I have always admired people who make their living through their trade, craft or art.
To operate at a level where people will pay you to build, mend, repair, invent, create and fashion for them you are truly gifted people.
Amongst these talented and very intelligent people are the tradies we rely on every day of our lives to keep us all on an even keel.
Can you imagine what life would be like if there were no plumbers, builders, electricians, mechanics, fitters, painters and numerous other trades where young people have spent years of their youth indentured to a master tradesman or craftsman to learn a calling?
Trade training thrived in New Zealand up until the years prior to 1990. Young men and women straight from school with an interest in the practical side of life could apply to be apprenticed to qualified tradespeople for up to five years to train, be educated in all matters including budgeting, how to run a business, public relations as well as the nuts and bolts of their trade.
With the emphasis on attending university or polytechnic training and the easing of academic restrictions to enter these institutions, trades suffered a fall-off of numbers for many years. There seemed to be no government impetus to correct this. Friends and relations of mine who were tradespeople would bemoan the fact that there were few young people coming after them to keep their trade alive.
Taking on an apprentice is a huge commitment for a tradesperson running his or her own business so they want to make sure they get the right person. This became difficult when all the bright young people in secondary education were being steered towards academic training.
The country is full of graduates with various degrees, either using those degrees in their everyday work or as a lever into some other position.
Of course it is handy having a degree or two if you are on the job market, but I suspect a trade certificate is potentially far more lucrative nowadays to many young people of above average intelligence but with a practical bent towards their working life.
My grandfather was a builder and worked until he was 75 years of age. His sons, including my father, could all build or mend stuff but were not tradesmen, they just learnt from their dad, as I did.
He also taught me basic mechanics and electrical work, probably more than I should have learnt, but I could, at the age of about 12, recondition a starter motor on our family car and wire a hot point.
Those skills were commonly held in those days as many just had to "make do". The old Do It Yourself ethos was very strong.
I am not sure that these skills are passed on down the line that much nowadays. Personally I have not passed on much in the way of practical skills to my own children, terrible father that I am.
This is a good thing in some ways. It means when things go wrong at home or with the car we get someone who actually knows what they are doing to fix things. An old mate of mine had his own plumbing business and on the back of his vehicles were painted the words "We are the guys you call after your husband has fixed something".
With the current housing shortage due to the failing of several different governments to have the imagination to plan forward in terms of forecast population increases we now need tradespeople more than ever.
We have been importing qualified tradespeople for some years simply because apprentice training was allowed to slip from the careers advisers' thoughts for about 25 years.
It is great bringing tradespeople in as immigrants, we need them and they will do really well in New Zealand. We also need to provide our children with more of a choice when leaving school.
Many young people are "hands-on" types who do not want to go to university to learn an academic discipline, they want to build things, create things, mend stuff, and get their hands dirty.
As a country we really need these people, more so than ever as I would wager that not many children nowadays learn from their dads or other older male relatives how to do much of the stuff I took for granted.
Things are looking up for those young people. Formal trade training and apprenticeships have indeed taken off again thankfully. In 2019 there were about 23,000 people apprenticed in the building trade, 7000 in electronics and electrical engineering, just under 5000 in automotive engineering, the same for young people going into farm management.
Come on schools and employers, find those bright, practical people and get them into apprenticeships, we need them.