Ever wonder how to build skills for railroad jobs?

Railroad doule track

Like most industries, the railroad industry requires some very unique skills.  Unlike most industries, the railroads industry provides you the training you will need to be successful at your job.  Where an electrician can get training through school programs and apprenticeship programs, a railroader is mostly trained through the company that hires them.  This includes rules training on Federal Railroad Administration requirements and technical training to perform their specific craft.  This fact makes applying for a railroad position a little bit different than most jobs.

When you apply to be an automotive tech, chances are you have experience in the automotive industry.  If you are applying for an electrical position, the same thing applies, but in the railroad industry, many times the people that are hired for skilled craft positions do not have any railroad experience. If you have never worked on a railroad, don’t fret. You still have a good shot at getting hired as long as you’ve built skills for railroad jobs in other ways.

Prerequisite skills for railroad jobs

There are a few things that all companies will require, regardless of the job type.  You will need at least a high school education or equivalent.  You will have to be able to pass a strength test, drug test, physical and eye screening.  If you are color blind, you can not work in any position that will require you to read signals. Technology may change this in the future, but for now, the transportation, signal and track department will all require a color blindness test as part of your hiring physical.  If you are applying for a craft that will require a CDL, or if your seniority will allow you to hold a job with a CDL, you must be at least 21 years of age.  Otherwise the age limit is 18, with a year of work experience.

Work Ethic

This is the number one thing railroads look for when hiring new employees.  They look for consistent job history, military training and any extra training that you have picked up along the way to show that you are someone who wants to work.  If you have taken extra classes, volunteered for a local organization or volunteered for an extra assignment at work, make sure those things make it to your resume.

Safe Work Record

Railroads are  dangerous; there is really no way around it.  On June 28, 2016 4 people went to work for BNSF,  only 1 came home.  One engineer was able to jump from the train before the two engines collided in a head on collision in Panhandle, TX.  February 21, 2016 a track worker for Norfolk and Southern went to work, he was killed when he was hit by a train while working on the track.  Those are only 2 of the fatalities suffered by the railroad industry so far this year.

Make sure you highlight your safety record on your resume.  This means talking about your driving record, your injury record, and anything that you have done to create a safer work place in the past.  Railroads want to know you are contentious about your safety and the safety of those around you.

Outdoor Work Experience

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but railroads are not usually indoors. Railroads prefer people who are used to working outdoors in all weather.  The running joke on the railroad is that it is always 72 and sunny on the tracks, because no matter what the weather, you are going to be out in it.  If you have done farm work, worked on an oil platform, done road work, anything that shows you are willing to work outside in all weather conditions is a plus.

Cumberland Yard Snowy engine

It’s always 72 and sunny on the railroad!

On Call Work Experience

Railroads operate 24/7, 365 days a year.  Trains run on Christmas, they run on New Years, they run at 2 am on a Saturday.  If you have past experience in a position that required you to work on call at all hours of the day and night, the railroad looks at that as a positive.  Not all skilled trade positions will have to work on call on a consistent basis, but most do.  In the event of a major disaster, even those that don’t usually work on call may get called out.

The Learned Skills

Experience in other industries comes in handy depending on the path you take to the industry. Welders, heavy equipment operators, electricians, and telecommunications workers will all have a leg up with this type of experience.

Railroad Track Work

Railroad track workers are responsible for fixing and maintaining track conditions and rail.  Any previous welding or cutting experience is considered an asset in a track worker.  The railroad will provide additional training that is specific to the railroad industry, but previous experience will make the process smoother for you and the railroad you are hired onto.

Track workers are also responsible for the track beds under the rail so previous experience with heavy equipment is also a plus.  Track workers may be required to run dozers, back hoes or track hoes.  Any previous experience with this type of equipment will give you a leg up on the competition.

Railroad Track Workers Grinding Rail at Night


Railroad Signal Work

The signal department is responsible for installing and maintaining the train control system and all crossing equipment.  The equipment itself is very specialized and engineered specifically for railroad applications, but the theories behind it are not.  Knowledge of basic electrical theories like Ohm’s law or series and parallel circuits will help you understand how to install and maintain the equipment.

If you are interested in working on the construction side of signal work, a Class A CDL with air brake endorsement is required.  The railroad will help you get one if you are qualified in all other aspects, but having one going in will help.  Previous experience with cranes and backhoes is also a big plus

The Communications Department

The communications department is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the train control system.  In addition to the train control system, the communications department is responsible for the installation and maintenance of radios, printers and end of train devices.  To work in the communications department an FCC license or military equivalent is required.  Previous experience with fiber and CAT cable are also a plus.  To find more information about obtaining an FCC universal license, visit the FCC website.

Working for a railroad is a great career choice and previous experience isn’t required.  A few key skills for railroad jobs and a great work ethic will give you a great shot at getting hired on your railroad of choice.

How to Pay for Trade School


Finding out how to pay for trade school is not much different from a traditional university.  People that have a great work ethic, can understand traditional work methods and methods using new computerized technology are in great demand. This means a lot of funding is being funneled into the trades from both public and private sources and finding money for trade school is possible.

Finding the Right Trade School

What school is right for you?  There are a lot of different schools out there that vary in cost and quality of education.  If you compare a welding program at your local community college to a welding program at a national chain school you might find a difference of over $20,000 dollars, but cost is not the only factor you should consider when choosing your trade school.

  • Talk to industry professionals.  People that are currently working in the industry of your choice will have seen the products of different educational programs and can give you insight on what programs are best.  They can also tell you where they got their start and what is required to get started in the industry.
  • Talk to trade associations.  Every trade has a trade association, welding has the American Welding Society, electrical contractors have the National Electrical Contractors Association, etc.  Trade associations can give you insight into educational programs and hook you up with industry professionals that can help guide you.
  • Google it.  Look for things like graduation rates, ratings and reviews.

This is your education, be sure to do your due diligence in researching the right school for you.

Talk to Your Financial Aid Counselor

Your first step in determining how to pay for trade school is to talk to the financial aid counselor at your school of choice. The financial aid counselor will help you fill out your Free Application For Student Aide (FAFSA) forms and explain all the costs associated with attending school.   There are also many private endowments that come from former graduates, and the counselor at your school will know all about these opportunities. They will help you figure out what you are eligible for and how to apply.

Filling out a FAFSA form will make you eligible for all federal grant programs as well as federal loan programs.  Along with federal grants, each state has at least one program to provide grants to students from their states.  The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is a great resource, just click on your state to find out what is available.

Scholarships For Trade Schools

Brand Scholarships

Scholarships for trade schools are more abundant than most people think.  Big name companies in this country have a problem, lots of jobs and no one qualified to fill them.  In response to this problem, many brands have started giving out scholarships.  The best thing about these scholarships is they give you an immediate leg up in the industry.  Brands like Grainger, Catterpillar and Honeywell all give out millions of dollars in scholarship money each year.  If you are awarded one of their scholarships, the brand is more likely to hire you in the future.  Some companies like Ford, John Deere and CSX  prefer to give scholarship money through national high school organizations like the FFA.  The point is, big brands in your industry are interested in helping you get the skills you need to be successful in your industry.

If there is a brand you are interested in working for, a quick google search will tell you if they are giving out scholarship money and how to apply for them.  K&N air filters, Fluke meter company, Toyota, Lincoln Electric, all have some type of scholarship program available.  I think you will have a harder time finding a large company that doesn’t give out scholarship money than one that does.

Private Scholarships

Private Scholarships can come from any private or non profit organization, and guess what, there are a lot of those to. 

  • Build Your Future is a non profit organization that helps people get their start in the construction trades.  They have scholarships, and they are a great resource for finding out about career options in any of the construction trades.
  • Mike Rowe’s Work Ethic scholarship gave out over $800,000 to trade school students last year, and they would love to top that for next year.
  • Trade associations like the American Welding Society, The Collision Repair Education Foundation and The National Concrete Masonry Assocation  all give scholarships to students interested in learning their trade.
  • National high school organizations like FFA and 4-H award scholarships to their members at the local and national level.  Many times these scholarships are sponsored by a large company and this can give you a leg up if you are interested in working for that company. If you are a member of any high school organization, be sure to check with your leaders about scholarship opportunities.

Scholarship opportunities are out there.  Talk to trade associations, Google your favorite company or talk to people in your trade.  A little research can go a long way to finding the money you need to go to school, and giving you better employment opportunities once you are out.

 Automotive diaganosis

Apprenticeships and Work Study programs.

An apprenticeship is a great way to hands on experience, get experience towards your licencing requirements and make a little money at the same time.  Apprenticeship programs are usually offered by the union associated with your trade.  The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers offers apprenticeship programs to people interested in working in the electrical industry.  The United Association Union  of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Techs was one of the first to offer an apprenticeship program and they have done a great job working with company management to create a successful program.

Most large companies have some type of continuing education plan for it’s employees.  It may be a traditional work study program that allows you extra time off to complete your studies while partnering you with people in the types of jobs you are interested in, or it may be an offer to cover a certain amount of tuition each year.  Either way, you are earning money and continuing your education.

Student Loans

After completing the FAFSA application, you will receive a “Financial Award” letter, but it is likely that this award will include some student loans.  Student loans must be paid back, and are usually not subject to things like bankruptcy.  Remember that a loan is a product that is being sold to you, it is not free money.  You will have to pay interest on the money you borrow and there are different stipulations on each loan regarding repayment, interest and hardship.  Make sure you fully understand the loan process and the loan that you are accepting before you sign anything.

Trade School is Possible

Trade school is a possibility for anyone who is interested in attending.  Talk to the financial aide counselor of the school you are interested in attending. They will walk you through the FAFSA application and help you apply for any school sponsored scholarships that are you are eligible for.  Talk to trade associations, Google your favorite company and check with the union associated with your trade.    If you still find yourself short of cash, student loans may be available to you or you may qualify for an apprenticeship or work study program.

Today this country has a big skilled trades gap.  Companies need skilled workers and they are willing to help people interested in working for them acquire those skills.

Launching a career as a telecommunications technician


What is a Telecommunications Technician?

Many have heard of the telecommunications industry, but what does a telecommunications technician do for a living?  A telecommunications technician can wear many different hats.  This type of person works on construction sites pulling cable for data drops, mounts cameras, and installs access control for card readers.  Others in this field work from cellular phone towers or route and terminate fiber optics cabling.  Some may work for local phone, internet, and cable television providers, showing up at your home for installations throughout the day.

Telecommunications technician training

Training opportunities in the telecommunications industry are widely available for those who know where to look.  Both union and nonunion electrical contractors offer a combination of excellent on-the-job training and instructional classroom education for new employees looking for a career in the trades.  Apprenticeships through local area contractors typically range from three to five years depending on the diversity of training before earning the journeyman title.  Technicians who have success working in the field will eventually find themselves in supervisory and management positions, thus providing numerous chances to further their career.

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Find a local contractor

There’s a multitude of places to look for employment within the telecommunications industry.  A person doesn’t have to have years of experience to land a job in this field.  The first place a job seeker can visit is their local electrical contractor.  These contractors are in the business of building homes, offices, and high-rises for their clients and are often looking for entry level help.  An easy way of locating these contractors is by calling your union hall, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and asking for a list of electrical contractors in your area.

Network to learn more

You can also talk with other professionals working within the telecommunications industry via online forums, social media websites and live chat rooms.  Often there’s no better advice about where to find a job in a particular industry than the advice given from a journeyman technician.  Getting to know people currently working in the career you’re pursuing will always be of value to you.  Also, there’s a wealth of information standing behind a Google query.  Be curious and look around online. You will be surprised what you can find.

The telecommunications industry is an excellent field for trade workers who value the ever-changing landscapes of computers and technology.

What To Wear To A Trade Interview


Today as I sat at my desk plugging away at my computer, Patrick (WorkHands CEO) comes up and asks me, “is that what you wore to your interview today?” referring to my wool coat, button up, tie, nice jeans and dress shoes. To which I replied, “yes.” He was surprised that I would wear what would be considered somewhat formal attire to a refinery operator interview. I asked him what he thought I would wear, he replied still rather puzzled, “I don’t know, just didn’t think you’d wear that.” I bring this up because there are two different trains of thought on what to wear to a trade interview and today, I’m going to discuss both.

**For this discussion we use examples as if I was interviewing for a pipefitter position, since that’s what I’m most familiar with**

The first thought process is the more popular of the two and that is to wear a nice pair of pressed up work clothes. For a pipefitter (or welder) this would consist of a pair of FR (flame resistant) pants, FR shirt (with pearl snaps, you gotta’ have pearl snaps) starched up & Texas pressed, a welding cap in your back pocket, and a pair of work boots with grit and grime cleaned off so, that they look presentable (and you don’t track mud/dirt all over the office).  The idea here is that you look nice, look the part, and if they decide to throw a surprise field exam (or weld test) at you, you’re properly dressed for the occasion.

The second occurs less frequently and that is to wear “traditional” professional attire. This would consist of: a suit, dress pants & button up, pressed up jeans & button up, nice sweater, mirror polished shoes, you get the point. Most people avoid this route because it’s not what would be worn in the field and you’re not interviewing for a position with Goldman Sachs. I can’t speak for others, but the reason I do this is because I am not only a fitter, I am a salesman and my product is me. I want to present my product in the best way possible. I also want to show them I can remain a professional in any setting, be it in an office or in the field. I do however keep my work clothes and tools in my vehicle so, that in the unlikely event they give me a field exam, I am prepared (this also shows that you plan ahead) and don’t have to reschedule, not giving them the opportunity to hire someone else.

In the world of blue collar interviews there is no right or wrong way to dress, as long as you’re prepared for what may lie ahead, but it as the saying goes, “you want to put your best foot forward.”

Going to trade school, 10 years after high school


When I got my notice in  April of 2013 that a layoff was coming, I began looking in to trade school. I contacted Fox Valley Technical College (Wisconsin) to see what I needed to enroll in the fall 2013 semester. My plan was to attend their Welding Production program.

The first thing my wife and I did was budget our money so that we were able to pay our bills on time. After some number crunching we were happy to find we’d be able to pay our bills with one income and as it turns out, we even had enough to splurge twice a month to enjoy ourselves. It took almost a month before I was able to collect unemployment (and as of January 2014 my benefits have been exhausted).

I was officially laid off on a Friday in June of 2013. The following Monday I had an appointment with Workforce Development to discuss a dislocated worker voucher to help me with my schooling. Multiple appointments later I was awarded $1,000 per semester to help with schooling.

Following the layoff I attended the new student orientation. It was there I received all the pertinent info I necessary to start school in August (The tech school staff were a pleasure assisting me with making sure I was able to start in the fall).

I completed my first semester in December with a B average. I never would have pictured myself going back to school, especially after being out for near 10 years. I’ve worked 9 years in manufacturing, four of those years at Oshkosh Corporation in Oshkosh, WI and the other years at Quad graphics in Lomira.

During my first semester I used multiple processes (GMAW, SMAW, PAW, and OFW) on a variety of metals including carbon steel, stainless, and aluminum. I also learned print reading and AutoCAD. Currently I am learning GTAW, FCAW, & Robotic Welding processes and learning to program Fanuc, ABB, Panasonic, and OTC Daihen machines. If you asked me how I’m doing in school at the moment, I’d have to answer with, Awesome!

With my second semester nearing completion, I’ve began searching for a job in my chosen trade. Many places I have applied want (require) 3-5 years of welding experience, some wouldn’t even give me an opportunity to interview. I attended multiple job fairs and got a few leads, but the jobs had been filled. I’m currently still trying to find a part-time job while still in welding school, but it’s very difficult to do because my classes are from 11am-5pm or 12pm-4pm. Most places are full with part-time help or will only hire me full-time once I complete my schooling. My refusal to go to a temp agency hasn’t been very helpful either.

Beaten, but not broken, I decided to test my luck again at another job fair, last Saturday. After 3.5 hours, I’m happy to report, I was offered a direct hire job! They weren’t sure on details but would contact me in the days to come.

Tuesday I received a call asking if I’m still interested in the job, my obvious reply was, “yes.” They informed me a managers meeting would be held to discuss where they needed welders, but would let me know soon. Later that day I received a call to see if I wanted to take a 2nd shift (1:30pm-9:30pm), Welder II (mostly programming robots) position, I was really excited and agreed to it immediately. From here I was given the information required to take my drug screen & background check and given my tentative start date, May 19th (I graduate on the 18th with a technical diploma).

My instructor said the company is a good one and the starting pay is around the average for someone with a technical diploma. He also reminded me that the school will always be there for me should I decided a few months or years down the road that I want to brush up on my skills for a weld test or if an employer asks for it.

Thanks to wife for supporting my decision to go back to school, it was a few tough months.



Photo courtesy: parkerwelds

Know Your Trade, Know Your Wages


Anyone who works in the trades knows that the one of the most important, and valuable, skills to have is to be knowledgeable about your field. Not only should you be experienced, but you should also be able to use that experience to perform your job to the best of your ability. Being knowledgeable about your trade doesn’t just include knowing how to perform certain functions, you should also have an understanding of wage trends in your specific field. Government websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics aggregate data on wages from all over the country and even divide the information into separate fields, locations, and occupations. You can use sites like this to compare your wages to other trades or even to other locations. We looked at the wage trends of some of our most popular user’s trades. We want to be giving the best product possible to users, and the only way to do that is to familiarize ourselves with all facets of the trades. For example, did you know that Plumbers and Pipefitters (steamfitters) have one of the highest mean annual wages of any blue-collar occupation? On average, they make around $54,000 around the nation, but pipefitters out in Alaska can make $72,000 a year!


Electricians come after them with an average annual wage of $53,000, earning the most in California, New York, and Illinois respectively. Sheet Metal Mechanics, Wind Turbine Technicians, Elevator Technicians, and HVAC Technicians on average earn around $52,000 a year and as the need for skilled tradesmen continues to grow in our country, these wages will only increase. The Baby Boomer generation that for years has dominated the world of the trades is beginning to retire, and new workers are needed to take their place. Vocational education is taught in our schools with much less frequency and because of it there are less workers with the skills needed to fill up those jobs. It’s never been a better time for a career in the trades, especially with WorkHands by your side.


Photos courtesy of: Jun Wang, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

On-The-Job Training Continued

Fabrication Shop sml

So there I was, soaking up the what, why and how of all the different departments in our fabrication shop. We had quite a group of guys working there, including several who had been in Vietnam recently. Some were gung-ho about it, while others glared at my questions or told me to shut up and get back to work. Watching Sons of Anarchy now, I see a reflection of some of these guys with their choppers and tattoos, especially the ones who were given the choice of going to jail or ‘Nam.

One of the best fitters in our fabrication shop was a crusty kraut named Gunther Pfutzenreuter (say that 3 times fast!). I enjoyed practicing my German with him and he showed me how to straighten heavy plate steel by heating it cherry red and then quenching it with a water hose to shrink the concave side in to alignment. He managed to pull a 3/16″ gap in to no more than 1/64″ over a 3 ft. area. It seemed like magic at the time, but he said it was only amazing for an American. For a German, it was no big deal. (Typical germanic mindset, all humility and kindness…)

I quickly learned which gases, tools and filler material to use for different metals in the weld shop. Our best welder once had to fill a huge gap in aluminum plate and devised MIG/TIG, whereby he ran the MIG gun with his right hand and fed 1/8″ round stock in to the weld puddle with his left hand. We laughed a lot about that and he constantly told me he needed a raise for his invention. He learned his trade repairing shot up aircraft in Vietnam, saying the worst part was the smell from welding up an area that hadn’t had all the blood/guts washed out well. The next worse was “finding” live ammo that had dropped in to hiding places and having it go off in mid-weld, usually while in some tortuous position. Now that is some rugged On The Job Training right there.

The sheet metal guys showed me the hydraulic press to straighten assembled units that were banana shaped after welding. I did OK there after some good coaching and moved on to seeing how flat I could mash things with that hydraulic press, starting with soda cans and “ending” with a guy’s lunch box. As beautiful as the experiment was with salami sandwich and apple oozing out of his microscopically thin lunchbox, I think he was actually kind of mad about it. He had it coming though, being a habitual tool thief. Unwritten rule 13 states: steal a crescent wrench, lose your lunch.

Of course, he was subtle about his revenge for my pressing his lunch box. Weeks later he asked me to hand him the big chunk of aluminum on his table. As I grabbed it, my 20 year old mind, distracted by girls and motorcycles and weekend planning, was sent an urgent, frantic, angry message by my hand. “Put that red hot gosh darn chunk of aluminum DOWN, NOW!!” It turns out that aluminum doesn’t turn red or discolor when you heat it up like steel.

The lesson here is either: don’t mash people’s lunch boxes (borrring) or check every surface in the weld and fab shop before you contact it with your delicate lily white skin. That applies for most any place. Most anything over 120F will hurt you, and the hurt goes up proportionally from there. That includes the machine shop, the auto shop and the kitchen too. A glass casserole dish coming out of a 350 degree oven is as dangerous as cutting torch splatter, and maybe more so depending on who is operating the casserole dish!

Always Be OTJ Training

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 So what do you think OJT stands for?

With all the acronyms and text shortcuts thrown around these days, it could be anything from Orange Juice Tea to Outside Job Truck. You might know it stands for On The Job Training. Many of you have experienced it, and hopefully it worked out well for you.

For me, on-the-job training happened in the time before fax machines and beepers, and just after flint tools and saber tooth tigers. Yep, it was the 70s. The prevailing notion at the time by many in industry was that a college degree was a waste of time, leaving grads with only a theoretical knowledge that had to be scraped away and replaced with real working knowledge via hands-on labor in various areas of the plant or jobsite while being yelled at by an ex-drill sergeant shop supervisor who didn’t like namby pamby college boys one bit. OK, maybe that was just my experience, but the conflict was definitely there. In general, colleges and universities didn’t train engineers and designers in practical situations, and manufacturers and builders weren’t offering a bachelor’s in Press Break-ology or PhDs in Sheetrock-etry. So what’s an eager young man to do with time and opportunity?

I took the idea of OTJ by the horns and made it my own starting with my first stint at my dad’s company. After learning every machine in fitting/welding, the machine shop, forming shop and blast and paint (Oh yes, I just loved wearing all that protective gear and shoveling 500 lbs. of steel shot in to the recovery chute every hour in 105 degree heat), I discovered what I liked and didn’t like, what I was naturally talented at, what made me hurt more at the end of the day (watch this pretty blue light, Oh no, if you aren’t doing the welding you don’t need a hood…haha) and what made more money. I gravitated toward machining because of the variety of tools, and also because I loved running the enormous punch presses and making the whole building shake.

We got to do some interesting R&D work for NavSea Engineers on experimental and prototype gear for Navy ships. This is what really got me interested in new product development and pushed me to learn more about different materials and processes. I learned that there was a lot more to learn, and re-visited the other departments I had worked in with a more earnest desire to soak up the info and put it to use.


Photo courtesy of: Tetra Pak

So, You Want To Be A Mold Inspector?


I started in the mold business about six years ago in the St. Louis, MO area to expand our business while construction was slow. As a general contractor, I dealt with mold on a limited basis. Spray some bleach on moldy wood and you’re done. I was also curious about mold. My business partner and her family where experiencing a wide range of health problems. Was mold responsible?

I took a course through the South Eastern Mold Institute — a learn-by-mail couse. (Be careful here. Some courses are not approved by all states.) Before I started examing other peoples homes I started with my partner’s home. I took samples and sent them to a series of labs to get anylized. The results where less than satisfying. My partner had been urging me to get a microscope to really see the mold. I soon found out you can’t really be a mold inspector without a microsope. I put everything that even looked remotely unusual under the microscope.

Lint at the base of your refridgerator — mold.
Anything sticking to a fan — mold.
Slight discolerations of wood — mold.


What I had always been told was harmless lint or dust turned out to be very dangerous species of mold. As a mold inspector, to truly understand what you are dealing with, you need a microscope.

Mold comes in two varieties — a plant with roots, stems, branches and endless amounts of seeds or an animal called slime mold. Slime mold are increadibly small creatures that live in a tightly compacted colony. At least one species feeds on fiberglass insulation, which is how I found them in an attic in Omaha — the yellow insulation was almost gone.

The plant side of mold is your bread and butter, and you must understand one very important point. Mold can kill you. Mold spores get deep into your lungs and cause inflamation. Your cell walls can rupture, and you start bleeding into your lungs. I have had this condition twice.

To help prevent dangerous molds from harming you, use a respirator with a carbon filter. Humans breath in oxygen and breath out carbon. Molds breath in oxygen and exhale a long list of dangerous toxins. The carbon filter absorbs the toxins before they get to your lungs.

I once had a petri dish full of a mold that was in its early stages of growth. I took off the lid to look at the mold and marched off to my microscope . While I was walking, I noticed the mold was giving off this very pleasant odor. As I was thinking that I could use this mold as an air freshener, I was hit with an incredible headache. It felt like six red hot drill bits slowly boring into my temples. I cannot ever remember being in so much pain, and as a result, I’ve never removed a petri dish lid without my respirator on since. When doing mold inspections, I recommend a full face respirator. Mold can even grow in your eyes so it’s best to cover up entirely when looking for mold.

Now let me tell you a little bit about your customers. Most of have been to many doctors with no results. Some have even been sent to a psychiatrist because the doctors could not determine their problem. They’re often desperate and very confused. Molds toxins can attack the nervous system very much like a virus so many of the symptoms are the same — mood swings, inability to problem solve, headaches, suppression of your immune system so you’re always sick. This is particularly dangerous in children.

Do not be surprised if they treat you with hostility. These are some very sick people and nobody seems to know what’s wrong with them. In time when you keep hearing the same complaints over and over again you will know what’s wrong with them. It’s the mold.

Just remember — when it comes to mold, you are dealing with peoples lives so be very thorough and kill ‘em all!

How To Become A Skilled Trade Worker In The New Economy

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail

– Benjamin Franklin

The Great Recession that rocked the nation’s blue-collar workforce has been showing signs of recovery. Will you be ready when blue collar jobs start coming back? Being prepared to get a construction or industrial job in 2013 will require more from you than ever before. These are my top 5 tips to enter or re-enter the skilled trades workforce:

  1. Get an education beyond high school. Even though this may not be a requirement to enter into most blue-collar jobs, having an AA or some college credits will increase your chances of landing a good job or being accepted into a union apprenticeship program.
  2. Go where the work is. No one wants to move away from family and friends, but in today’s economy it may be essential.
  3. Get proactive. The competition for these new jobs will be fierce. You need to utilize all your resources, both personally and professionally to help land a good job.
  4. Be flexible. A lot of the new jobs that are coming will be temporary or part-time. Especially in the non-union sectors. Think long term.
  5. Work Hard. One thing that keeps a lot of people from being a success is work. – Unknown Remember that you’re a blue-collar worker, and that means that every day you need to produce. If you have the mind set that you will work harder than the guy next to you, you will be successful.

I’m well on my way to becoming an old-timer and I’ve seen more than my fair share of failures and bad economic times. In my time I have done all five of these things myself, and I can say that being prepared and having a good game plan is the best way to stay at the front of the pack.

For example, I have been a Journeyman tile setter with the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers for 10 years. But before that I had to work many non-union jobs, in the tile industry and elsewhere. I have also been “on the road,” as it’s referred to in the trade, moving 5 or 6 times in as many years to follow work. I have pretty much resigned myself to go where the jobs are available.

On the issue of hard work, man I’ve been there, done that. Even now when I got hired on to a new project through my union local, there are times I don’t really know all of the people I’m working for. If you’re working for a new company, and you’re the new guy, boy you better be willing to put in a good days work every day.

Along the way and today, I have been educating myself to the best of my abilities. Attending community college helped me land more than a few good jobs and attending school now to complete my BA will help me in the future. Always be focused on learning and perfecting your specific trade.

These are just a few tips on how to be successful in the blue-collar world. Of course, nothing is guaranteed and situations change with every employer. As long as you work hard, and work smart, your chances of getting hired in the new economy will be better than ever.