In the modern world, more than ever before it seems, societies and economies value those people who are white collar workers. Businessmen, physicians, and lawyers are exactly these types of people. They think for a living and make money with their minds. It’s well known those who occupy these professions, or ones similar to them, typically make a good living. The services and work from the people who hold these types of occupations can be invaluable to the overall good of society. Where would we be today without the technological advancements of communication, transportation, or medicine? We are indebted to the great minds who have made our standard of living much more convenient and comfortable.
Any bright young person nowadays who has the opportunity is encouraged to follow in the footsteps of these great minds and have a white collar job. College or academia is viewed at as the way to go. Many parents and teachers actively promote this option for young people, but I feel it’s worth noting there are other options as well. Perhaps a profession that requires working with your hands, a blue collar job, would best suit many driven and smart young people. By no means are people in these occupations less intelligent. Since physical work may be more dirty or not as glamorous, it can be easy to view it as not being intellectually up to par as compared to white collar work. But manual competence entails its own set of skills and knowledge that can bring the mind to life.
In the midst of the great push today to make a living by working with your mind, the notion of working with your hands or having manual competence isn't held in high regard. However, I feel it’s important to acknowledge those people who make a living primarily through the physical work they do with their bodies and hands. These are the people who have literally built our civilization. They are the electricians, plumbers, and welders, the power-line installers, drill operators, and service technicians. These are the people who build and maintain the roads, buildings, and power lines that white collar people rely on. Chances are those people who are knowledge workers don’t have the slightest idea how to construct or maintain the infrastructure and machinery they depend on for their livelihood.
After being stuck in an office all day, I feel it could be difficult to see the tangible results of your work. Sure, you may have accomplished analyzing a financial report, hosted a meeting, or done business consulting. This work is mostly abstract and not concrete. The blue collar man on the other hand, only needs to point to his tangible work and say, “This is what I’ve done today. These are all the people who will benefit from my labor.”
I don't mean to downplay the jobs of white collared workers. They can make society thrive with their ideas, plans, or proposals, and in some way or another their work has affected us. But the labor of the blue collared man is immediately and practically useful. I believe it’s usefulness we all desire in our work. We want to feel what we’ve done is important or meaningful in some way.
As the current generation of college students and young adults continue to age, people skilled in manual labor or the trades will have to rise out of this age group. These will be the people who will continue to build and maintain the physical aspects of civilization. I understand that not everyone has the desire to do this type of work. Society needs people skilled in an array of professions to ensure the health, safety, and comfortable living of everyone. However, it’s my intention to raise awareness of those people skilled in manual labor. I feel these workers and their professions are often overlooked and not given the due respect they deserve. I realize a number of us may never do any of this sort of work and will go on to make a good living being knowledge workers. But if you ever have the chance to learn how to work with your hands, I encourage you to take advantage of it. “Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged,” says Matthew Crawford, author of "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work."
So the next time you need that rattling sound in your car fixed or are waiting for your lost power to come back on, give an appreciative thought to those blue collar people who will take care of these problems. Respect those who know how to work well with their hands. Your life would be very different without them.