Contrary to popular belief, despite the almost instantaneous cessation of normalcy caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, the world is still turning. Things are still being done. And the importance of certain areas and services really start to show through. There has been a tremendous amount of coverage on the heroes of the front line, the First Responders that are risking so much in tending to the ill. There are others however, that continue to provide much needed services and are not able to self-isolate, and who, by the very nature of their jobs, must be out and about while many of us stay sheltered inside. 

I am talking, of course, about what is commonly referred to as “the trades.” Plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists; these folks and others are in many areas traveling about providing services that are helping the rest of us live in safety and comfort. They are doing what they can to protect themselves by distancing and no longer offering to shake hands, but these are people that, simply based on demands of society, can’t stay home and do nothing.

It is somewhat ironic, because in recent years society has given these people short shrift of sorts. Every kid coming out of high school has been encouraged to go to college when the reality is some of them are far better attuned to vocational work. Somehow those lines of work have been demeaned, with the result being a nationwide shortage of skilled labor that can keep the lights on, the AC cool and the water running (where it is supposed to run).

Some think that those in vocational fields are less intelligent than people who have passed through the vaunted ivory towers of higher education. I have never subscribed to that philosophy. In fact, I would encourage you to compare a recent college graduate who racked up $100,000 in debt majoring in Egyptology (yes, that is a real major) and now lives in his parents basement, with a Journeyman Electrician who spent the same amount of time in voc school and apprenticeships and makes $85,000 a year. I ask you, who sounds smart now?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those college educated workers are at home, trying to figure out how to do their job – assuming it can be done remotely. Many of them will be able to do so because of another sector whose time it is to shine – technology. It is difficult to imagine, but many of the people who are now unexpectedly working from home would not have been able to do so just a few years ago. The explosive growth of broadband services, along with vastly more efficient compression and security protocols mean that those of us in what is referred to as the “Knowledge Economy” can still keep the paychecks coming. 

For my company the first-time deployment of our Pandemic Response plan was about as smooth as it could have been. We haven’t missed a beat, and with the use of daily video meetings our communication lines are strong. That is a scenario playing out all over the country, and it is done on the backs of people who have built a capable system that can absorb the sudden surge in activity.

Certainly, there are signs of cracking and strain in the suddenly overwhelmed internet. The explosion of webinars and video conferencing is pushing broadband systems to previously unseen levels. From what I understand, however, the companies that maintain the backbone of these networks are busy adding servers, routers and other network enhancements to keep the information flowing.  

It is a good thing for those data centers that the plumbers and HVAC people are still on the job. Without them the whole thing would be going down the drain. Literally.

Let’s all remember that today, when we are wondering why Zoom or Go To Meeting are throttling our high def video during that morning meeting. People are working on making it better. The lights are on, the bathroom is working, and the temperature is fine. Be thankful for the people who are still working to make that all possible. 

This time of crisis is indeed their time to shine.


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