The 2-Part Foundation to Success in the Skilled Trades

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Looking at jobs that donAs part of our efforts to help Keep Craft Alive, we are talking to skilled-workers across the U.S. and Canada about how they got started in the field. 

Keep Craft Alive Profile: Eric Kjelshus

Name: Eric Kjelshus, Owner Kjelshus Energy

Industry: HVAC

How Did You Get Started

I’ve been insulating since I was a teenager. My parents didn’t know what to do with me so they farmed me out to my uncle who was a builder and a farmer. I learned how to do a little of this and a little of that as a kid. And my grandfather taught me quite a bit. If he was doing a roof, I was doing a roof. If he was milling lumber, I was milling lumber. He programmed the day out and I was basically day labor.

Advice for Young People

First thing, go to trade school. There are 100,000 things you need to know. Take classes in the fall and winter, and work as hard as you can in the spring and summer. But it’s also very important to get a mentor, find someone who can teach you the other 80,000 things that you can’t learn from a book. A mentor is very important. That mentor could be retired. There’re a lot of elderly people who, if you are humble and willing to learn, they’ll teach you that stuff. That’s what I did. I let people teach me the basics when I was younger.

Keys to Success

I don’t work for the money. I work for the experience and the money follows. If you’re doing the right thing, the work and the money will follow. And always do a good job, check all the boxes, and make sure everything is done right.

What the Future Holds

In ten years, we’ll probably be doing a lot more with WiFi and remote thermostats. And indoor air quality is becoming more and more important. I was at a house yesterday and the family kept getting sick because of all the pet dander in the air. Air quality is an important issue now, and probably will be for the future.

What You Love About the Job

I do a lot of work with churches, and when we go out there, we get the kids involved in the project, the grandchildren of the church. We try to make it a fun weekend project. I’ll go over the basics with them, teach them some of the theory, and they help out. For instance, I show them that if you see a cobweb, that probably means there’s a hole nearby. And I show them how to insulate a rim of a 100-year-old church.

Thanks, Eric!

Are you employed in the trades? Help us combat the image problem and share your story. We know there are a lot of talented people in the trades and we think it’s about time everyone else did too.

Want to read more profiles? Here you go.

For more information on how we support those in the trades and what you can do to help, check out our Keep Craft Alive initiatives.

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