On Record: A place to go to feel normal

I got tired of going to the schools and hearing them say kids weren’t going to make it unless they go to college. Everyone should not be forced into the same groove.”

So Joe Lamacchia, owner of a landscape/masonry/paving firm in Holliston, Massachusetts, created this site. Working with a woman in a neighboring town, the self-described computer illiterate had one goal: to create a resource for young people so they could learn about the trades. “I wanted them to have a place they could go to feel normal,” Joe says.

The media attention was immediate. The website was featured in articles in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and San Francisco Chronicle. His 15-employee company took center stage in a report on CBS Evening News about the growth of blue collar jobs. And even though he’s now a seasoned interview subject, Joe shows every enthusiasm when he’s asked once again about his website.

“It’s timely,” he asserts. “We have a booming, growing economy. Who’s going to do all this work? Everyone’s retiring.” He says the demand for these positions is apparent even on the homeowner end, where small jobs go begging. (I’ll say a loud “amen” to this. In the past four months I’ve called 10 different contractors on a drywall job. They don’t even return phone calls, much less give you an estimate.)

One other potent argument in his arsenal is white collar jobs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. You’re in a cubicle under fluorescent lights. You’re living out of a suitcase, eating airport food and missing your kid’s Little League games.

His website and personal appearances at various schools have led to some surprises. “Educators tell me I’m right, that it’s about time someone did this,” Joe says. These are the people that see the frustrations of parents who have taken out a second mortgage to finance their kid’s college tuition, only to see them flunk out their freshman year. On the other side of the spectrum, people in their 30s and 40s have e-mailed Joe, asking, “Is it too late?” “Never,” he replies.

And why is the blue collar life so great? “At the end of the day, you’ve done something, whether paving a driveway or laying sod,” Joe the apostle comments. “It’s instant gratification.” Contractors should pat themselves on the back for all they’ve built, he says. “We’re the backbone of this country.”

Joe’s final selling point: he makes a good living. “And if I want a raise, I simply have to answer the phone,” he says with a laugh.