Making a Case for the Trades

Not so long ago, dad or grandpa would spend all weekend building and fixing machines in the garage. But today, we outsource the maintenance of our cars, computers, and home repairs to specialists, which drives up the costs of those services while causing a skills gap between the average American and the mechanical wizards who still know how to do this vital work.

America has always been a land of do-it-yourself determination, but lately our hands-on experience is in decline — and that could lead us into a dangerously dependent future.

What happens when nobody knows how to fix anything anymore?

One Pittsburgh school is hoping to avert this catastrophe by training tomorrow’s technicians today.

The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) ranked #11 overall and topped the list for the technical trades in a 2017 Forbes list of Top 30 U.S. Two-Year Trade Schools. PIA graduates receive practical hands-on training in the very skills that the emerging A.I. economy will rely on, including propulsion systems, electricity, sheet metal, hydraulics, instruments & controls, composite materials, non-destructive testing, painting, welding, and more.

On average, electricians now earn nearly $5,000 more yearly than the average college graduate (NPR, 2015).

While PIA specializes in aviation maintenance programs, the versatility of its curriculum has already been proven by the variety of placements its graduates have obtained. PIA grads have earned technical careers at regional and major airlines, aircraft production and maintenance facilities, amusement parks, automated production facilities, government contractors, and many more.

And when your self-driving car breaks down in the not-too-distant-future, it’s likely that a PIA grad will have the skills to save the day.

What’s Wrong with a 1- or 2-Year School?

With the HIGH cost of a college education, what is wrong with attending a 1- or 2-year school instead of pursuing a 4-year degree? Nothing! Absolutely zip, nada, zilch. Consider the following:

The electrical trade has long been associated with high earning power, which is directly tied to the importance of the work electricians do. On average, electricians now earn nearly $5,000 more yearly than the average college graduate (NPR, 2015).

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average annual salary for electricians was $51,880, as of May 2015, with the top 10 percent earning more than $88,130.

Consider also:

The average hourly rate for a plumber is $25.88, according to the 2013 data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate fluctuates widely based on the geographic region and the type of work being performed. Median wages range from a low of $14.23 an hour to a high of $41.40 an hour.

Plumbers address a multitude of issues related to pipes or septic systems, often working in unpleasant and even hazardous environments. A thorough knowledge of building codes and the ability to safely operate a wide range of tools is essential. Not surprisingly, plumbers typically command a significant hourly wage. What’s more, employment for plumbers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, a faster rate than most other occupations.

 With the exorbitant cost today of a 4-year college education, I think that “Making a Case for the Trades” is something that many more young people should be considering. Less time. Less debt. Good pay. If you’re good with your hands, what’s not to like?


Remembering Billy Graham

The year is 1918. A copy of the New York Times costs two cents. 1918 saw the average raise rise to $875 a year. The average house cost $6,715 and the average car cost $360. Also in 1918, November 7 to be exact, William Franklin Graham Jr., was born in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Billy Graham, a prominent evangelical Christian and ordained Southern Baptist minister, became well known internationally in the late 1940s. One of his biographers called him “among the most influential Christian leaders” of the 20th century. (He died February 21 at age 99.)

As a preacher, he held large indoor and outdoor rallies with sermons broadcast on radio and television, some were still being re-broadcast into the 21st century. In his six decades of television, he hosted the annual Billy Graham Crusades, which ran from 1947 until his retirement in 2005.

Billy Graham promoted racial integration during his crusades, at a time when segregation was the norm, not integration. Rev. Graham was a spiritual adviser to U.S. presidents and provided spiritual counsel for every president from the 33rd, Harry S. Truman, to the 44th, Barack Obama. He was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson (one of Graham’s closest friends), and Richard Nixon.

I recently caught part of an interview with Rev. Graham on CNN, in which he told the reporter how he disliked all the traveling he had to do as a minister and evangelist. He mentioned the vast amounts of time it took him away from his wife, Ruth, and their five children. Indeed – he conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents!

It isn’t often that a non-politician lies in state at the Capitol Rotunda, or his funeral service broadcast on television. But both were the case for Rev. Graham.

On the temptations that would befall most men with that much time away from their spouse, Graham told the reporter that he made sure he was never alone in the same hotel room with another woman. What an enlightening statement in light of today’s sexual harassment scandals!

Many are skeptical of the authenticity of tele-evangelists, and sometimes rightfully so. But as steadfastly as Rev. Graham preached the Gospel, as opposed to promoting himself, it is unlikely very many would question his authenticity, commitment, and beliefs.

It isn’t often that a non-politician lies in state at the Capitol Rotunda, or his funeral service broadcast on television. But both were the case for Rev. Graham.

In a day and age in which the Harvey Weinsteins, Jerry Richardsons, Steve Wynns, and many others accused of crimes dominate headlines, illustrating all too well man’s many sins, it was quite refreshing for a man who spent his career preaching about the need for a Savior to rescue man from sin, to dominate news headlines for at least a day.

The world doesn’t need to hear about anyone else accused of sexual assault (although we probably will), but I think, regardless of one’s faith, few would argue that we could desperately use more virtuous men who “walked the walk” like Rev. Billy Graham.


Sources:  “Billy Graham: American Pilgrim”. Oxford University Press. Retrieved February 21, 2018. Billy Graham stands among the most influential Christian leaders of the twentieth century.

Swank Jr, J. Grant. “Billy Graham Classics Span 25 Years of Gospel Preaching for the Masses”. TBN. Retrieved April 25, 2013.

“Billy Graham: Pastor to Presidents”. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Retrieved November 15, 2017.

Aikman, David (2010). “Richard M. Nixon”. Billy Graham: His Life and Influence. pp. 203–10. ISBN 978-1-4185-8432-0.

“The Transition; Billy Graham to lead Prayers”. The New York Times. December 9, 1992. Retrieved December 24, 2007.

School Shootings – Stopping Future Incidents

You’d have to be living in a cave to not be aware of the school shootings in Parkland, Florida. But what can be done about it to avoid such tragedies in the future is a hotly contested debate. This post will take a look at a few of these ideas.

* Arm teachers. This is undoubtedly the most controversial of the ideas proposed for reducing gun violence in schools. The idea here, according to proponents, is that since schools have signs indicating they are “gun-free zones”, shooters know all too well that no one at the school will have a gun, and so schools are highly vulnerable to attacks. No one (I don’t think) is saying that ALL teachers should be armed – nor should any law be imposed on anyone against the idea – rather, the intent, advocates say, is to provide thorough training for staff members (need not be a teacher) who might volunteer for additional training because they already own a gun. A weapon would have to be kept under tight lock and key, and virtually no one could know who a so-called “designated arms specialist” might be. The overall idea is for someone in the school to be trained well enough to help keep carnage to a minimum – wounding the individual until better trained people arrive like police, SWAT teams, etc. I am not saying this is necessarily a good idea – I merely report on what I’ve read.

* Improve school security. Most people I’ve spoken with seem to be for this idea. Many inner-city schools already have metal detectors – the rationale here would be to expound upon security measures in place in some areas – much like how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made airports safer for travelers. Not fool-proof, by any means, but certainly saf-er than they were prior to 9/11. How would a school pay for it? What should it all entail – hiring a security guard(s)? I would say leave it up to schools to decide on the specifics, but at the VERY least, the government should provide funding for metal detectors and cameras.

* Other measures might include things like improving and expanding mental health care, reducing the amount of violence in the media (the reasoning here is that many young people are increasingly desensitized to violence), and focusing on better parenting. The rationale here is that overprotective parents shield their kids from disappointments in life – therefore some of them lash out in the only way they know how, with violence.

One thing seems for sure: Preventing school violence is a complex problem that won’t go away through gun legislation alone. It might help, but other measures are also needed.  What are your thoughts? What would you do?

How Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ and ‘Thank You’ can Change Corporate Culture

Companies that train their employees in what are commonly referred to as “soft skills” are finding those efforts pay off in productivity and retention.

People with soft skills are adept in areas such as interpersonal communication, leadership, problem solving and adaptability. But often still missing in the soft-skills department, some corporate analysts say, is the willingness to show an even softer side – specifically, saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”

“Simple as they sound, those phrases – which most of us were taught by our parents as good manners – are often difficult for many people in the corporate culture to say,” says Keith Martino (, author of Expect Leadership and head of CMI, a global consultancy that customizes leadership and sales development initiatives.

“But there’s a great value and power to saying ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘thank you’ in the corporate world. The first time someone apologizes or says a genuine ‘thank you,’ the whole environment shifts.”

Martino has observed corporate cultures becoming healthier when workers and leaders learn more about each other, care about each other and communicate better. As a result they work better together.

“So many people in today’s corporate culture have lived through not being valued in the workplace,” Martino says. “As we moved from the industrial age to technology, the thing that got left behind was the human element. People are starving for the human touch.”

Martino gives three reasons why saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ carry power in the corporate culture:

  • Rebuilds relationships. Leaders who can put themselves in the shoes of an employee whom they berated can build strong bridges throughout the company by apologizing and showing a more respectful approach next time. “People feel more valued and no longer threatened,” Martino says. “Every word you speak is an act of leadership as you influence others.” A thank you to a deserving employee also forges a more trusting, respectful relationship. “Being specific and genuine with the thank you heightens a person’s self-image, their view of the workplace, their boss and co-worker, and motivates them to keep up the good work,” Martino says.


  • It shows character. Humility shown in saying “I’m sorry” is essential to leadership, as well as to the rank-and-file, because it authenticates a person’s humanity, Martino says. Saying “thank you,” he adds, reflects an appreciation for others that is essential in building a successful team. “Competence is no substitute for character,” Martino says. “When people see a co-worker or boss doesn’t thoughtlessly put themselves above them, bonds and productivity grow. Character is a key element that attracts people and builds the foundation of a company”


  • It energizes everyone. It’s easy to get wrapped up in daily business obstacles or an overloaded email box and skip saying “sorry” or “thank you.” “But when these new habits are formed, showing that everyone values everyone else, a spirit of cooperation flows like a river throughout the company, creating a consistently positive culture,” Martino says.

“The relationship qualities, founded on mutual respect, that were common 100 years ago are still essential today,” Martino says, “and without them organizations fail. Walls go up, people get alienated and can’t work together anymore.”

Keith Martino ( is head of CMI, a global consultancy founded in 1999 that customizes leadership and sales development initiatives. Martino is the author of Expect Leadership, a series of four leadership books – The Executive Edition, in Business, in Engineeering, and in Technology. He has also published three sales handbooks, Get Results, Results Now, and Selling to Americans. After more than 20 years and numerous awards at FedEx, Xerox and Baxter Healthcare, Martino and his team provide world-class counsel and proven web-based tools that produce consistent results. He has been the keynote speaker at business development conferences for Xerox, Bass Pro Shops, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, the American Banking Association, Baker-Hughes, Shell Oil, RadioShack, Schlumberger, and others.

Sink or Swim? Maximize the New Employee’s Chances for Success Instead

As an employee assistance professional, you are no doubt quite familiar with putting together orientation trainings to familiarize workers with the services offered by your EAP.

But what about the employee’s orientation to his or her job? Was the worker given proper orientation to the tasks he or she would be performing? Or was Johnny or Sue left to “sink or swim” on their own?

It seems to me that in today’s “lean-and-mean” business climate in which too few people are often asked to do the jobs of too many, too little time means thorough on-the-job training is lacking in far too many cases.

Consider the online or paper “trainings” a new hire is often asked to read and sign off on. That’s fine and well, but how much of what is read is actually retained – ready to put into action on the job? In many cases, wouldn’t it make more sense to present the information in a timely manner? For instance, does it make sense for the employee to take a training on tornado awareness in February, when the drill isn’t scheduled until April? Would YOU remember what to do? Why not wait until mid-March to have Johnny take the training? But in too many cases, the supervisor, or HR, or both, is in a big hurry to get Johnny to sign off on everything related to the job all at once.

For that matter, how applicable is that slickly packaged binder or slide show to the types of situations the new employee is actually likely to encounter on the job? Wouldn’t it make more sense to present scenarios that the individual could be expected to run into instead? Or what about being proactive and present several “what would you do if” examples as part of the interview process?

And, since the initial days on a new job are so important, what about following through with the individual on a daily basis for, say, several weeks to see if Johnny or Sue has any pertinent questions pertaining to the tasks that they were hired for? “Sue, I see you have your first report due on Friday. Do you have any questions about it?” one might ask on Monday. THEN, follow up again in the middle of the week and ask the same question again.

Now it’s true that Sue might be a quick study and have the matter well in hand – if so, great! But not everyone learns quickly, and another individual, especially someone reluctant to ask questions, might not have a good handle on the job to be done. Never assume!

But who would have the time to help Sue, one might ask. I sure don’t! I beg to differ – what makes more sense, taking the time, ahead of a deadline, to help make sure a job is done right, or “assume” Sue knows what to do, and have to take EXTRA time to do the job over because it wasn’t done correctly?

It might not be something as obvious as a big report either. What about directions? Let’s say Johnny is told part of his job involves getting the mail each day and delivering it to the appropriate individuals in the office. Sounds simple, but does Johnny know the names of the key staffers and where their office or cubicle is located? Was he shown? Does he know where to even get the mail? Again, don’t assume! Take the time to follow through to help see that Johnny has the information and tools he needs to do the job at hand.

This is certainly not to say that one has to hold someone’s hand either – but neither does the “sink or swim” approach work very well. I was hired once as a grant writer and despite the fact they knew I did not have any grant-writing experience, it wasn’t until I was on the job several months, and I still had little clue what I was doing, before I was sent to a workshop to learn to write grants! You’d think that would have been something I would have been asked to attend early on – not wait until it was clear I needed help! Especially when the gal who was supposed to take me under her wing was out on maternity leave – and my direct supervisor admitted he “was no writer.”

So never assume that the reasons an employee is not performing well are necessarily his or her fault. Maybe Johnny or Sue were never shown how to do the job! If they weren’t, naturally there are going to be performance issues! Was Johnny or Sue given a proper job orientation, or were they thrown to the wolves?

What makes more sense – to take the time to train someone to do the job RIGHT – or can Johnny or Sue and then have to re-interview, rehire and retrain someone else?

You know what they say about assuming……it makes an …  —s out of you and me.

Creating a Super Bowl Winning Team

By Linda Adams, Guest Blogger

Just like the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, great teams do not happen by accident. There has to be deliberate intention in investing in the team and a shared goal that is bigger than any one team member.

Great leadership is essential and skilled players critical. But it is always the quality of their interactions that matter most. Over the years, I’ve studied hundreds of teams in multiple industries, including sports. And on each team I’ve taken dozens of measurements, analyzed the data, and looked for patterns.  The highest performing teams across all organizations have identifiable traits and characteristics.

On extraordinary teams, team members have each other’s backs and are focused on team success. They put the team agenda ahead of any personal agenda and commit to work for a teammate’s success with as much energy and attention as they work for their own.

But most importantly, when things go south, as they always do, the best teams talk about it.

The highest performing teams are:

  • 106 times more likely to give each other tough feedback
  • 125 times more likely to call each other out for poor performance
  • 50 more likely to openly discuss conflict

The traits and characteristics of the highest performing teams can be learned and taught. They are as replicable as they are identifiable. If you are interested in having a Super Bowl winning team this year, take the following steps:

  • Make sure your players know how to play their position and are playing it. Lack of role clarity and how job responsibilities connect with the larger goal is often at the root of poor performance on the team.
  • Define the goal and ensure the whole team is bought in. From the last day of last season, The Patriots’ unwavering focus was Superbowl LII. Does everyone on your team understand the overarching and unified team goal?
  • Establish the standards of performance. What are the behavioral and operating norms all team members will be held accountable to uphold? Do you hold all team members accountable to the same standards, no matter what their position or how much of a “superstar” they are?
  • Extend trust to team members. Assume positive intent and if you don’t understand a teammate’s motivation or behavior, find out what may be behind it.
  • When the going gets tough, have the tough conversations. When things are challenging and the scoreboard says you are losing, improvements and change are required. Without feedback and debate, and the team’s willingness to engage in honest, sometimes even uncomfortable dialogue, change never occurs.

Linda Adams is a Leadership Development expert and co-founder of the Trispective Group.  She is the co-author of “The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor, and Authenticity Create Great Organizations.” For more information, or to take a free team snapshot assessment, please visit, Blog editor’s note: this is a lightly edited, condensed version of a news release.


UK Minister Aims to End Loneliness

According to MSN News, loneliness is deadlier than obesity or smoking! Recognizing that dire health condition of sorts, Great Britain recently took a major step to reducing the incidence of loneliness.

Britain has appointed a minister for loneliness to take forward the work of murdered lawmaker Jo Cox and tackle the isolation felt by more than one in 10 people in the UK, reports the Business Insider.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch will take on the new role, in addition to her existing job, and develop a strategy to address the problem, which research has linked with dementia, early mortality, and high blood pressure.

Past studies have found chronic loneliness to be more life-threatening than obesity and smoking. Psychologists have come to call the global trend of isolationism a “loneliness epidemic.”

The majority of people over 75 live alone, and about 200,000 older people in the UK have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month, according to government data.

Most doctors in Britain see between one and five patients a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness, a network tackling the health threat that isolation poses to the elderly. See

While recent news reports centered on the UK, it’s fair to assume that loneliness is a major problem in the US as well. What to do?

As someone who has worked mainly from home for more than 6 years, and who was single until I was 34, loneliness is a condition I can unfortunately relate to quite well. The following are some suggestions:

* Get on the phone. Call someone, anyone, even if it’s for just for a few minutes. Doing so will help remind you that you are connected to the outside world, even if it doesn’t seem like it. If you’re estranged from your family, what about a friend? Neighbor? Don’t worry about the phone bill – your mental health is worth it!

* Go online. Personally, I am a much bigger believer that, short of face to face, phone conversations are more helpful than online posts on Facebook and other social media platforms. However, this isn’t to say that online friends can’t be a big help to alleviating loneliness for others, and as such these forums shouldn’t be overlooked.

* Get out of the house. Go for a walk, frequent a local diner and talk to the waitress and other customers … anything to get you outside of your residence is apt to help. If you aren’t very ambulatory or don’t have a car, do you have a motorized scooter? Know someone who could pick you up? Never be afraid to ask!

* Invite someone over. The possibilities are endless: it could be to enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch or dinner, to play cards, or even just to talk. Or, if applicable, sign up to have Meals on Wheels delivered to you – that way you are sure of regular contact with people, even if it is brief.

* Get a pet. While there is often nothing quite like face-to-face contact with fellow human beings, owning a pet can get pretty close! I experienced this myself this past year when I went from having my loving Maltese, Baxter, by me every day for more than 5 years, to zip…nada. Nobody. It got lonely around the house.  If getting a pet isn’t an option, could you pet-sit for a friend or neighbor? Walk their dog?

These suggestions might seem reasonably obvious, but here’s the thing: YOU have to be the person who takes the bull by the horns to do whatever you can so you are not so isolated. Don’t expect someone else to understand what it’s like to be lonely – do whatever, whenever you can. It’s like my wife told me when I hesitated to apply for a part-time job over the holidays – I had no business complaining about being alone if I did not do something about it myself.

But I am certainly no mental health expert!  If none of these ideas work, you may need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist. And that’s okay, too.

In any case, just a few random thoughts from someone who knows what it’s like to be lonely over an extended period of time.

Ideas for Stopping Workplace Bullying

Many offices have a bully – a person who is pushy and manipulative, and who is happy to harass and even terrorize employees. These people are often quite dominant and socially skilled, and their main purpose is to bring others down in order to gain more status in the company.

According to Fast Company, 20 percent of employees experience bullying on a regular basis, and this is just based on reported cases. Other studies estimate that up to 50 percent of employees will experience bullying at some point during their careers.

Since many cases go unreported, the true incidence is arguably much higher than that. Workplace bullying has been referred to as America’s silent epidemic. Technology has armed bullies with a wide range of tools for operating behind the scenes. Indeed – cyberbullying — bullying through digital means, is now a well-known phenomenon and it is rapidly catching up with physical forms of bullying. (The March Employee Assistance Report will have more on this phenomenon.)

Based on independent research, there are four key recommendations that EA professionals should help HR and other business leaders to consider:

Raise awareness, and encourage reporting and whistleblowing. These obvious HR processes have been found to minimize and even prevent bullying.

Name and shame. It often does help to expose and punish bullies in public, mostly because it shows that senior leaders want a culture that truly condemns bullying.

Coach bullies. Interventions aimed at inhibiting aggressive tendencies in aggressors can be highly effective.

Leverage technologies. Since bullying is often manifested via digital means, companies can use text mining and email scraping tools to monitor and punish bullying. As opposed to traditional forms of bullying, cyberbullying always leaves digital records, so all one needs to do is retrieve the evidence from the server or cloud.


Are YOU Appreciated Where YOU Work?

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You just got back from a long weekend in which you were out of town at a professional conference. You gave up the entire weekend for no extra pay – but you were glad to do it because you really enjoy where you work. But then, your boss complained on Monday morning when you strolled in at 8:30 instead of the usual 8 because you were still bushed and overslept. How did that make you feel?

Or, what about your most recent performance review in which your manager or supervisor had no trouble picking apart your failings but he also didn’t seem to have much good to say about your work either – either though your colleagues recognize the extra effort you always seem to put in. This lack of recognition just might be enough to update your resume and move on, right?

The Importance of Appreciation

When team members do not feel valued, the results are usually predictable:

  • Workers become discouraged, feeling there is “always more to do and no one notices whether I do a good job or not.”
  • Employees begin to complain about their work and negative communication among co-workers increases.
  • Negative behaviors increase: tardiness, absenteeism, conflict, stealing, lower quality work, and apathy.

What to do? Managers and supervisors who truly appreciate hard-working employees behave differently. Paul White, psychologist, and author of “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People” ( states that good bosses have a different mindset, one that truly values good employees and does not take them for granted. For instance, they:

  • Recognize that appreciation must be individualized and delivered personally. People want to be appreciated for what they individually have contributed. Unfortunately, many organizations use group-based acts of appreciation – an email blast thanking the department for completing a key project, etc. This type of communication often backfires, with employees becoming cynical or feeling offended by the general nature of the act.
  • Understand that appreciation needs to be perceived as being authentic. People want appreciation to be genuine. Workers are skeptical of programs implemented from the top down, where supervisors are given instructions to “communicate appreciation for each team member at least once a week.” While we all want to know that we are valued, we want it to be authentic, and not contrived.

How often do you hear the words “thank you” for a job well done, and maybe even a further trinket of appreciation such as a free lunch, gift card or your favorite scented candle?  Remember the saying that people take jobs because of companies, but they leave due to bad managers. Why risk losing your star performers in 2018 when a little appreciation will go a long way toward keeping them?



Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017

Scroll throughout our older posts to re-read these gems from 2017!

#1 – Trying an Unplugged Lifestyle (July 17)

#2 – Workplace Culture MATTERS (July 25) (See also graphic at left)

#3 – We can Learn a Lot from Our Dogs (May 29) (See also graphic below right)

#4 – Doing Your Part to Cultivate Civil Dialogue (March 14)

#5 – The Invisible Barrier (May 5)

#6 – Should Employers be Allowed to Read Emails? (September 5)

#7 – Being a Type B is A-OK (May 18)

#8 – How to Make Connections at Conferences (August 2)

#9 – EAR Being Added to EA Digital Archive (August 22)

#10 – Fake News, Biased News: Bad Journalism has Spread like a Wildfire (April 19)