Saturday afternoon I was sitting, with my wife, in our living room. I looked for something to watch on TV. PBS was showing “This Old House”. I used to watch that show regularly years ago. As we watched the show, I found myself smiling. It brought back some good memories for both of us.

We had been married for just five years. We had two little ones. My career hadn’t taken off yet. But we wanted a house. The fact that we couldn’t afford a house did not deter us. We had babies. Babies need a yard. We were going to give them one. The search was on. Everything we looked at was just out of range. That is until a friend mentioned that he wanted to sell his house and told me the least he would accept. He wasn’t trying to sell me the house. He was just making conversation. I looked at him and said “sold”.

I called my wife and told her I had just bought a house. As I did this without consulting her there was some kerfluffle, but it all worked out. The day the original owners moved out, I started fixing up that house. I don’t think I ever stopped until we moved out, twenty-four years later.

I could do electrical work and a little plumbing. But I had a couple of neighbors. One was a good plumber and the other was a good carpenter. We all worked on each others houses. We all got to be better at all the trades. But I learned one thing. I loved doing carpentry. It was too late for me to start all over again on a career path but I truly enjoyed swinging a hammer.

I grew up at the start of the time that it was thought that everyone should go to college. For those that couldn’t hack it in the college course in high school, there was home economics and typing for the girls and shop for the boys. Those courses were, at best, rudimentary. Not like trade courses today.

So off I went to college not having a clue as to what I wanted to do in life. So I took economics and poly-sci. Left school before I finished due to family problems. I ended up working as a draftsman. I took some courses. I read some books. I learned from some mistakes, and became a pretty fair electrical engineer.

Today there seems to be a trend in the elites of the country to disparage for profit colleges. The President even talked about preventing them from taking students with government backed educational loans. But the fact is that most these schools give a level of training in non-traditional education that most students would never acquire. I think it is a good thing when a student who wants to be a mechanic can get college level training that gives them the equivalent of a BS in Automotive Engineering.

If I’m having my car repaired, I would rather the mechanic have that level of training. It was in the past that a boy would get a job in a garage pumping gas (note to young people: you didn’t always have to do it yourself) and helping the mechanic. Eventually he learned enough to get a job as mechanic on his own. Some were well trained. Some were poorly trained. Not a good system.

If I had had the options that young people have today, I might have gone to trade school and learned to be a carpenter the right way. Learning the best techniques with the best equipment. It is good clean healthy work. A person skilled in the trades can earn a decent wage to support their family. The best thing is that a person in the trades can become an entrepreneur and start their own business more easily than most businesses. Since the days of the apprentice programs have waned young people need this option.