National Tradesmen Day honors the backbone of the workforce

If you know a plumber, electrician or a machine technician, be sure to thank them on Friday.

That's because September 21 is National Tradesmen Day, a day dedicated to thanking and promoting the work of skilled laborers. Many of us do not realize how much of what we use on a day-to-day basis is built thanks to the skills of tradesmen.

"In the simplest form, every American depends on tradesmen," said Tom Rubel, Executive Dean of Regional Economic Advancement at Indian Hills Community College. "Those are the people that, when your car isn't running, they're the auto techs. When your electricity doesn't go on, those are the folks that you're calling that are skilled electricians. From about the history of the United States, they've been at the core of our society, in providing the workforce that each and every one of us need."

There is a consistent demand for tradesmen, but there also exists a significant skill gap. There are too many jobs and too few people trained to fill them.

"Especially young people don't identify with manufacturing, they think their iPod just comes off an iPod tree," said Marty Roberts, an Advanced Technology instructor at Indian Hills. "But someone has to machine the parts and make all those components. A lot of things are being manufactured off-shores, but now, there's a big rejuvenation to manufacture right here in the United States, so right now, an expert machinist has the potential to make a lot of money in this area."

Another misconception regarding manufacturing is that you cannot become a skilled laborer in a certain craft with only a two-year degree. But Roberts said Indian Hills has 30 different programs within the Advanced Technology department that teaches students those exact skills they need to fill those jobs.