The Rise of the Industrial Athlete

For generations, the United States relied on the grit and resilience of working trade professionals to deliver on the promise of a nation. A promise that says hard work is rewarded with the opportunity to build a better life — and that together — we can achieve greatness in the face of adversity. We firmly believe that industrial tradesmen and women embody that concept.

When the Roaring Twenties gave way to the Great Depression, a New Deal was forged and workers created icons like the Overseas Highway and the Hoover Dam.

When the Global Financial Crisis became the Great Recession, ‘shovel-ready’ projects in infrastructure and renewable energy built a strong foundation for a post-crisis society.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world to shelter in place, essential trade professionals kept power on at our hospitals, heating, cooling and plumbing in our homes, and the telecommunications infrastructure working to keep us safe and connected with each other.

From concrete finishers to carpenters, plumbers to plasterers, American history is full of stories of communities who know that working with your hands and your mind is a lucrative and fulfilling career. That every day is an opportunity to be better than the day before and to find joy in the pursuit of excellence both on and off the job. That no matter your gender, race, or creed — trade professionals are continuing to build on the promise of America as a country built by the people, and for the people.

However, despite U.S. history being required for most high school students, almost two-thirds of young people say they didn’t learn about the trades in high school. Half of those surveyed said they would rather be a barista than a welder. The average barista makes $10.60/hr while the average welder makes $18.23/hr, with high-end welders (and other industrial tradesmen and women) pulling in six-figure incomes. However, to students, these career paths are seen as the same.

Stuck in outdated perceptions of what being a trade professional really means, 55% of those students believe it’s more respectable to have an office job than a job working with your hands. It’s easy to view something as a backup plan when it’s only ever presented as a backup plan.

Rest assured, there are good people trying to close the skills gap, creating scholarship programs for vocational schools, and directing people into the trades. However, real change will come from how we view ourselves, how we communicate our value, and how we break from old-school conventions to embrace an identity that captures the dedication, hard work, and care of the trade professionals who perform the skilled, physical work that keeps society functioning: Industrial Athletes.

What Is an Industrial Athlete?

“We're on our knees, up and down ladders all day, drilling holes and constantly in the weather. To me, that's what I consider an Industrial Athlete. It doesn't really matter what kind of work you do, if you're an ironworker, a plumber or electrician — we're always battling crazy tasks. To me, the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into our trade is what I consider to be what makes Industrial Athletes.“

Chris Gonzalez, Industrial Athlete | Plumbing

Today’s trade professionals know that being an Industrial Athlete isn't about athleticism or how you look — industrial tradesmen and women come from all walks of life. Being an Industrial Athlete means having the opportunity to embrace the challenge of becoming stronger and smarter than yesterday. It’s a mindset that, yes, includes physicality, but also means being dedicated to perfecting and acquiring new skills both on and off the job site.

Industrial Athletes don’t brush off their pants and say “good enough” they seek to enhance and expand their abilities. On tough jobs, in severe weather, during times of crisis and faced with difficult clients — Industrial Athletes aren’t punching in, going through the motions, and punching out. These trade professionals are showing up and saying “Game On!” with enthusiasm.

“Industrial athletes are a lot of the people that are still working in the field right now, that aren't just stuck at home. It's jobs that have to be done, and it takes a lot of movement — a lot of muscle — so when I first heard ‘Industrial Athlete,’ that made sense to me.”

- Justin Johnson, Industrial Athlete | Rentals Manager

If we want to make a real impact on how society views the trades and industrial tradesmen and women, we need to start with how we view ourselves. When we allow trade professionals to be defined by what others think of us, we lose the ability to give voice to the parts that don’t fit that definition. We internalize the negative stigmas in the labels “blue-collar, working class, and laborer.”

We accept a narrative that is too small for who we are and what we do.

Let’s Write a New Story

Every year, America celebrates Labor Day. A day when industrial workers in New York City came together to demand recognition for their contributions to our society. Without their daily pay, they gathered in the streets to march for recognition, setting in motion a labor movement that has continued to inspire generations of trade professionals and other working Americans.

At Truewerk, it continues to inspire us, not only to make the best performance workwear out there, but to use our brand as a force for positive change and celebrate the communities of individuals doing this difficult work. So, let us summon a new spirit of community — one that allows us to dream, to look toward the future and encourage future generations to do the same.

This Labor Day, and every one to come, let’s rise together as an Industrial Athlete Nation. Let’s take ownership of a new narrative. One that says what trade professionals do has no backup plan, that we’re proud of our community — we’re plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and arborists. We’re the industrial tradesmen and women who believe in the value of our way of life.

Join us to show your support for the IA Nation — whether you’re an Industrial Athlete yourself or you believe that their contributions to society are worth celebrating. We’ve created a special logo for IA Nation. When you see it around, let it serve as a reminder to yourself (and others) of what an honor and privilege it is to be skilled trade professionals.

Where might you see it? Truewerk is rolling out exclusive decals and t-shirts so we can fuel a movement that tells this new story.

Here’s how it works:

  • Fill out the form here.
  • Check out our blog and social media, and keep an eye on your emails for content that will get you fired up.
  • When you receive your sticker, display it proudly. Show us how you’re reppin’ by tagging us on Instagram @truewerk and hashtagging #IANation
  • At any time, head here to submit a story about what makes you an Industrial Athlete for the opportunity to earn a free limited edition Industrial Athlete t-shirt. These are’re gonna want to get your hands on one.
A black Truewerk t-shirt for trade professionals that features the Industrial Athlete AI logo

If you’re proud of what trade professionals have accomplished, what our future holds, and the trailblazing way of life that comes with being industrial tradesmen and women, put the decal on your water bottle, toolbox, truck, or anywhere you want that will show people you’re an Industrial Athlete.

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