Fixing virtual to fixing physical
June 18, 2006 10:48 AM   Subscribe

From computer pro to trades....can I sanely do it?

I've been working as a sysadmin for 14 years now, and I'm getting a little tired of it. Mostly I'm tired of sitting and feeling like A) my work ultimately doesn't accomplish much and B) even junior programmers get much more respect because they are programmers.

I was thinking that I might enjoy welding. Growing up on a ranch, my father did some welding, though he was not a trained welder. My artistic side thinks that I'd like to create things, but otherwise I'd be willing to weld together objects of any sort for pay.

But the thing is, I've been a father for a week now, my wife is on 1 year maternity leave with reduced income, and I cannot afford to become a poor student right now. So I need to work all the way through this.

I'm in the Vancouver Canada can I part-time it to get to be a welder or other trades professional?
posted by Kickstart70 to Work & Money (17 answers total)
Maybe an apprenticeship? I know a few welders around me that still offer both formal (through a school) and informal apprenticeships for novices to learn the trade.
posted by paulrockNJ at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2006

BCTI has an aprenticeship program, 80% paid job traning plus 20% classroom time.
posted by delmoi at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2006

Most community colleges and "adult education" places have night classes in welding. A couple friends took a few at the CC, learned a lot and had tons of fun.
posted by Eamon at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2006

No. You have psoriasis and have already expressed concern about heavy metals. As a welder you will end up breathing all kinds of metal fumes. There is currently a controversy about welding and Parkinson's Disease.
posted by jamjam at 1:22 PM on June 18, 2006

Thx jamjam...interesting about the link between Parkinson's, which is definitely concerning. What is the connection to psoriasis?
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2006

If you're interested in the artistic side of metal working you would probably be best served in talking to the metalworking/blacksmithing people that are near you. They spend a lot of time doing railings and bannisters for outdoor stairs. But they will also know the best way to get into that end of the business. Welding in an industrial setting, from my own experience, is a skin & lung coating (soot, sparks, metals) job that can be just as boring as being a sys admin without the conversation. You don't see a lot of welders standing around chatting while something is loading. Artistically, however, it can be extremely satisfying because you know your output will last a lifetime and more.
posted by ptm at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2006

As the child of parents who recently decided to switch jobs because of boredom I have to warn you that taking a financial chance while you have a new child is probably not the best idea. This sucks, and I know that im assuming that you are going to fail to produce income, but your kid will probably appreciate you sticking it out!
posted by pwally at 5:43 PM on June 18, 2006

Kickstart70, lots of research points to an autoimmune basis for psoriasis, and any damage caused by exposure to toxic chemicals seems to be amplified, sometimes a lot, by the immune systems of people with chronic autoimmune conditions.
posted by jamjam at 7:57 PM on June 18, 2006

pwally...yeah, it's a huge concern. On one side, I don't want to be a bitchy parent for the time I spend as a sysadmin, on the other I do recognize the need to provide. On the other side, our strongest desire is to move out of the city and raise Molly out in a small town, as we both were, and that may require a career change in any case.

jamjam...ah, ok. That's good to know. Other than my desire to spend more artistic time working with metals, I'm not tied to welding as a career by any means. Perhaps I should have added that as part of my question for other suggestions.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:30 PM on June 18, 2006

Apprenticeship Process in BC.

It looks like there's definitely high demand for skilled labour.

(And congratulations!)
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 PM on June 18, 2006

Kickstart, have you considered a career as a trades instructor in a high school? BC has a shortage of them right now. I wouldn't suggest welding, for the above reasons. But you could probably teach in one of the other programs. There's a two-year program and then you can go on to the teach prep course. I don't know if you could do it part-time, but it might interest you. You can teach anywhere, work somewhat flexible hours (e.g. 6 hours at school and the extra time at night), have lots of holidays, two months of vacation, a pension, good benefits, decent pay.
posted by acoutu at 11:12 PM on June 18, 2006

acoutu: I always thought I'd need to have years of trades experience before teaching it. I'd be willing...I used to teach night school (basic computing for adults) in the Win3.11 days. Any idea what I'd have to do to qualify?
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:20 AM on June 19, 2006

(I've been a programmer for about 10 years; I got into web app programming after about 20 yrs at something approaching a trade - electronics. So I did the reverse of what you did. I did it for interest and for the money. )

You have to first decide whether you want out of just the sysadmin crap, or out of IT altogether. If it's the former, why not take up programming, and plan to get out of admin?

If you want OUT of IT period, be warned that it could take up to 4 years of apprenticing and courses before you're making a dependable wage in a trade, and right now anyway, a trade may never pay as well as senior IT does.

By all means pursue your interests. Why not take welding at night school? You'll soon know whether it's truly what you want to do and whether you have any aptitude for it.

Regarding teaching trades... the industry needs experienced tradespeople to pass along their knowledge. It's not impossible, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect to become a teacher in a trade you haven't worked at.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:32 AM on June 19, 2006

Artful Codger: I -think- I want out of IT, but I am not sure. While I'm about a geeky as they come and technically knowledgable (and have some coding skills in Perl and Ruby/Rails), I'm just plain sick of sitting all day, every day. Programming more probably won't help that.

I'd be willing to take on a sysadmin-type role in a position that involved me checking on remote equipment or going around to customers' shops, etc. The hardest part is thinking of what those positions are. IOW, maybe I don't need such a radical shift in career to achieve my goal.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2006

Is it the work, or the employers? Working for a public library (or even university or college libraries) can be a lot less soul destroying than doing grunt work to line the pockets of the already rich.
posted by QIbHom at 12:25 PM on June 19, 2006

When I went into IT, I specifically promised myself I wouldn't take on "support" roles (eg sysadmin, help desk), and to just concentrate on "making stuff" (programming), so in that regard programming is different from sysadmin. You're working on something, not just reacting to demands and issues.

IT skillz are pretty good bargaining chips for getting into other fields. Off the top of my head:
- medical record systems
- robotics for manufacturing
- inventory management systems
- point of sale (POS) systems
- telecommunications (phone, mobile, cable, etc etc)
- centralized traffic control (CTC) for railroads
(- libraries, as just pointed out)

... you can find applications for networked computing in just about any modern field.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:30 PM on June 19, 2006

Kickstart, here's the UBC Okanagan info. I'd suggest contacting SFU and UBC directly. BCIT also has info. Just search for "BC trades teacher" and see what turns up.
posted by acoutu at 9:56 PM on June 19, 2006

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