Such A Night…

No two ways about it – this cat may very well be the essence of “cool.”

That’s the ultra-hip Dr. John, backed by The Band, performing “Such A Night” in the classic concert film The Last Waltz.

“Such A Night” also sums up this week’s Taco screening of the soon-to-be-classic film The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work.  An eclectic mix of 160 of Taco’s best customers attended the event, along with an all-star panel of experts featuring contractor and PHC News columnist Dan Foley, hydronics author and man-about-town Dan Holohan and Taco owner and president John White, Jr.

Some observations:

Lots of comments on promoting the trades to young people.  (Of the 160 guests, only 3 were under the age of 30!).  A couple of trade school instructors said they’ve actually been discouraged from recruiting by high school guidance counselors.

“Everyone’s telling these kids they have to go to college when they may do better getting into the trades,” said one guest.  My guess is guidance counselors and school administrators are paid more and get better jobs if they have a track record of sending lots of kids to college.  Sending kids into the trades doesn’t pretty up their resumes.

Dan Foley said while his college education has served him well, it didn’t prepare him for what he needed to know in the field.

“I started as a helper after graduating from Virginia Tech with an engineering degree.  I thought I knew it all, but found very, very quickly I didn’t know anything.”

The film did a wonderful job of emphasizing the skill and intelligence required to do our jobs and in recognizing the importance of the work.  But some guests felt the film missed one important mark.

“I wish it had shown the upside of the business,” said Maine contractor Jim Godbout. “You can make a great living in the trades.  I wish that had been shown more.”

John Perry of Advanced Comfort Systems in Rhode Island said the fact only 3 guests were under 30 was a bit of a shock.

“That was a real eye-opener,” said John.  ”Pretty soon there’s going to be no one to do the work, but the work is still going to be there and will need to be done.”

And if you were there and looking around, you would have seen the entire audience nodding their heads knowingly when Baltimore plumber Chris Jensen, one of the tradesmen featured in the film, put a voice on what many have long felt.

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

Filmmaker Richard Yeagley was part of the post-screening panel discussion.

“The screening was more than I could have hoped for. The conversations I had with individuals after the event and during my tour of Taco the next day were thought provoking and candid,” he said. “There seemed to be such a diversity of life experience and opinion from the audience members. As a filmmaker, it really makes you feel like you accomplished something when so many people could relate to so many different aspects about the documentary.”

For me, the high point came after the show as everyone was heading for the door. An old friend, a guy I apprenticed with when I was a mouthy teenager working summers for my Dad back in 70’s, said he was glad he came.

“The film reminded me why I love doing this,” he said. “I’m 61 now, and really haven’t been enjoying what I do lately.  It helped bring me back.”

Amen, brother!



3 Responses to “Such A Night…”

  1. I really wish I could have been there, I have no doubt the conversations were interesting.

    I really enjoyed the documentary, thanks for loaning it to me John. It did leave me with the want for more on how we as tradesman have to spend extra time with schooling. Maybe a short segment with a trade instructor might have been nice as well. Regardless, it was very well done.

    Thanks for the re-cap John.

  2. For those who think college is the only answer to a good career, check out Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. It is a must see.

  3. Thanks, Taco, for the invitation. It was a really fine event. I’m so glad that I was there to see the film and experience the spirited comments after the presentation.

    I share the opinion that younger people need to be exposed to this; after all – they’ll play the critical role in shaping the future of our country.

    I’ll even take it a step further to say that, over the past several decades, the higher ed community has misled America. What value do they add when, after a $60,000 or $80,000 or $150,000 degree, their grads are looking for work, getting minimum wage to pay student loans . . . or especially when the loans go into default?

    Add the erosion of manufacturing in this country and you have the makings of a perfect storm for our highly skilled but badly beaten, blue collar core. Americans — especially our younger people — need to acquire an entirely new appreciation for the trades. Our high school guidance counselors need to be on board with this. As a single group, they’re as involved in the overall problem as any.

    Richard Yeagley’s interests are on track. We need to ask: what can we do, individually and corporately, to contribute to resuscitating America’s dieing blue collar workforce? As colleges and universities seek unprecedented tuition increases, and with more college grads seeking jobs that ever before, it’s time to reinvigorate the work force. There is no more noble cause in America today.

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