The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work

Curiosity peaked after catching wind of a recently released documentary entitled, “The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work.” So we watched. And now, we think you should, too.

This film, directed by Richard Yeagley, covers everything that most people working in the trades have faced–cultural prejudice, educational systems that don’t encourage vocations, a working class who fear their own children follow in their footsteps, and a widening skills gap in the face of aging workers.

It pays tribute to the tradesmen who have built so much of what we take advantage daily. From Baltimore, Maryland, we get a refreshingly honest look at the role these people play in our society and their thoughts on it. They admit it’s not always easy. But you’ll be impressed with the satisfaction they feel, and the beauty and art they find in their professions.

Most who watch the film would be surprised to find out that Yeagley is young, and without personal connection to the trade industries. Yet, he was drawn to the generational skills gap and felt this was an important issue to address. “As I reached my mid-twenties, I started to recognize the total absence of any manual competence I personally had. I started to be a bit ashamed by my lack of the carpentry skills and overall building capabilities that I watched my father display to me as kid. My father, who isn’t a trade worker, built the deck of my childhood home. I, on the other hand, buy IKEA products and struggle assembling them. The more I considered this reality, the more I noticed that this skills gap was being played out on a generational level. A large portion of my generation, Generation Y, had lost the skill sets that our ancestors had such a strong incentive to master.”

Dirty Job’s host Mike Rowe, an advocate for the trades, makes an appearance, as well as UCLA professor Mike Rose, Blue Collar and Proud of It author Joe Lamacchia, and sociologist Judith Lombardi. The documentary shows real people who work real jobs, the challenges they face, and the pride of their contributions.

A few memorable quotes:

“Many of the lawyer types and people like that, they kind of look down on us. But I just have to laugh, because they have no idea who I am.”

“Nowadays it seems like we’re farther away from people working with their hands… Fewer and fewer people seem to work with their hands or know how to repair things, or fix things, or make things.”

“We do what it takes. This is not work. It’s a labor of love for us. And it’s art, to a certain degree. This is our studio.”

“I think its getting to a point where it’s embarrassing that the ‘coat and ties’ don’t believe in the trades anymore. They think everything is just gonna come up out of the ground by itself. They have totally disregarded the building aspect and the industrial base of what goes on here in the United States. Fortunately, organizations like ours believe in it pretty hard, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that people learn these skills. Without those basic skills, nothing’s gonna get built. No one’s prepared anymore. The education system has said we don’t need it somebody else will do it.”

If you’re a blue collar worker, if you know someone who works in the trades, or if you simply want to fully appreciate the labor that has created the cities we live in, watch this documentary. Share this documentary. Contribute to a much-needed attitude shift toward the workers who continue to build up this country.

Watch the film on Hulu.

What did you think of the film’s portrayal of blue collar?

2 Comments on “The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work

  1. huh. this documentary is making me regret i applied for that carpentry apprenticeship. thanks!

    the say i see it, if i cant get any of the government jobs i wanted, i might as well do something physical. working in an office or as a store manage would drive me nuts.

    (international PolySci grad 2012)

  2. Every American should watch this film. I went to college, however, work in the elevator industry with members of the IUEC who are undoubtedly some the smartest, hard working,most talented folks I’ve met.

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