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Do Trades Really Carry a Stigma? (I need life advice from the great NBR)

March 9, 2014, 10:29 a.m.
Posts: 690
Joined: Aug. 14, 2007

I grew up in a Kootenay mill town. There was 4 saw mills, a pulp mill and a smelter all within a 30mins drive. Mill workers and trades people drove the economy. My dad and 4 uncles were in the trades - 3 Millwrights, 2 Machinists [HTML_REMOVED] 1 Fabricator. I grew up knowing it was important to get a trade, never turn down overtime and enjoy your life outside of work.

Straight out of high school, no education, I was making $52K/yr pulling lumber. Like a typical 18yr old, I pissed away all that money. It took 2yrs for me to realize I needed a trade because the forestry economy was on a down turn. Because of the union and seniority, there was no way I would get an apprenticeship at that mill, with that company. So I quit, got a student loan and took a 1yr pre-apprenticeship program. Best move I ever made. The saw mill I was at has been shut down for over a decade now.

I've been a Machinist now for over 17yrs. I mainly work manual but can program and run CNC and I've never been unemployed. It helps to be as versatile as possible. So try to get on as many machines as you can and take additional part course at BCIT. It can be a struggle to get signed up as a 1st year apprentice, but stick with it. Going the CNC route will help you get a foot in the door with a lot of companies. But my advice would be after you have a good grasp of G-code and set-ups, switch to manual as soon as you can. The majority of the older generation of Manual Machinist are retiring now and there already is a shortage of them in the lower mainland. Because of how BCIT's machining program is structured, the market is flooded with CNC operators.

The Machining industry in the lower mainland is big but not that big. There are lots of little mom [HTML_REMOVED] pop shops, one off jobbing shops and then there's the high volume sweat shops.

We have 38 machinist at the (non union) company I'm at. A third of us make $75k+ a year. What I really love about my shop is that we aren't high volume. A lot of one offs. Batch runs rarely go over 15 parts.

I became a machinist because I love making things with my hands and because I knew you'd always have a dry roof over your head, a lunch room, you knew where you would be working each day and because of the high earning potential.

I know I would have enjoyed and excelled at other trades too. I was working weekend shift a few years ago and during the middle of the week I was helping a buddy who owned a siding company. I really loved doing Hardy siding and reno's. Each day you could look back and see what you made. But you were at the mercy of the weather. Working in the rain sucked.

Millwrights, Electricians, Heavy Duty Mechanics, even welders can make a lot of money. But the earning potential of machining, coupled with a dry roof over head and being home with my family every night is why I choice Machinist.

March 9, 2014, 10:30 a.m.
Posts: 24
Joined: June 20, 2012

You seem overly concerned with what other people think of you.

Always been a part of my character

While I'm not certain that's how I want to spend my life, I don't see it as that terrible a way to. Looking at my options in this economy I can A) Finish my business degree and start in an entry level sales job, B) Swap to an arts degree; but the only career I can see down this road is that of a High-School teacher, C) Do some sort of trade, or D) Do something interesting in the military but have to relocate somewhere I don't want to be.

I do not, and cannot see myself having any student debt as I work two jobs, an arts degree has too little job insurance for me, and I'm really not a fan of Edmonton, or the East coast.

My main concern is that because I have no concept of how much $52,000 (median machinist salary) is, I have no clue how well one can live off that.


March 9, 2014, 10:30 a.m.
Posts: 7306
Joined: Nov. 20, 2002

The only issue I see with the trades is that when companies try to increase their profits or just reduce operating costs, employee wages and benefits seem to be the easy one to hit. Multiply that by the fact that unions are getting weaker and things could go either way down the road as to how well some of these trades type jobs pay.

March 9, 2014, 10:31 a.m.
Posts: 762
Joined: Nov. 19, 2003

The pay for a machinist is about the same over the last 15 years if not more! With todays cost of living you will need to do think about that!

What bryan said above is exactly right, our workplace hired the lean "experts" and soon after they cut our benefits completely! Wtf?
To be clear the management cut the benefits!

March 9, 2014, 10:36 a.m.
Posts: 7306
Joined: Nov. 20, 2002

I'm willing to bet there is not many decent machinist making $52k a year. I would think they would be doing way better than that…more like the $75 mentioned by MattBC.

March 9, 2014, 10:54 a.m.
Posts: 690
Joined: Aug. 14, 2007

My main concern is that because I have no concept of how much $52,000 (median machinist salary) is, I have no clue how well one can live off that.


There is a shortage of Machinist right now. Typical starting wage of a journeyman machinist at most shops is $27/hr - $29/hr for the first three months. At my shop, if you're just an average machinist and only have experience running a smaller vertical cnc machine center, you'll stay at that wage. $56k to $60k is decent. If you're competent on large vertical cnc machines, horizontal or manual, your looking at $30/hr - $35/hr. $62k to $72k. If you have more experience and versatility, your wage will reflect that.

Can you live off this? That depends on your priorities, expectation in life and how comfortable you are with debt. Do you have a $700/month car payment ($34k car loan for 4yrs), $1900/month going out to a mortgage ($456k house), do you have $200/month in cable bills for channels your not even watching, are you putting $6k/yr into RRSP's, are you wanting a $7000 bike every second year, are you taking your family on vacation every year…. the list goes on. (est. $$$ for the purpose of this conversation)

The amount of money you make is relative to your expectations in life. The more you make, the more you'll spend.

March 9, 2014, 11:07 a.m.
Posts: 1124
Joined: July 28, 2008

Here is a good site that may be of help to you.

>>---------> (x)
My flickr

March 9, 2014, 11:08 a.m.
Posts: 1
Joined: Aug. 12, 2006

I think the main stigma for trades is from those people who don't have a clue. These are the same people who when they get a flat tire, call a towing service and then complain about the $100 service call. I still think that all engineers and architects should have a related trade before they are allowed to become professionals.

March 9, 2014, 11:25 a.m.
Posts: 380
Joined: Oct. 23, 2003

Working outside has way more pluses than negatives compared to working inside.

Ha Ha! Made you look.

March 9, 2014, 11:27 a.m.
Posts: 0
Joined: Aug. 12, 2007

I think that trying to figure out if one can live on $72K per year sits firmly in the realm of first world problems.

wow you are a ass

March 9, 2014, 12:10 p.m.
Posts: 0
Joined: Oct. 13, 2011

"Dirty Hands Make Clean Money".

Can't rep. But I sure will remember the phrase.

March 9, 2014, 12:45 p.m.
Posts: 7566
Joined: March 7, 2004

The stigma of making $40+ per hour is too much to bear sometimes.

March 9, 2014, 12:52 p.m.
Posts: 14437
Joined: Feb. 19, 2003

The amount of money you make is relative to your expectations in life. The more you make, the more you'll spend.

Completely disagree. Consumerism is the enemy of early retirement.

March 9, 2014, 1:07 p.m.
Posts: 712
Joined: Aug. 10, 2010

I think you are not looking at this broadly enough. I am a desk jockey but I have currently rewarding and fulfilling job. The last one was shit. The thing that will make the most difference is not what you do but who you do it with. The people and the ethos of the company make the most difference. If you worried about working for one of the big accounting firms whilst you get qualified then they are probably not going to hire you anyway. Think about what makes you happy in life and if you have the skills and the mindset to make a success of it. Oh and you should ditch the preconceptions about people and what they do.

Shredding hypothetical gnarr

March 9, 2014, 2:14 p.m.
Posts: 21
Joined: Nov. 20, 2002

I agree with Matt. I'm a tool and die maker by trade now working at UBC as an engineer technician. Machining is a really good base trade, nothing stops you from getting more training after. Get really good at manual machining first. Once you got that in the bag move on to other things (CNC is not difficult if you'r a skilled manual guy) I found that over the years the best thing to do is to get as versatile as possible. I Tig weld, design in Solidworks, program in Mastercam and run every machine there is. Hell, if you want more after that just get your engineering degree and you'll be unstoppable.

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