Last July the contactor gave us the estimates for our entire house remodel. They told us we would need to move out for four months to get it all done. But I wasn’t willing to do that after just moving here. So we went another way.
‘What are the things we can do now, without duplicating effort and without moving out?’
We landed on a list, including the roof, rain gutters, the fireplace, and relocating the water pump for the well and installing a whole new system, as a start. Great! It was all supposed to be done in September. It’s November now. We are 50% complete. Eye roll. I’ve been very frustrated. If we had moved out for ‘four months’ it would have been closer to a year – best case. But now I know there is a reason this is all happening and its not cultural, or us being deprioritized as clients. There is a massive skilled labor shortage in Spain for the trades. Electricians, builders, plumbers, tilers. Basically, building or reforming anything.
My Dad predicted this decades ago. As a blue collar guy he could build or fix anything. Before he and a friend bought their chicken ranch in Southern California, my Dad was a welder. He welded some of the original Monorail at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Was he educated? No. But he had the brain of an engineer and he was good at math. That’s all you needed in the 1950’s. Few people went to college.
Fast forward to the 70’s and 80’s. Everyone was sending their kids to college, including my parents. But my Dad wisely observed at the time, ‘Someday there will be no one to build houses. No plumbers or electricians. No one values those jobs anymore.’ And he was correct. Trade schools emptied out. Kids who should probably not have gone to a traditional university got degrees, but upon graduation were not qualified for a job. Meanwhile, those in the trades were viewed as less intelligent for having settled for a manual trade, and not as employable because they didn’t have a degree.
The same thing has happened in Spain, where the unemployment rate among college educated 20-somethings is the highest in Europe. Educated but no job. And yet, post-pandemic, after speaking to our contractor, they are desperate for plumbers, electricians and builders. After 18 months of a lull in work they are now under water. And it will not be getting better. Diego is not alone. I read in the Galicia news that in this province alone we are short 50,000 skilled trades people. Jobs that are waiting for a taker, but no takers. And this is going on all over the EU. Norway is offering Spanish bus drivers to move there at premium salaries. If you are a girl and willing to learn to weld, plumb, or wire, you could name your price here, as the Spanish government is incentivizing companies for hiring women in the trades.
The lesson is something we all learned during the pandemic. Essential workers aren’t in the sexy jobs. They rarely sit in offices or wear a tie or heels. But they are the people who kept society functioning when we were all confined to our houses, and when something we can’t live without breaks. And even after we got let out, when our water pump goes out, I value those guys on a daily basis more than a lawyer. I say ‘guys’ because I have yet to meet a female in any of these jobs.
And its in manufacturing, too. We have a few seals on windows that are broken, and decided to replace them all. But the estimate we got said the best case was new windows manufactured locally might arrive 9 months from now. More likely a year. And when I asked for an estimate on fencing they said they couldn’t provide one until they had a crew to actually do the work. Fencing prices are changing that fast. And they don’t have a crew.
So now, instead of having painters come to our house, repairing cracks in the plaster, sanding, washing down walls and taping windows, I am doing these jobs. Because I want it done before Emilie gets here. Don’t get me wrong, I like my new telescoping plaster disk sander. But, if I’m honest, I would rather have a team of people here doing it for me. Except to have that, I would be waiting until next summer.
If I were from Mexico or Central America, I wouldn’t head for the US border for a new life. I would come to Spain. I was speaking to a guy from Bolivia. He said that Spain allows people from Spanish speaking countries in Latin America to come here and work immediately. And they are eligible for citizenship after 2 yrs. So, if you speak Spanish, possess the right to reside or immigrate to Spain, have qualifications or are willing to train, come to Galicia. You’d likely have a job in 20 minutes after landing. But if you do that, make sure to tell your employer that Kelli has first dibs😉