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Why The Trades Will Never Die

05 Feb 2018


We’ve all seen Terminator, well, at least one of the first two. And, if you haven’t seen them, then you’ve probably seen iRobot, or 2001 a Space Odyssey with super creepy, super smart computer, Hal.

The premise of these films is that one day the artificial intelligence humans create will tip the scales in their favour and seek to eradicate us from our imperfect nature. At the moment, it’s the stuff of science fiction, but there are swift technological advances occurring in the trades and they are reshaping what is expected of tradies in the future. “One of the things that strikes me is that data is at everyone’s fingertips right now and that’s been a big, big change over time,” says David Delle-Vergin, Manager Trades at Melbourne Polytechnic’s School of Engineering, Design, and Construction. David says the developments in technology in the trades are so broad even unexpected stuff, such as social media is changing the landscape. “There’s new ways of looking for work… you just have to look at a community social media page to find tradies who are finding their mark in an area.” “Just keeping your business afloat is a whole lot different to what it was 10-20 years ago. The little block ad in the paper is not nearly enough and we haven’t even got near technology in the workspace.” And, this is where the rubber really hits the road.

Specialising in Trades

The ever increasing need to understand new and more complex technologies means more tradies are specialising within their trade. “The changes to industry and technology is just happening at such a fast rate, a core tradie just can’t know it all anymore.” “They need to have a solid background in their trade, but most of our people are actually specialising in areas as they go along. They are finding a niche market.” “An electrician who does their Cert III in Electrotechnology, then does a whole lot of compliance and licensing, but that is not nearly enough these days,” “They’ll probably specialise in an area, like lighting or automated lighting or building energy management systems where they’ll have to do further studies or train themselves to do it.” “Locksmithing, for instance, is not just locks, safes and cars anymore, it’s also facial recognition technology.” Specialisation and social media are not the only changes, trades are also beginning to overlap. “Another thing that’s happening is the integration of trades… Industry in the manufacturing, factory or maintenance space are looking to hire people with broad skill sets... They might not only want a welder, they might want a welder who can do fitting and machining, who can plug in a computer and do programming with the latest machinery.” David says, because of these changes in technology jobs are being created or augmented to include new skill sets. “With drone technology, there’s actually new jobs being created all the time. At refineries, they use drones to go up and down the towers to check pipes and cracks. People use them on top of buildings to check roofing.” “With 3D printing technology, you can make parts on the spot if something is hard to get. And, there’s more to come of course. At Melbourne Polytechnic we’re always adding something to the skill set list we teach.”

New Technology Leads to New Ways

There are also areas where new technology could lead to new ways of doing things. “Energy management, environmentally sustainable materials, and practices are definitely areas of expansion. And, the use of the mobile technology and social media is still expanding.” David is confident the trades will never die. “I’m in awe of some of the changes to technology, but no matter what the change is in technology, there still has to be someone that places things into position, erects it in a safe manner, understands how to get it from point A to Z and finalise the product so its used safely.” Tradies will listen to the hiss of a motor and know something is wrong, they’ll be in the trenches digging holes, or running wires. “You need a tradie in these areas because they eat, breathe and sweat these trades and they are invested in them.” “I can’t see an AI driven Terminator type technology, where everything is controlled by machines, I just can’t see that anytime soon.” If you are interested in studying a trade, take a look at what is on offer at Melbourne Polytechnic.   Pic courtesy of Rob Lambert