Hi, I’m Joe Cadwell, writer, producer, and host of Grit Nation, but in this special episode of the Building Trades Podcast I’ll actually be the guest on someone else’s show.
Join me today as I talk with Nate Wadsworth from the Essential Craftsman Podcast.
If you haven’t heard of the Essential Craftsman, you should really check them out.
I’m a big fan of their YouTube channel, which is hosted by Nate’s dad Scott, and in fact I have been recommending his video series to my carpenter apprentices for years
They’re informative, educational, and honestly just a lot of fun to watch.
Nate does a great job with the podcast, and I was excited at the chance to be on his show.
We open our conversation with me talking about my experience as a military diver and my career as professional hard hat construction diver.
Later we get into the importance of organized labor unions, opportunities in union apprenticeships, careers in the building trades and what it means to be a leader in today’s fast paced and highly competitive commercial construction industry.
The Show Notes
The Essential Craftsman
Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute
Hi, I'm Joe Cadwell, writer, producer, host of Grit Nation. But in this special episode of the building trades podcast, I'll actually be the guest on someone else's show. Joining me today as I talk with Nate Wadsworth from the Essential Craftsman Podcast. If you haven't heard of the Essential Craftsman, you really should check them out. I'm a big fan of their YouTube channel, which is hosted by Nate's dad Scott. In fact, I've been recommending his video series to my carpenter apprentices for years there as formative education, educational, and honestly, it's a lot of fun to watch. He does a great job of his podcast, and I was super excited for a chance to be on the show. We opened our conversation with me talking about my experience as a military and professional hardhat construction diver. Later, we get into the importance of organized labor unions, opportunities and union apprenticeship careers in the building trades to what it means to be a leader in today's fast paced and highly competitive commercial construction industry. Embedded hyperlinks for the Essential Craftsman in the show notes and on the Grit Nation podcast website, which you can find at www at Grit Nation podcast.com. And now on the show.Nate Wadsworth:
Hey guys, our guest today is Joe Cadwell. Joseph, part of the Pacific Northwest carpenters Institute, which is the local branch of the UBC, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. This is the big union that carpenters and a lot of construction guys are involved with. So we talked about unions. We also talked about a big portion of Joe's career which was in which was underwater, not just welding, but also welding. But I should say commercial diving. This means installations and inspections and rigging and all kinds of things that happen under the water with these really specialized and highly trained divers who were making our world function. And Joe's had a lot of expertise and experience in really a whole career doing that. So I really enjoyed this Joe has a podcast of his own grit nation, which we will link to, which is a good place to find out more if you like what you hear from Him. Without any further ado, Joe Cadwell. Thank you for coming and taking time out of your schedule. And the first I think question I have for you is I'd love to hear more about the Northwest Institute of carpentry or carpenters Institute and kind of what you do there and then later, let's talk about the trades, getting into it apprenticeship programs, all those types of things. But first of all, tell us about the the carpentry Institute there. Yeah. Well,Joe Cadwell:
thank you so much, Nate for having me on your show. Again, my name is Joe Cadwell. And I do work at the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute, which is based in Portland. We are a regional training center for the Northwest carpenters union, which is one of the 23 regional councils for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. And if for a lot of listeners who maybe don't know what the UBC is, it's an organized labor union that's been around for 141 years. It's International which means all of the US and Canada is represented we have a half a million members and the UBC has been in the business for again 141 years bettering its members lives.Nate Wadsworth:
Wow. Oh, wow. I didn't not realize it was a it was a part of a huge chapter. So is that like the are there other carpenter unions or trade unions around carpentry besides that, or is that basically it for carpentry and North America?Joe Cadwell:
That's a great question, Nate. And we are it when you think of a carpenters Union. The UBC is the carpenters union, just like you have the IBEW for the electrical workers or the plumbers Union or the teamsters for the truckers, or the iron workers union. We are the carpenters, the UBC and our main office or headquarters, I should say, is based in Washington, DC. And we have our main training center is in Las Vegas. And we offer classes in Las Vegas that build leadership development train the trainers, it's sort of the showpiece or the flagship of all of our training centers collectively, they're in Las Vegas.Nate Wadsworth:
Oh, that's cool. Carpentry is such a broad term and it you obviously think about like I think about either framing a house or even like a carpenter of old times, like you know making furniture and shaving wood with like a hand plane but I know on your website in general carpentry actually, at least in terms of the Union encompasses a lot of other aspects of construction besides framing, so What else is a part of the carpenters union and the trade as far as you guys are concerned?Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, when you think about the carpenters Union, we don't really do the the home building type of carpentry. We do have a very small faction that does do that. But we're really commercial construction. And the craft itself or the UPC represents a number of different crafts from a general carpenter to someone who does interior and exterior finishes. They're known as EIS specialists. We work with floor layers, we work with millwrights. We work with scaffold erectors, we have a pile drivers, which were putting in the foundation's inshore on skyscrapers or on the water where they do a lot of work on the water. And then my particular craft while I've had been in the UBC for the last 24 years, has been commercial diving. And I worked as a commercial diver for 30 years, of which 22 Were with UBC. And it's only been the last few years that I've switched over to education here in the Northwest. Wow.Nate Wadsworth:
So how did you get involved with diving as a profession? That's not That's not every other tradesmen is, you know, has that as their as their career? Yeah, youJoe Cadwell:
know, that's a that's a great question. I actually started diving when I was 12 years old, I was living in Northern California. And my next door neighbors got scuba certified. They had a son who was two years older than I was, and I just wanted to tag along with that family. And when I started doing that, I started with just free diving, snorkeling, so to speak, mask, fins and snorkel. They would be doing scuba in like Folsom, there in Sacramento, and I thought it was just magical. And so I really pestered my folks to to get myself a scuba certification for Christmas. And I was 12 years old. And they thought, well, you know, this is just going to be a passing phase fad for a kid. And it wasn't I was hooked from the very get go. As soon as I strapped on a tank and put in a regulator and started breathing underwater, I knew that this was going to be something I wanted to pursue in earnest. And so I did, and I actually really focused on getting as much time in the water as I could, but still not not being able to do much. But I knew that it was going to be a career. And if I wanted to make diving a career, I would have to join the military. And I think we're going to get into career options a little bit later in our conversation. But I didn't have the grades to consider going to college. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Navy Diver. And so three days after exiting high school, I was on the delayed entry program. And I was on my way to bootcamp, which then transitioned to an a school where I learned the skill of welding. And then I took that skill set and I went to US Navy deep sea diving school, second class divers school in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and pretty, pretty tough school to make it through. But I made it and I was out in the fleet afterwards as a salvage diver on a ship called the USS recovery based out of little creek, Virginia, the amphib base in on the East Coast.Nate Wadsworth:
Wow. So I'm sure the Navy and all the militaries using diving for all types of specific applications. Talk about what some of those are. And then the what salvage entails what what you were doing, you know, at that early part of your career.Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, you bet. So the Navy you know, when when you think about diving in the Navy, I think most people instinctively go to the SEALs, Special Ops, folks, and the sea, air and land. Special Forces use diving as a vehicle to get to where we're going and the ship that I was on for a period of time we served as a platform for the seals to use their underwater vehicles in which to perform their operations. But the SEALs really again, it's just part of their shtick that the Navy divers are the ones that actually do the repairs on the ships. They can also be involved in the salvage work. Oh, and then there's one other component Nate its EOD Explosive Ordnance Disposal also uses diving as a vehicle to get to do their job. But I specialized in hardhat diving we call it second class dive school after second class if you were in the fleet long enough you would stay in or in the program long enough you would then go to first class dive school where you would learn this mix gas theory. And then after mix gas there was always the option to go into sat diving at that period of time, but I actually did four years in the military during that period of time. I was a salvage diver. And the my claim to fame the one thing that I did not have the opportunity to do but was so close to happening was when the Challenger blew up back in the early 80s The space shuttle Challenger and my our sister ship and my ship were down for repairs and it was a race to see who was going to get their their vessel operational and head down to Florida from from Virginia and they beat us to it and so I missed that out of that one. But honestly I've I've done some really amazing things in the water with With construction and lots of adventures to talk about if you're interested in yeah when I point out the NavyNate Wadsworth:
when I think about like repairing a ship underwater I instantly think okay there's a hole and the ship is sinking and gotta like patch that hole but I'm sure there's a lot of other kind of routine maintenance on these ships are huge what all like what what is some of that like what what what does that mean maintaining ships like underwater you're like like buying like grease fittings and like greasing things.Joe Cadwell:
I mean there's there's that aspect there's whole cleaning is a big part of it, making sure that you know, the barnacles are not slowing down the speed of the vessel. But when you really think about ships repair things that can't be done in a dry dock, or it's not feasible or it's it's something that is better suited to be done in the water could be pulling off a prop, you know, and doing proper replacements. Massive props on the back of navy vessels can be pulled off in water and replaced in water. There's packings that need to be repacked, there's sea chests that need to be cleaned. So they have good inflow of water for cooling systems, repairs to rudders. But, you know, ideally, you always want to try to get a vessel into drydock. And you literally lift the ship up out of the water. And that's something else that divers do, they'll set the blocks. So that inner drydock so when the ship comes in to line up, it's not going to crush something that is on the bottom of the ship and it makes sure that the ship doesn't tip over into drydock. SoNate Wadsworth:
what what is hardhat referred to you right, you said a hardhat. diver, what does thatJoe Cadwell:
feel great. Yeah, again, most people think of, you know, diving they think of scuba, and that's self contained underwater breathing apparatus, it's a tank and it's a regulator. We actually use the the helmets that most people are probably familiar with the old brass helmets, the giant Mark five dive helmet is is a thing of the past and now they've you know, for the last Jeez 40 years or so, Kirby Morgan diving helmets are the name in the industry. And it's just a way to protect the divers head it, it has a small internal space, you actually have an oral nasal cup that your mouth and nose fit into that that cut down on the carbon dioxide amount inside the helmet. It provides for communication, it provides a platform to put lights and cameras on and it's a it's part of a package. I mean, we call that the helmet is obviously what's on your head, you still wear a bottle on your back a bailout bottle in case for some reason the surface supplied air that your is being provided to you as the diver while while you're doing your job should should be compromised, you can go on to bail out and try to get yourself off bottom or buy a little time until they figure out where the problem went wrong. You wear a harness that attaches an umbilical divers umbilical is your lifeline. So to speak, you have your air supply. There you have the strength member in case you really need to come up hard and fast on someone in the water, you've got a strength member that's going to be able to support that you have a communications cable, you have something called a pneumo fat ometer. And it's an open ended tube that basically the topside supervisor will be able to accurately monitor your depth in the water. You have your lights and camera cable. And then if you're lucky enough and you work for a company that's progressive enough, they'll actually provide the diver with hot water. And it's like hot water is cooked in a boiler on the surface. And it's sent down the hose to the diver and it plugs into an oversized wetsuit with perforated tubing that run up the head, the back legs and arms and you're almost in a personal Jacuzzi. And it's it's amazing because you know, you we work in water as cold as freezing, I've actually been in water below freezing, but because it was moving, it hadn't yet solidified. And when you're in that kind of water, you know, it doesn't matter how tough you are, after a certain period of time, your mind begins to wander and go off task. But having that hot water being bathed in in nice, you know, warm water will definitely keep you focused.Nate Wadsworth:
I can't imagine the I say luxury but probably after you experience it, it doesn't feel like a luxury it feels like a safety. I can't imagine what an improvement that would be to those those guysJoe Cadwell:
massive, massive massive and you know a lot of times we're in the water from anywhere from from four to six hours. And if you're in the water for four to six hours, you really do begin to appreciate that you know summer months there's now in the rivers and shallow waters not really a need for it. But when when the water gets below 50 degrees and it sort of overcomes the the the abilities of a dry suit to keep you warm and comfortable and focused and on track of what your what the work at hand is. You definitely appreciate that hot water.Nate Wadsworth:
That's amazing. So and kind of circling back to the UBC the union acronym there.Joe Cadwell:
The yeah the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Joiners of America.Nate Wadsworth:
So is underwater welding underneath their umbrella of trades. It sure is like oil tankers who are I'm sorry oil rigs, those underwater Well, there's are, are likely a part of it, of this union also,Joe Cadwell:
that actually they are not. And, you know, we'll talk, hopefully, we'll talk a little bit about union structure and market shares and things like that. But the petroleum industry down in the Gulf of Mexico is historically a non union arena. And so we don't have a lot of union presence. I think it was post Katrina, Hurricane Katrina that came through some years ago, there was a huge vacuum in the Gulf of Mexico, and they brought in a lot of our union contractors to get get the work done. But historically, the petroleum industry, one of the, you know, arguably one of the richest industries in the world is notorious for not paying their divers very well. And so we have because the lack of a union presence, so here in the Pacific Northwest, for example, we're union strong in the diving world, and most of the contractors of size and, and ability here in the Northwest are union contractors. And through those negotiated wages, divers make a really solid living, you know, and again, going back to what you were talking about with underwater welding? Yes, it is part of the UBC structure. But again, with half a million members across the US and Canada. I think if I remember, clearly, we're somewhere just around 1200 unionized divers with strongholds here in the Northwest and the Midwest, like in Chicago area, and definitely over on the east coast of you know, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and those areas, but you start drifting south and south down into Florida and the Gulf and we lose market share and the wages plummet because of that. Yeah.Nate Wadsworth:
Interesting. So in the northwest, for example, again, when I think of underwater, not just welding, but let's just say, work. I think of oil, and I think of military as like the two, I don't know, areas where there's probably I can imagine, like a lot of work needs to be done, what other types of places and people are hiring underwater welders for, you know, construction?Joe Cadwell:
Okay, great question. And again, you know, the romantic notion. Nate of a diver welding underwater is really just that it's a romantic notion. We don't really do that much welding, most of the things that are put into the water that have been welded or welded topside, they're inspected, they're powder coated or painted, they're sent down and then they're flashed and bolted up, flashed up and put together by divers underwater. We really do try to get away from underwater welding because it really is time consuming. And it is a very, very specialized I am I can stick metal together underwater. Don't get me wrong, but it's truly an art form. Welding in an in and of itself is an art form on the surface when you put someone underwater, it's just a long, tedious process. And not everyone is a Picasso. Not everyone has that same ability. And so we'd much contractors and customers who would much rather have it welded topside, inspected, painted, put in the water and bolted together. So to answer your question, what else does a diver do if they're not down there for hours on end burning welding rods? We do a lot of work for the Army Corps of Engineers here in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River and the Snake River have a tremendous amount of Army Corps dams, starting with Bonneville which is the first dam upstream from from Astoria, and then you have the Dow's down John de dam, McNary Dam all the way up the Columbia River. All of those dams over the last 20 years have gone through a lot of retrofits to try to make suitable passage for the small small can fry after the salmon go up river and spawn. Those small small and fry when they start exiting, or leaving their spawning grounds, so to speak, heading out to the ocean to mature have to make it past these dams. And there's they only have a couple options. You know, they either go through the turbines, or they go through the spillways and both of them are just horrible. Turbine is basically a giant blender and a spillway just disoriented to Saurian so small, small and fry to such a level that it they're easy pickings on the downstream side for birds of prey and things like that. So over the years, I've made a fairly good living on those dams, putting in safe passage that environmentalists would first identify as viable means of rerouting the fish around there. We put in prototypes, we'd put in monitoring gear, and then the studies would go on, we'd pull all that stuff out, they may revise what they we put in the water one season, modified a little bit, put it in the next season, and then eventually we'd put in the full size structure. And again, it's all about allowing safe passage for those smaller fish to make it downstream. Headed upstream, the adult salmon, fish ladders work really well. There was a period of time a few years back where we were actually helping the lamp right yields to be able to make it Safe Passage upstream because a lamp right yield doesn't use the same sort of flying out of the water technique that salmon do to get over these fish ladders. lampreys have a different and so they actually made almost like a sluice gate for them to climb up. Yeah, so it's interesting work. We do a lot of salvage work there's a lot of work on on bridges as well salvage work, I'll back up a little bit we do a lot of salvage work usually the bigger salvage work some of the bigger ships that have had some difficulty on the Columbia River. There's the emergency call outs as well for the different tag lines here in the Northwest. And we do a lot of just intake work. So if any, any industry be it a farm out in Hermiston, or be it an aluminum plant here in Portland, they're drawing water in from the river, you can't just have a big open pipe, sucking in whatever on the river you have to have some sort of filtration system. And those are what we call intakes and then a lot of times after the plant or factory or whatever is has utilized that water and cleaned it up and is getting ready to go back into the river. They actually have out outflows and they're those always need repair as well installing duck bills, cleaning out the pipe, things like that. So yeah, the diving community is really a tight community here in the Pacific Northwest I think there's about 140 to 160 folks like myself before I retired from the from the trade who actually make a living full time as commercial divers. Wow, thatNate Wadsworth:
is so interesting. It's one of these things that is existing right alongside me I'm in the Northwest but everywhere around the world, these these this expertise and these careers and as critical, almost like infrastructure work that's happening that most people just really don't think about as much.Joe Cadwell:
Right? And with diving, we're out of sight out of mind, you know, dive crews were usually remote and and then the divers themselves are underwater so you only see him when they come up and switch out and the next person gets in and you jump in theNate Wadsworth:
water and I see like a structure like maybe it's like a dock pier or even the bottom of a boat. I just get this creepy feeling and I'm what does that does that ever like pass and you ever kind of feel less creepy looking at structures underwater? Or is that just part of the job?Joe Cadwell:
It I think, you know, at a certain point, it's part of the job. I was always fascinated by it. I remember one of my the very first dive out of my recreational dive class that I took back in the late 70s. I was in the Sacramento River. And my my buddy and I we kind of have messed up on our planning a little bit. And we were diving solo because we only had one backpack to hold our, our tank on and here I am 12 years old. I might my dad's listening now he's he's shaking his head. 12 years old, my buddy went down first dropped about 40 feet into the Sacramento River and a little Eddy there and he goes, Man, it's gonna be creepy when you get down there. And I said, Why is that he goes all the salmon that had spawned and died. It's just like a mass graveyard down there. And I was like, oh, so again, you know, my very first dive out of class, the number one thing they say is always dive with a buddy. Well, what am I doing not diving with a buddy, I get this gear on, I dropped down nice and slow through the water column and it it goes dark pretty quick. And it's kind of murky until I get about five feet off bottom. And the first thing I see when I get close to bottom and the visibility turns crystal clear. It's just it's just hundreds and hundreds of dead Sam and they're just they're different. Arrays of decay. And yeah, it was interesting. So that started me off. Since then, you know, I've seen some some amazing things, some some big animal encounters. After I exited the military, I ended up teaching scuba diving for eight years in the South Pacific in the Caribbean, I was really, really fortunate to be able to work in countries like Australia, and Thailand and Mexico and just in Fiji and just really enjoyed those interactions with with the marine life with the big animals and with the customers as well. I would literally teach people to to feel comfortable in a completely foreign and exotic world and enjoy the heck out of that. But when I turned 29, I realized when I was in the country of Sweden, where I had followed one of my students to her homeland that things were going to need to change. And that's why I had to shift gear from from teaching scuba diving and get back into my roots. And that again goes back to the hard hat diving that I had knowledge received in the military.Nate Wadsworth:
So that's when it became a little more commercial oriented in terms of the building and construction underwater work as opposed to the more recreational side even though there's a you know, money to be made and certainly a lot of people earning a living focusing on that aspect of diving but you kind of recenter to the commercial aspect.Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, I definitely had to I mean, after eight years of teaching, diving and all these remote locales, I really had a A tan that was fading fast in a bank account that was fading even faster. So I was happy to have the head had the opportunity in the military to get a skill set that I could fall back on. And it turned out to be the best decision I could have made after having left Sweden as a commercial diver there for a few years working in land primarily, I ended up here in the Northwest and stumbled into my my union job. And I and I did not know much about unions. I think we talked about this Yeah, earlier. I just like you I didn't really know much about unions. I didn't know what they provided and the structure and, and the opportunity that was in front of me. And I'm so glad that I did recognize it and grab hold of that opportunity when it presented itself.Nate Wadsworth:
So talk let's talk about unions a little bit. And maybe your experience is a perfect place to start because I've always had this conception that getting let's say a union job, or I don't know, just getting involved is challenging. You know, I've always thought like the union guys is like the highest level expert, they get paid the most. They are really well trained. And I just always assumed that those jobs are tough to get but it How does someone go about getting trained to work for a union? You said you kind of stumbled into it? Which I'm sure there's a story there. But if someone's listening to this, and they also don't know a lot about unions, but they, you know, their fault they're tracking with us. How do you explain this to him?Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, well, I you know, they are I won't say they're, they're hard to get, they're hard to retain. Because, obviously as union carpenters, whether you're a commercial diver or a general carpenter and EIS specialist, and millwrights, scaffold director, or pile driver, we do demand a higher wage of living. Okay, through collective bargaining, we've already negotiated that with our union contractors. And so we right off the bat have a livable wage as a union member, we also earn benefits medical, dental and vision benefits for our not only for the member for the for the for their families, as well. Add to that a pension package that we are contributing contributed to access to training, which keeps us definitely on the cutting edge of technology and advances in construction, we have representation through union representation that look out for our best interests on the job. And then we also have safer working conditions. So all of those things got all that comes at a premium, and no one is digging into their pockets a customer when given the opportunity between paying a higher premium for a union contract, or a non union contractor is digging in their pockets to give money to the Union contractors, because we're better looking at, you know, because we, we we roll up in nicer rigs, no, we are better value for those customers. And that is the bottom line where, you know, there's people out there that would just eat our lunch on a day to day basis, if we did not provide better value. And a bottom line, we get work done on time we get it under budget, we get it with fewer callbacks, we do quality work with less accidents. And that's that's the beauty of having training, and someone who can enforce regulations. And that's basically what a union does. You know, our, our carpenters union, I like to say is been around 140 years, not not in the business of carpentry. But really in the business of bettering its members lives. Carpentry is a byproduct, everything that we do is a byproduct of us being able to focus on our job, and having the skills to get it done. And that is one of the bigger things and not to speak disparagingly about folks who are maybe listening and not in a union. But there are a lot of benefits. And a lot of people have to being in a union. And a lot of people have a misconception that unions are, you know, all they want is my money. Oh, they just want my union dues? Well, well, absolutely. I mean, unions in and of themselves are a for profit business, you need to have income coming in to our organization to keep it viable. And I once heard someone say, you know, if you want to help a few people out, start a nonprofit, you want to help a bunch of people out start a for profit. And that's sort of the structure of the Union, it takes money to, to hold the organization together to be able to work with politicians to pass laws that are favorable, not just for union contractors, but for non union contractors. And those are prevailing wage laws, both on the state and the federal level. So unions kind of run deep in their, in their expectation that the people that work for them are going to be motivated to get the job done, and work with pride and professionalism. And I think that's kind of where, where I'd like to go with with the next question, I hope. Yeah,Nate Wadsworth:
yeah. Well, for sure. So talk about getting involved in a union in terms of career because I really, I'm past the point in my life where I'm thinking about my career in terms of like, what am I going to do like, I'm turning 40 In a couple of months. And so that ship has sailed, but I think often about when I was you younger thinking about that and, and how many options there are that I did not know about at all. For example, these apprenticeship programs, like we have a community college not far from here that offers some apprenticeship programs, and I did a semester that community college, but I took like an English class and a German class and a music theory class. I didn't know there was an electricians, apprenticeship program class happening, like one building over. And I didn't know that electricians like come out of the gate making. I don't know what back then. But I'm sure it was way more than I was expecting. I didn't know that. And so anyways, unions have a do they have a separate type of apprenticeship route? Or is it is it the same thing just taught by different teachers talk about fromJoe Cadwell:
do have an apprenticeship, a structure or structure to our apprenticeships. But I'd like to before I address that, actually go into that that more of a systemic issue with with kids in high school, you know, not being given a viable pathway of the trades as an option when they're gearing to graduate everyone, for decades now has been pushed towards college colleges, the only way to financial security and professional success in America. And it's become pretty glaringly obvious that that is a fallacy that, you know, people that that find themselves in a 100,000 150,000 $200,000 debt can actually literally walk out of a four year program at the University of Washington or University of Oregon or Oregon State or Harvard, or wherever you go into college and actually find you're holding a piece of paper that was rendered obsolete, that, you know, the week before because of advances in technology, or worse yet, had been shipped off shore because someone found it was easier to get people that could get the work done, but didn't need that fancy degree to have it done. The and that's unfortunate, and I and I've been in contact with a lot of career counselors lately, who are beginning to see that they're not quite setting their their their charges up for success that the people that they are supposed to be helping find a future by directing them solely to colleges is not doing them any any justice. And so it's become, again, really apparent that the blue collar trades, the building trades are offering viable pathways to middle class lifestyle in America that in jobs with dignity, their first choice careers. So our organization, the Pacific Northwest carpenters Institute, is one of these regional training centers for the UBC that will take people that are green as new mowed grass, and show them what end of the hammer to hold kind of like what your dad does got to show them how to mark on a board from very basic entry folks. And then after four years of a tuition free construction College, give them a skill set that can't again, be rendered obsolete overnight, or outsource the work that's being done here in the US and Canada is being done by workers that, you know, have the skills to do so. And so I'm really really fortunate to have exited my chosen career as a commercial diver to find an opportunity at PNC AI. And now I am the coordinator for the millwrights pile drivers and our carpenters and EIS specialist in Central Oregon, like the Ben Prineville, Redmond area.Nate Wadsworth:
Did you say tuition free?Joe Cadwell:
It is tuition free, sir, absolutely. So you have to apply to the program. And we have a vetting process. It starts by filling out an application on PN CI dot o RG. Once your application is submitted, and you are then invited to what we call a pre hire, it's a way to find out more about the organization, the structure of the unions, the structure of the apprenticeship, the expectations of our union contractors, you go through that online pre hire, the next step is an interview. And you're actually interviewed by by two sides of the table, the union contractor side and the union side and people that have worked in your particular trade. So if you're interested in being a a pile driver, for instance, the folks that are going to be asking you the questions are from that that field, and they're going to try to get a sense of what your driving purposes is pile driving, is this going to be an opportunity for you to better your life and give you a career that you are truly interested in. There's just something you're just kind of trying to stick your foot in the pool, you know, and test the water and see if that's all right. The reality is our members this our members supported apprenticeship programs. And so we're really selective because we want to make sure that that our members money's being utilized well, and with no one wants to see someone get in and spend a year or two and decide that this wasn't for them. So we're selective on the front. then the work eventually will weed out, you know, the, the folks that truly didn't want to be there. And it's a difficult, as you know, Nate, you know, construction is a difficult industry. But if you can get that application in that pre hire, done that interview done and get yourself onto a union job through a dispatch, then you begin your apprenticeship and it is a four year long tuition free construction College, the only thing that you're on the hook for at the end of four years is about a little under $300 worth of books and materials. Everything else is taken care of. It's the best kept secret in the building trades. So youNate Wadsworth:
have this like skeptical, like, it doesn't make sense. So because obviously it costs a lot of money to educate and hire $20,000. With facilities, that's exactly I, I understand why college is expensive, you know, because it costs a lot of money to run a college and all of the things all of everything that goes with it. And this is a little different, but a lot of those same costs exist. So in other words, someone can leave up their four year apprenticeship program, and owe $300 And, and have a career a career like that certification or journeyman level or whatever the level before journeyman but they're qualified to apply for positions.Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, as you you'll you'll have a journey level card and you have the skills again, you know, your learning doesn't stop once you exit our training program. Now you have the next 1520 25 years of your life to to continue to refine your craft. But it is it does sound too good to be true. But every hour that a union member works here in the Pacific Northwest $1.07 of that goes to funding our education programs either for the for the apprentices or for the journey level workers. So if a member works 2000 hours a year, there's$2,000 going into a slush fund that we use to fund these apprenticeship programs and the continuing education programs that are both our apprentices and journey level workers can take advantage of to keep themselves competitive, so that we can offer more opportunities for contractors,Nate Wadsworth:
how often are people applying who aren't like, let's say, like, a little deeper in their career, they're maybe not right out of high school, but maybe they're in their 30s or 40s are people kind of using this as a new start for a tote, we get a lot of emails from people who are not satisfied with like a job they have and they you mentioned romanticizing underwater welding, well, we see that and get emails with people romanticizing every aspect of construction, like I just want to be swinging a hammer, you know, in the sun, and it does like sound nice. And maybe there's moments that are very nice. There's also a lot of moments that are a lot of it's toughJoe Cadwell:
and grueling and Yeah. But it's a deeply satisfying when you have those stepback moments when you and a crew have finished a project and you can step back, put your hands on your hips and and realize that you have just built something that is going to be there for generations. I call it generational wealth, you know, that bridge, that school, that courthouse, that stadium, that is generational wealth, and that is something that, you know, in decades from now, your your kids or your grandkids will be able to point out and say, Yeah, Granddad built that courthouse, you know, and it's something that is so many of the the the college degrees are not preparing people for a lot of that is that you push a button and your work goes away. And maybe it maybe someone sees it, maybe someone just brown files it you never know. So it is it is interesting this this turn because there is a definite skills gap going and skills gap growing in America and Canada, where there's just not enough people to do that hard work. And so many people are, are convinced that, you know, oh, carpentry or the building trades are for folks that couldn't cut it in college? Well, no, not everyone is designed to for higher education to that, that level that that college degree, people that like to not only work with their hands, but work with their head, are the ones that are out there building the, you know, the infrastructure of America. So it's, it's, we need to start bridging the skills gap. And one of the ways that we are really working on it here at in our organization, the UBC is through development of leadership and leaders and through communication, development, and making sure that we have people that not only can do the work but can inspire other people to do their best on the job. And that has been one of the major cultural shifts and construction industry. I mean, decades ago, and I'm sure your dad knows about it, you know, safety was was sort of an afterthought, you know, production gets done first and we'll worry about safety, you know, last, that's changed. Obviously, we're very litigious society, and people like to sue the heck out of each other. So it made good sense just try to cut down on the amount of accidents and injuries on the job. And so safety has become one of those major cultural shifts and in the building trades, drugs and alcohol is zero tolerance now and so many contractors again, are really enforcing that which is fantastic because you don't Don't be working at, you know, at heights or underwater or moving heavy steel or, or wiring up anything and have somebody who's who's not, you know, full fully cognizant next year. And then this last cultural shift really has been about leadership development and communication, training and making sure that, you know, we have the ability to respect each other on the job that we encourage each other to do their best, and to, to really meet our customers needs through that level of professionalism that seems to be lacking. Does that mean likeNate Wadsworth:
in addition to teaching the trade skills that come out having classes and time learning these leadership principles and how to communicate better? Is that Is that what you mean by? Absolutely? Or is it a separate type of person you're training to communicate?Joe Cadwell:
No, we're, you know, I like to start because again, having transitioned out of the field into my coordinator position, and an instructor at the PNC AI, I work a lot with the first and second term people that are just coming straight and don't have a whole lot of experience. And I started planting those seeds of leadership and communication from day one, because over the next four years, as they work their way through our program, it's going to be reinforced, and their amount of responsibility is going to be increased, and they need to be able to lead crews. So I think it's, it's super important to start that from the very getgo and not wait until someone has exited our program and not wait till they're recognized as someone who can get the work done. And then all of a sudden, it's like, Hey, man, that guy really can frame up, you know, get that get that framing done, or, or lay down those weld beads or whatever, you'd make a great foreman. And now they're stuck. You know, they're, they're a craftsperson, who's now been thrust into this management position without any education and focus on leadership and communication. So it's, there's no better time than the very first day of the very first class of a four year long. Construction college. And that's my, my approach. And a lot of the folks that within our organization, that is what we pride ourselves on. Now, the UBC is developing leaders in theNate Wadsworth:
school, there's so many jobs that you take, and I've had a lot where you kind of get there and you're told, like, Okay, this is what you do, do this thing. And you might do it for whatever a month or years without knowing what comes after that, or what you could evolve into by mastering that, you know, almost like you have like blinders on. Like, this is what I do so, and actually think about high school and, you know, education that way, where we are educating kids on lots of things, but some of the basics like financial decision making and how insurance works, which kind of never got mentioned, in those situations, it kind of reminds me of that, like these skills are important. But without these other all other important skills. You can, I don't know, put yourself in a box a little bit and from minute one for for a kid or a new hire thinking like, Okay, this way you got to do and, you know, after a few years, you might be operating that machine or driving that equipment or I don't know something else that I could see that being very inspiring for someone who's has like a more mundane part of the job at the moment to understand like, oh, I can see a bigger picture than just a task at hand.Joe Cadwell:
Absolutely right. And like you said, just just a few minutes ago, in regards to opportunity, our average apprentice that comes into PNC is 27 years old. So we're not getting kids right out of high school, we get very few kids right out of high school because they it's a different generation. And again, the the system hasn't really directed them towards the trades. So we get people that may have gone to college, maybe liked it maybe didn't you know and or went out and did some other type of work experiences. And then one way or another found out about the union apprenticeships and so 27 years old is our average apprentice. And it's, it's great to see the transformation and people. I see both ends of the spectrum where I work out at PNC AI because again, I work a lot with the first and second term people that are coming straight in don't know much about the trades. And then I also teach OSHA and CPR first aid which is one of the very last classes they get at at PNC AI and the transformation between a first termer and an eighth termer is remarkable someone is getting ready to journey out the amount of self confidence the amount of skills, how they hold themselves, how they communicate, is just really really impressive. And it makes me really proud to be part of an organization that can provide opportunity for someone in the trades and treat it like a profession and not something that yeah, I couldn't figure out anything else to do in life. Now. This is a first choice career and a career that again, is going to provide for you and your family for decades to come. If you take care of yourself and you you put in the hard work man I've I've profited greatly from it. And again I stumbled into it. I did not know what I was getting into but I am so thankful that I have because it now at age 57 You know I'm just very close. for being able to retire if I wanted to, which is phenomenal with a really solid retirement. Yeah, I can't say enough about the unions and, and the building trades and the importance of development of leaders. And that's why I started the grid nation podcast, which I'm hoping we're gonna be able to get into here in a little bit. About a year and a half ago, I did start my own podcast to address a lot of the things that we've been talking about to shine a positive light on what it means to be someone working in the blue collar trades in North America, and the opportunities that are available to us and my podcast. I much like yours, I interview people, industry experts, people that are have a lot to say about what it means to to hold a job with dignity, in the in the building trades. And you've hadNate Wadsworth:
a lot of really interesting guests on there, and a nice variety of just different types of experts with different views on these things. Has that been? I'm assuming it's been interesting? What kinds of things have you learned and in what ways has hosting this podcast and having these conversations changed how you've even thought about, you know, maybe your own career and your own things you already thought you knew a lot about?Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, it's amazing to me, the more I learned, the more I recognized how little I thought I knew, or you know how little I really knew, every time I meet someone that adds a little bit more depth to what labor history is and the struggles that it took to get things that we take for granted. Nowadays, the weekend, two days off Saturday and Sunday 48 hours back to back is a fairly new construct in the in the the larger arc of mankind. I mean, it's only been really 100 Just over 100 years that the weekends have been here yet. We grew up with weekends. Our folks grew up with weekends. their grandparents may or may not knew what a weekend wasn't their great grandparents definitely didn't know what it what they were. So you know, understanding the role that when, when organized labor bands together to to fight for things like time off safer working conditions. It's it's huge. I've learned a lot about again, communication. I talked with a lot of people that are leaders in the industry like Ken Rusk, who wrote a book called Blue Collar cash. And again, Ken's recently been on with Mike Rowe from dirty jobs on a video that is addressing that skills gap that we talked about earlier. So having the opportunity to talk with someone like Ken Ross was amazing. I interviewed a motivational lifestyle coach, if you will named Brian Bogert on the show and Bryan belgard, at the age of seven, literally had his left arm ripped off his body in a parking lot of Walmart in Arizona by a pickup truck. And in Fortunately for him was able to have it reattached, and listening to Brian's story and how he did not allow that adversity to permanently stain the rest of his life and the inspiration that he and the strength that he drew from that or injury early on in his life is truly inspirational. And it just talks about the tenacity, determination, the grit that is needed to get through day to day work, and, and if you're in the construction industry to get through your day to day on the job.Nate Wadsworth:
I listened to that interview, and I've been thinking about it non stop, because I have kids. And it's funny how when you listen to a conversation like that, and he didn't dwell on the accident for very long, he had a lot of other important things to talk about. But isn't it funny how you can hear just something that somebody might say or something they even heard? That really just sticks and like I said, I I've always been aware of safety with kids in parking lots, but I'm telling you, I think about it differently after listening to that and thinking, wow, and he wasn't even being like, you know, reckless running around. He was kind of to stand up there being a kid. Yeah. Yeah, hearing these things that being able to, like absorb the stories of that or you know, have that I would have never known had you not taken the time to put that together. It's pretty cool. Well,Joe Cadwell:
thank you. Yeah, it's been a labor of love. You know, when I first started the podcast a year and a half ago, I knew I liked the listen to podcast I wanted to to be able to reach a larger audience I didn't quite have an understanding of of how well received the show would be so when it first started it was Grit Northwest a carpenters union podcast and I thought well, you know, just to my students and some some local folks but you know, when you put things out on the worldwide web and through word of mouth, the show began to grow and grow and grow and and so I figured, you know, let's rebrand it to grit nation, the building trades podcast and let's make it more accessible to to folks and it's not just not heavy unionism at all it's about just shining a positive light on the on people that choose to do the hard work of building good infrastructure of America. And then I approach the subjects by what interest For me, I've listened to a lot of other podcasts that deal with, with labor specific issues. And they really seem to get deep in the weeds pretty fast. And that I'm sure they have an audience for that. But I like a more well rounded variety and meeting people in different discussions of you know what it what it means to be a craftsperson in the US, kind of like your show here. It's just, you know, it's interesting, it's informative, and like you say, you don't, you don't have to be hit over the head, hard to get the message, you can pick out what you want out of it. And it sounds like you and an attention to kids and parking lots seem to resonate. So I'm happy if I can reach out and, and affect a few people's lives for the better. I feel like I'm doing a good job. And I'mNate Wadsworth:
not gonna mention just giving people a chance to get something from the horse's mouth I got, you know, I learned a lot about unions from listening to your show. And I came I just really only know and had know what you hear from others. And there's just so much I don't know everybody has like their own experience that give them the reasons why they might have a strong opinion about things which is perfectly fair, but it's pretty cool to have a conversation or even just listen to a conversation with someone who might have had quite different experience with a could be a union and that topic but even just trades in general and and careers like you know that that is quite different than something I could go to come across on my own and hearing about unions in this way is pretty i My only other experience firsthand with unions was an my buddy had a next door neighbor who was a union boss. I don't know if that's an I know, it's not a technical career. That's all I knewJoe Cadwell:
that sounds like the mafia there.Nate Wadsworth:
I know that he was like, Oh, this he was a really skilled woodworker. He was in his garage, just like building stuff. And he's retired and my buddy just Well, yeah, he was a union boss for a long time. And a really cool guy. And I literally all I knew was like, I asked him once or twice, but what's that? What was that? Like? He was from back East. And he had some interesting stories. But anyways, I really appreciate that you're putting this stuff out there and bringing awareness that what you shared about that tuition program, at your school there of giving people this, this training and this apprenticeship program for basically nothing, obviously, they have to apply and kind of earn the right to be there. But wow, talk about talk about a life changing podcast for somebody who might with if not this one, maybe something else you're doing where they might go down that route, and really help them out. So yeah, IJoe Cadwell:
sure hope so. Again, you know, whether it's going to be in carpentry with UBC, or the Steel Workers Union, the Electrical Workers Union, the plumbers, union, the laborers, all have great programs. I'm particularly proud of the UPC, and again towards our emphasis and not just getting people who can do the work but lead the work. And if you're interested going to carpenters dot o RG carpenters with an S dot o RG will get you to the UBCs website. Or you can visit PNC AI dot orgy or you can give me a call. And I'd be happy to talk with you.Nate Wadsworth:
Yeah, that's amazing. Well, for our listeners, this is coming in a few months, but my dad's gonna be on your show. And I think he was a member of the carpenters Union for a period of time. I don't know exactly. I was a little kid. But when we lived in Las Vegas, I believe for a few years he was a union, I don't know, you have to ask him about it. So if our listeners are curious to hear some of that about my dad and his interaction there, as well as wherever else, you take that conversation that's coming in a few months, once that post, we will link to it in the show notes. So people can, if they enjoy hearing this, they can kind of move to that conversation. And Joe, thanks so much for taking the time and keep up the good work. I just love how you're inspiring training and and moving this race forward. There's a lot of different ways that that's done. And certainly, the way you're involved is a critical one. All right.Joe Cadwell:
Well, thank you so much for having me on your show. Nate. This has been a lot of fun.Nate Wadsworth:
All right, we'll do it again soon. Thanks again.Joe Cadwell:
All right, take care. Well, that wraps up this episode of grit nation, the building trades podcast. For more information about the Essential Craftsman or how you could begin a career in the trades, be sure to check out the show notes for this episode, or visit the Grit Nation Podcast at www.gritnationpodcast.com That's gritnationpodcast.com. While you're there, be sure to check out the prizes and promos page where you can enter to win great Grit Nation merchandise. Until next time, this is Joe Cadwell reminding you to work safe, work smart and stay union strong.