Making the Grade: Navigating Pros and Cons of College vs Trade School for Gen Z

Hosted by

Nick Schlemmer

Podcast Host

Jack McFarlane

Podcast Host

About this episode

Making the Grade: Navigating Pros and Cons of College vs Trade School for Gen Z

Hosts: Jack McFarlane & Nick Schlemmer

Guest: Jake Adams, First Year Apprentice, Carpenter’s Union

This week on The Play by Play podcast, Jack McFarlane and Nick Schlemmer talk with their friend Jake Adams about his experience in the trade school apprenticeship program and how it compares to a university.

– Cost difference between trade school vs university

– Gen Z in the workplace

– Importance of skilled-labor jobs

– Reverse mentorship


Thank you for joining the show today!  Remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

Transcript follows:

Jack McFarlane 0:15
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the HR Happy Hour Network. This is The Play by Play podcast hosted by myself, Jack McFarlane, and Nicholas Schlemmer.

Nick Schlemmer 0:24
How’s it going guys.

Jack McFarlane 0:26
You know, here at The Play by Play, we are all about exploring Gen Z, especially how it will affect the workforce in the future. So today, we are very excited to bring you an interview with someone who is a already in the workforce and be a part of Gen Z. Please help us welcome our good friend Jake Adams. Jake, welcome to the show.

Jake Adams 0:46
Hey, how’s it going?

Nick Schlemmer 0:48
Jake, we’re just gonna have a couple of questions. We just want to know, like, what do you do as a job and how it kind of came about the beginning?

Jake Adams 0:56
So I am a Union Carpenter, in local 662. I got in right after high school after we graduated. That’s usually what I spend most of my day doing. If not, I’m at home working on a project or just kind of relaxing.

Jack McFarlane 1:12
That’s great. I mean, I guess that kind of leads right into my first question here. You went straight from high school to your job kind of told me what is that like not doing the traditional going to college route.

Jake Adams 1:23
It’s definitely got its ups and downs, my parents actually were nice enough to let me stay at their place while I save up money. So I can, you know, grow, move out, you know, that way, I have some extra cash just in case I need it. You know, let’s say, Oh, my car breaks down, you know, I can pay for it. But it’s really stressful, to be honest with you, I really wanted to go to college. But looking back, I didn’t have the finances or the support to do it. So I just had to find somewhere to work.

Nick Schlemmer 1:52
Yeah, so that just kind of brought a thought to my mind. Jake, you had mentioned that a lot of times, it’s hard for college students to go straight into straight into college, because it does cost so much money. And I saw this statistic that in 2020, to 55%, of high school graduates either have no plans to attend college or are uncertain. And then obviously, you kind of fell into that. And it did say that the main concern was the money, that seems to be a driving factor in what we’re seeing nowadays.

Jake Adams 2:23
It was definitely an expensive, wherever I’ve got my first you know, oh, this is for your dorm for your meal pass for, you know, if you’re wanting to get like a suite or whatever, so and so it was $28,000 a semester or so. And I couldn’t come up with that kind of money. And my parents didn’t wanna help me out. Because if you know, if I fail to make a payment, that’s on me. And I’m also you know, I don’t think a piece of paper should be able to tell you what you can and can’t do. And also job security, I know that I’m gonna wake up in the morning, and I know, I’m gonna have a job. And I’m gonna go to work, and I’m gonna have money to feed my family, pay for my rent by expenses, so and so and have leisure money as well. Being a carpenter is really a livable wage. I think it’s a median of $90,000 or so per year, once you get up there. And I think I did some research says the average median family makes around $50,000 a year. So it’s definitely very comfortable have a wage, but I couldn’t afford it. And I know that being a carpenter, I’m going to get to go different places every day, maybe work on something I like working on, I like using my hands and learning on the job. So I thought carpentry would be a really great way to go.

Jack McFarlane 3:43
Yeah, no, that’s great. Um, so you are fairly new to carpentry? So the medium pays 90,000. But what’s kind of the roadmap from you know, just finishing high school and then moving your way up? Because obviously, you know, you’re not going to get paid that much right away. So what does that kind of look like? As someone who would maybe be looking into going into a trade?

Jake Adams 4:03
For carpenters that go through the hall, the hall is where you get your work is where they sign you up, they put you into the Union, you have to you have to go through a speech almost, and like, make a deal with the union saying that you can’t do you know, on non union work. But I went through that, and then you have to get a company to hire you. Well, my girlfriend’s dad called a company that’s really well known around the area, and they, they’re like, yeah, we’ll take you on, you’re cheap. you’re brand new, we can teach you a lot of stuff. And then, if we like you, we’ll keep you and you’ll be a good carpenter. So we started the term one apprentice, from whenever you get hard, and you go up a term or two terms every year, because you go to school every three months. So that’s approximately turning up twice a year. You have to have 750 out hours worked before you can turn up as well. So, basically, you started to turn one apprentice, and you work for them. They pay you, you know, they give you your benefits and all that. And you go to school, there’s a carpenter school in Belleville, and in St. Louis, for our local, that will train you. And the more you get training, the more you turn up. You go to school, Tuesday through Friday. And again, it’s every three months. And it’s only from like six to 330. So it’s not bad, you’re getting paid while doing it. And the school actually runs through Swift. So it’s swift credit. And if you do sign up for swift, you don’t have to, but if you do, they save those credits, and you can take are like a project management class. And now you can go and be a superintendent. That’s what makes the most money, you can be a superintendent, a Job Manager, and all that kind of stuff.

Jack McFarlane 5:56
So what I’m hearing is basically, if you don’t want to take the college route, there is still a path back to college if you really want for those who don’t know, Swick is a community college in the local Illinois area. So yeah, I think that’s great that, you know, because if you change your mind on the road going to college, I mean, you’re taking some credits right now.

Nick Schlemmer 6:19
Yeah, definitely, that I kind of wanted to reach back on a point that you made that, that you were kind of new and young to this profession. So I was wondering, have you seen any, like, in the workplace, have you seen any disadvantages of being fresh out of high school, jumping straight into disadvantages or advantages? Honestly, anything.

Jake Adams 6:38
I think is a great learning experience. The guys that I work with are nice, they teach me new things, if I mess up, they don’t really get mad at me. But at the same time, you are new, and there is an expectation of you need to be learning. And if you’re not learning, then they’re not going to pay you, you’re going to get sent back to the hall. And you’re gonna have to start trying to find work again. So being a new guy, you know, it’s the new guy, you get made fun of, you know, you get picked on a lot you’d like. It is what it is. And that’s what they’re gonna do. But it’s really fun. They make jokes with you, they want it they I guess it’s like they’re testing you out, if they like you or not. But a really big disadvantage to being a new guy is sometimes they’ll ask you to do something, and you don’t understand. And then some other guy will do it. And then you just kind of stand there and watch. So make sure you always tell you make sure you’re asking questions, make sure you understand. So in that case, let’s say he’s like, Oh, go build me a wall buck for that wall over there. Do you have any idea what that is? From No, you’re building a wall, I’ll give you a little lecture. Whenever you’re building a wall, it’s when you take two studs, and you put one in between that way you can connect two walls together and have something to nail I would have if I didn’t know what that was, I would have said, Hey, what’s a wall buck? And they would have said, Oh, you got to place these two, two by fours like this right here. And you shoot them together? Boom.

Nick Schlemmer 8:02
Yeah. So with that learning process, that that you’re kind of talking about how you you kind of have to sit back and watch sometimes, is there anything that you would change or add to maybe more benefit all the new people coming into a specific trade?

Jake Adams 8:19
You don’t go to school right away, because they’re there to teach you. And basically, you go to school to reaffirm what you’re learning. So what I would do is I would if I were hiring somebody new who didn’t know what they were doing fresh green right out of high school, I would teach them like simple things like, how to read a blueprint, how to put together a wall, how to frame a wall. Just simple things like that. Putting up a wall. Like maybe like a little crash course maybe like not even. But again, you get taught that on the job. Usually they they sent me my first job to where they were framing walls and standing them and all that. And they taught me that there. But if you’re looking to hire somebody who’s not interested, because they don’t know what they’re doing, I would say put them in an environment where they can learn and then put them in the actual workforce.

Jack McFarlane 9:10
Yeah, so it’s like a lot of hands on learning is what you’re saying. Yeah. Yeah. And I guess kind of sticking with, you know, being young or being new in the profession. Do you feel that as a younger worker, not necessarily a new worker, but as a younger worker, you are 1819? Do you feel like there’s any stereotypes or, like, traditions of seniority, from the older workers that are coming down? You’re like, Oh, you’re in Gen Z, you know, you’re just gonna be on your phone. You’re not going to do this. You’re not gonna do that. Do you feel like there’s any of that going on?

Jake Adams 9:43
I do hear a lot of that is that people like, you know, Gen Z, younger people are always on their phone, you know, they don’t pay attention this and that. In fact, in my interview, they asked if I even knew how to use the tool. So Wow. They don’t really have very high expectations for people. You Zero, like, Do you know how to use like, a drill? And like, Well, yeah, and they’re like, it’s crazy, because most people don’t know how, like whenever they first started and like, really?

Jack McFarlane 10:11
Do you think that there’s anything that you can do? Not necessarily you, but I mean, maybe as a generation that Gen Z can do when going into jobs like these, what advice would you give them?

Jake Adams 10:24
Honestly, when he asked me that question, I said, Yeah, but it didn’t really like. Most of the time, people are gonna say stuff at the workforce, like at work, that you’re just gonna let fly over your head. Like, I got yelled at by my foreman one day, because he was like, he had his tape measure out, he was literally right there ready to measure it. And he was like, hey, you need to come over here and measure this. I’m like, Man, you were right there to measure it. He’s like, What are you lazy or something? Like, dude, you’re making life way harder than it has to be. I don’t know why you just measure it. You’re right there. You know, but you, that’s my boss, you gotta let it fly over your head. You’re like, okay, man, I’ll go measure that.

Jack McFarlane 11:02
Then you gotta roll with the punches gonna roll with it?

Jake Adams 11:05
That’s yeah, so you already thing is, you know, they’re the boss, you just kind of got to do what they say. Listen to what they say, take it absorb it.

Nick Schlemmer 11:15
And definitely, so kind of adding on to that seniority point. Whenever it’s Gen Z’s, or to become that senior in the position, like, right now you’re just starting off, but how do you think Gen Z over time, can have an effect in or change the profession, to maybe not have those weird moments where he’s just picking on you all the time? Or whatever it may be? How do you think that Gen Z can kind of help with that?

Jake Adams 11:41
Well, I know from personal same point, I plan on trying to be a foreman or a job supervisor to where I get to that point where I’m kind of running the show, is I know where I’m at. And sometimes there’s things they say that I don’t understand. And I think it would be nice to you know, if I have like a fresh new kid on my job site, I’m gonna make sure he knows all the ropes, make sure like, so a lot of the time, like, even today, when I was at work, they were kind of going over things that I already knew, because I’m a second term apprentice, I’ve already turned up. And I know a lot more than what a fresh guy would know. But they went over it still, they made sure I knew. You know, just make sure they know what they’re doing. You know, ask them once, ask him twice, watch him do it. And don’t like freak out. And if he gets it wrong, you know, just take your time with it. I know, like building things, there’s quotas, the way they bid on it is usually a time and money. And everything has to be done so fast. But if you can help a guy out, you’re gonna get a job done 10 times faster than yelling at him and tell him to stop doing that, you know?

Jack McFarlane 12:46
So you’d almost introduce, not necessarily a new style of management, but kind of cut out the, you know, barking orders or getting mad. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I really liked your idea of a whole new management style, Jake. And that kind of leads me to my next question is, and this one’s not necessarily for carpentry, but maybe trades as a whole or even just the workforce as a whole. What impact do you see Gen Z having in the future, not just on trades, like I said, but in the workforce.

Jake Adams 13:15
I know people that are older than us, we probably see it as lazy or like unproductive but a more chill, relaxed work environment, everything’s not so under the pressure of stressed out, you know, they’re going to be taking time to learn and perfect their skill. Before you know, barking orders that people are yelling at them are calling them names, they’re going to take the time to learn what that person is struggling with, and teach them. Like in all trades, there’s, there’s a constant learning. Everybody has to continue to learn. There’s new stuff every year, safety wise, a new way to do something. And that’s for everything. It’s just going to be taking it one step at a time, instead of let’s get this pumped out as fast as possible. You know, some companies would cut corners on stuff like that. But I definitely see it being a more productively, but chill more slower paced, you know,

Jack McFarlane 14:19
Like, do it right the first time, even though it takes more time. Yeah.

Nick Schlemmer 14:25
For sure, definitely. And then, whenever you were first looking for a job out of high school, was there anything in particular, like maybe some of the things that you had just mentioned, were you looking for any of those things at a potential employer before you said, I’ll take the job? Like, was there anything that you were looking for?

Jake Adams 14:43
I was looking for a company that I knew would treat me right, that would you know, I wouldn’t go there and get yelled at all day, or treated like the new guy. And I found my place. They went there. They talked to me. They asked if I knew how to do things they asked if I was comfortable with getting on heights and everything, making sure I felt safe. There were days throughout whenever I first started that if I was up high, they would ask if I was okay, if I was tight off correctly, you know, all that stuff. They make me feel like I’m well from there, and they make me feel like a valued employee. So yeah.

Jack McFarlane 15:17
Yeah, that’s really great to hear. I mean, I don’t know how common that is in the trades to really have a company like that, where they really do care for you, especially if you’re a new guy and making sure that you’re comfortable doing everything. Do you feel that there’s any disadvantages, as a member of Gen Z, just going into a job? Not necessarily a trade job, but just the job in general?

Jake Adams 15:39
That’s a good question. I kind of mellowed out. But maybe because it is a trade. And it’s mainly, you know, it’s a masculine job, where they kind of see you as Oh, just another guy here to work, you know. But as Gen Z as a whole, I think getting into a job right now is kind of hard, just because people have all these expectations already set in put in place, you know, people that have been there for a really long time that know exactly what’s going on. Who’s here? Who’s there? Who’s doing what? And if you don’t meet their standards, you know, you don’t get the job. Yeah, that’s the thing.

Jack McFarlane 16:18
When you think Gen Z kind of brings to the table, like, if you are the spokesperson of Gen Z, and you’re applying for a job, you know, this is what we do great. What do you think would be our biggest strengths? As a generation going into the workplace?

Jake Adams 16:33
We persevere, we find an answer. We work hard for that. When we find an answer to it, I’m not just going to give up and throw in the towel and be like, Whatever, I’m gonna go play on my phone, or whatever, or however they see it. I think Gen Z as a whole is very good at finding answers to things and working through problems and situations.

Nick Schlemmer 16:54
And me and Jack have kind of hit on this point with some previous guests as well. But I’m just curious, kind of going back to your, your job in particular. Have you ever kind of done the reverse mentorship idea with your higher ups in your job force? Have you ever actually showed them something or as Gen Z as a whole, like in your area? ever showed them? Like, hey, like, what if we tried this?

Jake Adams 17:20
I have there have been a couple of times where I kind of thought of an idea that they weren’t thinking I an example, I would say is we were trying to load these very big windows up on a lift so that they could go up to a higher floor so we can install them? Well, we were trying to tie them around. But they were too far too wide. These were like eight foot by eight foot windows. And the rope we had was too big. So or too small, sorry. And me and my foreman were there, the guy controlling the lift was there. And we were kind of thinking about it. I was like, hey, what if we go through the inside of the window, wrap it around, you know, through where they actually divide. And maybe it will be small enough or big enough to kind of wrap around the lip. My boss kind of looked at me said, Hey, that’s a great idea. Let’s try that. So we did that. And we talked it up. And it worked. He was like, hey, that’s great way, the way to think outside the box on that one. It’s always good to put your input in there, even if it may not be listened to all the time. Throw your idea out there. That’s what they told me throw your idea out there. If it works great on you. It’s good thinking outside of the box way to find an answer. So yeah, I think I think there’s a couple of times where my opinion or my thought has benefited to the workplace.

Jack McFarlane 18:33
Yeah, and with that, do you see any sort of, I guess reward would be the right thing? Or is it kind of like a you know, hey, thanks for the input. You know, did they ever you know, now that you’ve solved the problem, do they come to you more often? Do you see anything like that going on?

Jake Adams 18:49
There were a couple of times where I formally would be like, Hey, you. So what do you think we should do with this, there was a time where we were putting in a doorway, and the floor underneath it wasn’t level. So we were a quarter inch off of it being plumbed to where the door would fit in and we have enough room to caulk it closed. He’s like a quarter inch off where you think I should do here. And we were sitting there kind of thinking, I’m like, Well, what if we kind of shimmed it up on this side, and we tried to just balance it out at maybe an eighth or so that way, we have an eighth of a gap right now. It’s really small, and that’d be a tight fit. He’s like, and he still told me? No, but he still listened to my, you know my answer and what I thought would help. And he was still acknowledging that I was trying to throw an answer out there. But he told me know that the gap would still be too small, we still want a little bit of a gap. Because if it’s too small, then you can’t talk it properly. So we took advice from there, he figured out a solution. We work from there. So it’s not always 100% going to work. But it’s still nice to know that they are listening and that is kind of your reward is that they’re listening, they’re paying attention you know, they’re working to find a solution with you.

Nick Schlemmer 19:59
Yeah, definitely. And that listening component I think comes in to does play a huge role, especially for our generation with, with all of us for most of us are entering the workforce for the first time. And having the ability, or being able to have your voice heard, is just going to make us feel that much better. Whenever we do bring up that idea where it just gets shot down doesn’t work. And it really wasn’t that good of an idea, but we thought it was, but just to have the ability to speak out and say something like that really helps out our generation a lot.

Jack McFarlane 20:35
What would what advice would you give an employer that is looking to employ Gen Z?

Jake Adams 20:42
I guess same thing on that listening aspect, listen to what they have to say, you know, maybe they have something that nobody else has thought of. Maybe there’s they know, something that your guys haven’t thought about, or there’s something new or a new way to do something. And reaching out to my point of view, there’s always a new way to do something, a lot of carpenters now. And I guess I would say most trades people have done it that whole way their whole life. And they’ve said, you know, that’s how they do it. And that’s how they’re going to continue to do it. And so you know, there’s new Gen Z going into the workforce, they have new ideas, they have new ways to improve that can probably get the job done faster than the way they’re doing it.

Nick Schlemmer 21:27
Yeah, definitely, I think I think almost in every workplace are different type of jobs that we have, that we have, where a lot of times things have been done, like you said, just for years on repeat, same way, minimal changes may be here and there. But I think now is especially with us in the sonority per se of the job site, kind of retiring and falling out, there’s going to be a whole lot of new ideas that we can bring in. And eventually we’re going to have that top seat to where we can apply our own things. So definitely I like that.

Jack McFarlane 22:01
Yeah, I totally agree with you there. So kind of moving on to the wrap up here. So to say, Jake, do you have any questions for me and Nick?

Jake Adams 22:10
I really I think we touched all the bases of what being a carpenter is and going into the workforce and all of that. But really, the union is looking for manpower, there’s a lot of open jobs right now it’s very easy to get into the Union into a trade. So if anybody’s looking for a job, Yeah,

Jack McFarlane 22:25
you heard it here. First. If anyone’s looking for a job, please go to the union. Help out Jake Adams, you know, you might be his co worker, take the leap of faith.

Nick Schlemmer 22:34
Yes, definitely. I like that. I like that aspect. Look forward to something new. Try something that that you may not know that you’d like yet. And that just kind of like to say we’re wrapping up the show here. And as always, we’re going to finish it off with the code of the show. Probably my favorite. My favorite part of the show and and this one today does not have I do not have anybody to quote or cite for this. But it says everyone is in a different race. In fact, we’re not even in a race, we are on paths, some walk some run, guys that has been the HR Happy Hour Network and The Play by Play podcast. Thank you very much for tuning in today.

Jack McFarlane 23:10
Yes, and we would like to thank Jake for an awesome interview and it just a great time.

Jake Adams 23:14
Thank you guys for having me, man. I enjoyed it.

Jack McFarlane 23:17
Once again, guys, thank you very much for listening. Um, we really appreciate it and please feel free to reach out to us.

Nick Schlemmer 23:24
Yeah, thank you everybody for listening today and bye for now.

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