-King Corp.

Otis Frank Boykin (1)

Otis Frank Boykin (1920 – 1982) made significant advancements in electrical resistor technology used in a myriad of electronic devices, alongside inventing a chemical air filter and a burglar-proof cash register.

Craig Arnold

Craig Arnold (1951 – ), as the CEO of Eaton Corporation, emphasizes diversity, equality, and innovation within the manufacturing sector and corporate leadership.

Marian Rogers Croak

Marian Rogers Croak (1955 – ) has transformed communication with her development of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a pivotal technology that has reshaped global communication networks.

Mark E. Dean

Mark E. Dean (1957 – ) has been a cornerstone in computer technology, contributing to the invention of the color PC monitor and the gigahertz chip, holding three of IBM’s original nine patents.

Alicia Boler Davis

Alicia Boler Davis (1972 – ) broke new ground as the first black woman to serve as a Plant Manager at General Motors and continues to lead in senior executive roles, currently with Amazon.

Shaping the Future

These individuals are not just inventors and leaders; they are pioneers who have paved the way for future generations, demonstrating that innovation knows no bounds. Their legacies remind us of the power of creativity, perseverance and leadership in driving forward the manufacturing industry and beyond.

Check out the following link to learn more about Black History Month, written by Daryl Michael Scott, a Professor of History at Howard University and the Vice President of Program at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Want more history? Read our post on Women’s History Month!