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Bacon and the Plumbing Contractor

John Mesenbrink

Bacon and the Plumbing Contractor

Sorry to say this to my friends who are vegetarian, vegans or members of PETA, but let’s face it: these are two things people just cannot live without. Really.

A recent study conducted by the National Pig Association reports that, due to drought conditions that blazed through the corn and soybean crop this year, “a world shortage of pork and bacon next year is unavoidable.” I know what you’re thinking, “there’s a National Pig Association?” The social media world blew up with this news and bacon lovers everywhere were scurrying to get to their nearest “bacon bank” and stock up on this delicious pork product.

But surely I jest. But if you’ll try to follow my correlation, plumbing contractors, too, cannot be undervalued. Seriously. I’ll always refer to the American Standard poster in which the plumber stands tall and it reads, “The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation.” So true. But a bit underappreciated by society, I think. In my opinion, the plumbing contractor is the backbone to any residential or commercial installation. And they can fix a leak, repair a boiler, install solar or geothermal with their hands! Imagine that. Working with your hands. A lost art in today’s society, I’m afraid.

Perhaps not considered a “sexy” profession by those entering the workforce, or the counselors working with these young adults, the stigma of the plumbing profession is one that is set aside as a fall back or alternative profession. One that if you don’t cut it in college, there’s always the trades. Why is that? Why aren’t the trades a viable option to the kids entering the workforce?

Dirty job, plumber’s crack, working with shit. You’ve heard it before. Stigma, ignorance, you name it. But did you know that plumbers can make a really good living? According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage of a plumber is more than $50,000. And while working on an apprenticeship, workers are paid fairly well. No student loans to worry about and no worries of the unexpected when finished with schooling. And the future looks bright for those entering the trades, as there have been reports of a significant skilled labor shortage in the years to come.

Okay. So the Bacon the comparison, perhaps, is a tad weak. But it can’t be denied that your plumber is someone you can’t live without. Go ahead, give them a big hug the next time you see one.

I have traveled around this great country and met a lot of contractors. And let me tell you, they are some of the most intelligent, well-spoken people I have met.

Written by John Mesenbrink


  1. Timmie McElwain
    Timmie McElwain09-29-2012

    It reminds me when I was doing some recruiting in the schools several years back and a Vice Prinicpal took me to task about why I would ever recommend the plumbing and heating business to young boys and girls in high school. Her arguement was that there was no money in such a profession. I was using a plumbing and heating friend of mine as an example to the kids of a success story. His story was he was never really into the academics and yet still had pretty good grades in school. Tragedy struck his family and at sixteen he quit school to take over the fathers plumbing and heating business when the father died suddenly. The Vice Principal and my friend just happened to be the same age. So I ask her what she made for income the previous year and she proudly stated $75,000. She had a masters degree and had been teaching school for many years certainly an honorable profession, My friend the previous year had cleared $300,000 from his plumbing business, had a beautiful home and also a place in Maine. He owned a 45 foot boat and drove a very expensive car. He had gained his GED at 19 years old and while working to keep the fathers plumbing and heating business going went to school nights and earned a degree. I considered both of them successful but don’t ever under estimate what can be accomplished in the trades if you set your mind to it. It is nothing to ever be ashamed of that is for sure.

  2. John Vastyan
    John Vastyan09-29-2012

    John – this is fun and insightful. I like the wordplay, too. The nuggets (after shifting my mind from the horror of bacon shortages) are appreciation for the noble profession of plumbing, and the now very real, worsening shortage of young people in the trade.

    It doesn’t help that, as kids enter high school, they’re vigorously steered toward academics as though it’s the Holy Grail: college, post-grad work, etc. Get the degree and everything will fall into place. Hogwash!

    I went the prescribed route but didn’t really get an education until I entered the Army. Best 4 years of my life in every way. Talking with folks of all type and variety in these 25 years since and the experience is verified — the trades are an excellent way to build a future!

    Hey: sounds to me like it might even be a good time for some enterprising plumbers — remember: they’re the ones with nice, big properties — to enter the pig-raising business. Sustenance for the piggies? Crack a deal with the folks who throw out all the uneaten cafeteria meals at the nearest college!

  3. Rich McGrath
    Rich McGrath09-30-2012

    No Bacon , the candy bar of meat ? Oh , the humanity !
    Very good blog , this is certainly a problem . Have 2 very intelligent sons , they both chose the Profession as opposed to higher learning . Would certainly love to see more young folks getting into our beloved trades . Think the future need for artisans of all types needs to receive more acknowledgement . Question is how can we acheive this ?

  4. Andy Mickelson
    Andy Mickelson10-04-2012

    Great read John.

    So I think we can all agree that there is a shortage of young people entering all of the trades. I know that locally my business manager has had a lot of resistance from the counselors and schools when it comes to recruiting new prospects. Have you had any success, if so any tactics you would like to share? I really like the angle of pay possibilities, but I keep leaning back to the pride aspect. I haven’t been able to find a good way to explain the great feeling of pride you get when a project or job is finished. It helps if it works too, but that’s an added bonus! Do you feel that there are fewer opportunities for a young person to get that early “cherry pop” sense of pride?

  5. mechhub

    Love the comments already. This is something near and dear to me as you all know. Here’s a link to my column from August related to this subject.


  6. hr

    I am encouraged to see young people starting in the industry. Not all will be the wrench pullers. Rich Tretheweys son was at the RPA event recently, he works in the family rep agency.
    John V’s daughter was working the event with her dad. Contracting Business covered Jim Pattersons company with his two sons following along in the business. The Stack family of Ohio is another example of a multi generation shop.

    A beaming Alana Ward won the Woman of the Year Award after starting the family business at age 23.

    My son Max is in the industry as a factory rep.

    These young folks have seen the light, and potential in our industry and are bringing home the bacon. We have some momentum, keep spreading the word.

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