DEAR ABBY: America's tradesmen -- plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, roofers, masons and more -- get very little respect. In fact, the only time these skilled professionals get our attention is when we have an emergency.
This lack of regard is leading our nation down an unfortunate pathway, as fewer and fewer young people pursue jobs in these professions. If we don't change our attitude about the worth of tradesmen, who will build our homes and schools, repair our cars, keep our water flowing and our power turned on?
On Sept. 21, we have a chance to thank a tradesman. The date has been earmarked as National Tradesmen Day. Everyone can participate: Drop a box of doughnuts at the job site near your home. Call your plumber and say, "Thank you for your help over the years." Invite a skilled tradesman to speak at your child's school. The ways to honor them are limitless. Abby, would you help to get the word out? -- JEFF D. IN GREENVILLE, S.C.
DEAR JEFF: I'm pleased to help because I agree with your message. Tradespeople don't often receive the respect and gratitude they deserve. Everyone needs to know his or her efforts are valued and appreciated, and failure to extend this courtesy may affect our quality of life in the coming decades.
In years past, skilled trades were handed down with pride from one generation to the next. However, as baby boomers have been retiring, fewer young people have been stepping forward to take their place. In fact, according to a recent talent shortage survey by ManpowerGroup, more jobs for skilled tradesmen go unfilled than any other category of employment.
Why? Because there aren't enough trained replacements to fill openings for electricians, welders, mechanics, plumbers, roofers and more.
Part of the reason may be our emphasis on pursuing advanced college degrees for almost everyone. But another may be the lack of respect that has been shown for these vital occupations. The result has been, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that for every three tradesmen who retire, only one person is stepping up to fill the gap.
I hear from many readers whose young adult children are unable to find work. Talk with them about this. People in the trades can earn good money. Visit a local community college with your son or daughter and learn more about classes and certifications available for skilled trades.
And please, show tradespeople how much their contributions are valued. Call your favorite handyman, plumber and HVAC technician not to once again scream for help, but to express your appreciation. Treat them to a box of your special home-baked cookies or brownies, refer them to your friends and family so they can get additional business, write to your local newspapers, websites or blogs expressing your appreciation.
Visit nationaltradesmenday.com, and please remember, these hardworking individuals need to know that although National Tradesmen Day is Friday, we are grateful for their efforts the other 364 days a year, too.