Mike Holmes is all about getting young people excited about the trades. It's the reason why he's been so heavily involved with SkillsCanada and WorldSkills over the years, and why he continues to speak at colleges and conferences all around Canada in the name of promoting the skilled trades. Mike wants young people to consider getting into the trades as a viable and lucrative career opportunity, and not just a backup career if they can't find work elsewhere. In the interview below, conducted by OntarioApprenticeships.ca, Mike talks about his love and passion for the trades, and what it takes to succeed as a skilled plumber, welder, carpenter, and the like. He describes his line of work as challenging with long hours, but rewarding. He states that if you have a skill, chances are you'll never be without work because the demand for skilled tradesmen and women is high and growing with every passing decade.
Holmes On Trades: What You Need To Succeed
INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE In this exclusive interview with host of Holmes on Homes, Mike discusses the importance of getting young people involved in the trades.Staying focused while working in the trades in one of the most important skills according to Mike Holmes. Photo credit: Alex Schuldtz, The Holmes Group
Mediaplanet: How were you inspired to enter the trades?
Mike Holmes: My dad. As a boy growing up, I would watch him work around the house, on neighbours’ homes. I was fascinated by what he could do, how he could take down walls or redo our home’s plumbing. I guess he noticed that I wasn’t going away, so he started teaching me when I was still really young. I wanted to know. For me, it was a totally exciting thing to do.
MP: Why should our youth get involved?
MH: It’s a great career. If you love it, you will go far. There’s good pay, and when you’re really good, there’s no telling how far you can go. The demand for tradespeople is huge, and it’s growing every year. So chances are, if you have a skill, you’ll have a job—and a good one. Being in the trades is an advantage. Having a skill is an advantage. It’s an investment you can’t lose.
“It’s time we have more respect for tradespeople, because we depend on their work and their skill all the time.”
MP: What is the most important skill that young people learn through skilled trades?
MH: Focus. Working in the trades takes many skills — not just one. Look at plumbing, for example. To be a plumber you need to know your math to make the proper cuts on your pipes. You need to know how to solder, how to make your fittings, how different materials react to different temperatures and environments — and you have to be precise, down to the millimeter. You have to stay focused. It can be frustrating, but when you get it, there’s nothing better.
MP: What is your best piece of advice on what youth can expect once they start their training?
MH: It’s not going to be easy. Working in the trades is hard work. It’s long hours, complicated projects, and you’re dealing with different people all the time. Sometimes a project might involve five different trades, so you need to know how their work affects yours, and vice versa. Communication is important, patience is very important, and sometimes you have to think ten steps ahead. But if you love it, there is no other option. I still love it, and it’s been over 30 years!
MP: How do experienced workers in the trades help young people that are just starting out?
MH: When you’re new or if you’re just starting out and getting a feel for it, it can be overwhelming. It’s a whole new world, and it helps just to have someone there to guide you. Someone that can talk to you about their experiences, dealing with different aspects of the job, materials, products and dealing with clients. Part of being a pro is teaching others. You never know how many people you help by teaching one person to do it right.
MP: What do you think people need to know about trades in general?
MH: It’s not a fallback career. Being a tradesperson takes many skills. You need to know all kinds of information on the spot, and from different areas. I know people who went to university first and then got into the trades because they couldn't get a job, and they say that learning a trade was harder than university. It’s time we have more respect for tradespeople, because we depend on their work and their skill all the time.
MP: What do employers get back from investing in training programs and apprenticeships for our youth?
MH: Well, there’s the tax credit. But more importantly, you get good work and good workers — people who care. Apprenticeships make good carpenters, builders, plumbers, electricians — you name it, because you work one-on-one with a pro. The experience of a pro is gold to an apprentice, and that builds integrity — integrity to your trade, to your skill, to your work, and to the people you help. Apprenticeships also build loyalty, and that’s priceless to an employer.
MP: Tools play an increasing important role in the trades, what is the most important tool in your tool belt?
MH: A tape measure is important. You need it for almost every job, but you can’t do anything with it without other tools. So I’m going to say my Stiletto hammer. I love it! It’s light, it’s powerful—I can hammer things with just one hand. The weight is properly balanced, and you don’t need much force to hammer something in. And a hammer is a multi-tool. You need if for demos and for building.