In case you haven't guessed from the title of this book, I am blue collar and proud if it. I love to dig in the dirt, can't sit still, and totally enjoy being outside all day long. I run a million-dollar landscaping business outside of Boston in an upscale suburb. I worked my way up the ladder; have five children, a beautiful house, and a wonderful wife; and I enjoy taking vacations with my family. I read the Wall Street Journal religiously and as many books as I can, and most of my TV watching consists of the National Geographic Channel and business shows.
For years I've been watching as my kids and other youngsters are told by their teachers and their guidance counselors that if they don't go to college, they won't succeed. I didn't go to college, even though my family expected me to go. Frankly, I wouldn't have made it to graduation, and I know I would have hated it. I respect college and the people who go, but for some reason, our society has a hard time accepting that college simply isn't for everyone. I love learning and I haven't stopped learning, but college isn't the only way to learn.
In July 2003, I started a website called BlueCollarandProudofIt.com because I was tired of watching guidance counselors, teachers, parents, and society in general push thousands of kids out of high school and into college, while many of them went kicking and screaming. I've watched as they went off to schools with no direction and no interest. Inevitably they started feeling worse about themselves in college—all while accumulating huge amounts of debt from the loans they took out to pay for their schooling. Consider that the average cost of college in 2008, including room and board, for in-state students at a four-year state institution was $14,203, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And if you were headed to a private university, the average annual price tag was $38,400. Then, just think, if you drop out, you still owe that money, plus you have to start over and figure out what you want to do. That's a lot of money, especially if you're unsure of why you're borrowing it in the first place.
I want more people to think about the alternatives and realize that you can be proud about going into a trade. A blue-collar career can be a choice that you feel good about as opposed to a fallback option. This is why I started my website: to provide some wisdom and encouragement and to add a different voice to the chorus of people who will tell you what to do with your life. This book persuades you to follow your own personal desires and tells you how to get the education or training you need, which might not be the education your parents and teachers are pushing you to get.
I've been amazed at how many people have e-mailed me from all over North America, excited to know that someone is advocating for them. I've heard from teachers who are happy to hear someone say that we should be proud of the kids who choose to make something of themselves in the trades, and I've heard from students who are afraid to tell their parents they don't want to go to college. I've heard from adults who spent years in the white-collar world only to ultimately find their passion in blue-collar work.
Blue-collar work isn't about avoiding the responsibilities that people think come only with white-collar jobs. We blue-collar workers own nice homes and run lucrative businesses. We, too, are looking to be challenged and to exceed our own expectations. We want to excel professionally. But we also love working with our hands or in nontraditional settings. How many people are sitting at a desk right now, tucked away in a cubicle, feeling boxed in and miserable, wishing they could be doing something physical instead?
Blue-collar workers are everywhere, and they are working incredibly hard to build this country, rebuild their communities, and more. We have factory workers operating equipment worth millions of dollars with technical skills that surpass the level of expertise that many people have in white-collar jobs. Why don't we take these tradespeople more seriously? It's about time we respect the skills they've acquired and the trades they are in and the work they do. We've treated many industries as if they are invisible, but we need to start paying attention to the construction industry, to automotive technicians, and to electricians, among scores of others.
I don't have anything against Shakespeare, but you don't need to get a degree in English at a four-year university if you're interested in landscape design. You don't need to be a communications major at a cost of more than $30,000 a year if all you've ever really wanted to do is become a renovation mason. We don't all want to sit in cubicles, pushing paper, working in middle-management jobs, traveling around the country for business meetings. If that's what you want, that's fine. But if you don't want that kind of life, why go to college and prepare for it?
Wall Street jobs sound sexy and being a lawyer is impressive, but what if it's not for you? There are incredible jobs available with amazing potential, challenging opportunities, and great pay. President Barack Obama has laid out a plan to create 2.5 million new jobs by January 2011, largely through rebuilding roads and bridges and refurbishing and modernizing schools across the country. In Los Angeles alone, a recent tax change was approved to fund a $1.2 billion overhaul of the city's deteriorating commuter rail, Metrolink. These are all blue-collar jobs waiting to happen. What's more, the renewable or alternative energy industries are estimating the creation of anywhere from 3 to 10 million new jobs in the next ten years.
Blue-collar workers built the United States, and we continue to build and rebuild it every day. We fix it, move it, and keep it operational twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We are the glue that holds the community together, the people you call when your car breaks, your roads are full of potholes, and your faucet is leaking.
We are America's backbone, and we are proud of it.
©2009. Joe Lamacchia, Bridget Samburg. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Blue Collar and Proud of It. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442