Construction workers can't get ‘satisfaction,' it seems
August 1, 2007
How satisfied are you with your sheet metal career? Some recent studies make me wonder.
In June, Snips featured an article about a study commissioned by the Sheet Metal Workers union on the future of the industry. Although much of the study focused on organized labor, the author, William F. Maloney, Ph.D., a University of Kentucky professor, also wrote that the HVAC industry in general has a tough time getting anyone to consider the field.
He pointed out that people he interviewed referred to co-workers as “animals” and that most would not want their children to follow the same career path, despite above-average wages and a growing job market.
With attitudes like that, how can anyone be expected to look to sheet metal work as an honorable profession, he said.
But such beliefs are not unique to sheet metal. Another study, this one on job satisfaction in America, found that many construction workers - especially roofers - have low opinions of their chosen careers.
The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center has surveyed 50,000 U.S. citizens on their vocations during the last 35 years. The most recent, released in April, says people employed in construction are among the least satisfied with their career choice. Only 22.1 percent of construction workers call themselves very happy with their jobs. By comparison, 47 percent of employees overall say they are very happy with their careers.
Be happy?The people most likely to be happy in their jobs include the clergy, physical therapists, firefighters and teachers.
But construction workers are not alone in their unhappiness. Bartenders, food servers, butchers and cashiers were among the most likely to express dissatisfaction with their jobs.
The unhappiest profession? Roofers. Several news reports mentioned this finding, which is what made me curious about the study. Why are roofers so disgruntled with their profession? The report doesn’t say.
I asked Chris King, the editor of Roofing Contractor, another BNP Media publication. He doesn’t know. Although they have mentioned the report in their online newsletter and in the magazine, they have yet to hear from readers.
The report doesn’t mention sheet metal workers specifically, nor does it separate metal roofers from those doing traditional work. I’d expect metal roofers, who possess a special talent that allows many to charge a premium for their services, to rate as happier.
But what the study doesn’t explain, like Maloney’s before it, is just why so many of those in construction appear to look down on their jobs and in many cases, themselves. There’s no denying construction is hard work and for a long time was dismissed as the job choice of people with few options. That may be still true of general labor.
Skills necessaryBut many trades, including sheet metal and HVAC work, are highly skilled, especially today. The best apprenticeship programs are as rigorous as any university-level curriculum. Graduates must be able to work with complex computerized equipment and perform mathematical calculations that are beyond the ability of many university graduates, including me.
The earning potential in the most skilled construction professions is high, exceeding the wages of many college graduates in so-called white-collar jobs.
So why still do many of the people who have worked in these industries all their lives and earned a good wage, look down on it and themselves?
Do you have any ideas? How do you feel about your career choice? Write me at Snips magazine, BNP Media, 2401 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 700, Troy, MI 48084, or e-mail to email@example.com. Include your name and title, as well as your company’s name and location, and a way to contact you.