The promise of employment for those who go to college and get a degree doesn’t have the allure that it did several years ago. For several generations now, including my own, the focus has been on higher education so that we can have a future brighter than our hard working parents – so that we could work smarter and not harder.

The national effect of this push has resulted in three to four generations of people with a lot of book skills (with the entitlement to a salaried office job) and no trade skills. Now, however, over half of all trade-skill laborers in the U.S. are over the age of 45 and looking toward retirement. That’s scary.

Millions of Americans share my lack of certainty for our nation’s economic future. Fifth grade math tells us that this can’t end well, and many are formulating backup plans just in case. One thing I know about supply and demand is that when there is shortage of something that is necessary, demand for it increases.

Trade skills are the stitches that keep much of society from splitting wide open. They are absolutely necessary. Without them, everything crumbles. There was once a time when blacksmiths were more important and more valuable to society than lawyers. While many tradesmen and women feel overworked, underpaid and underappreciated, there may come a time (once again) when these skills are back on top of the food chain. As these laborers begin to “age out,” and as our economy continues to weaken, these fields will prove to be excellent backup plans for many who have chosen academic training over vocational training.

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Below are six trade skills that also make rewarding (and potentially lucrative) hobbies. Is it time for you to pick up a new trade-skill hobby just in case?


Do you have a passion for sculpting or fixing things? Do you hate to throw away things that you believe could be fixed or repurposed? Welding not only bonds metal to metal, but also is a trade skill integral in building every industrialized nation. From skyscrapers to subway cars, welding (and those that yield the tools) has made it all possible. Basic welding equipment can be used for countless important tasks including fabricating tools, building structures, vehicle repair, fixing farming equipment and even artistic metal sculpting. You can get into an awesome MIG welder set-up for well under $1,000. This, with a little practice, just may be the start to a new post-collapse career.

Animal husbandry

Animal husbandry is defined as the working relationship between humans and animals. Did you know your love for animals could very well be your key to security one day? Animals have always been a key element to human comfort, progress and survival. Whether for food, work, fur, companionship or other important traits, the ability to work with, train, raise, care for and breed animals is a very unique and valuable long-term survival skill. Maybe your knowledge of rabbits can be scaled into a viable meat production operation that you can barter for other goods and services? Maybe you can provide mules when fuel shortages leave tractors stranded? Your love for goats may be the key to a small-scale, milk-production cottage business one day. How can your interest in animals be translated into a survival business?

Sewing and clothing design

For those of you who love to sew and work with fabrics, there will always be a need for this trade skill. This skill has so many possibilities – from furniture and gear repair to clothing and uniform tailoring. I would suggest collecting equipment and tools that can work with a variety of fabrics including leather and wool. An off-grid pedal machine would be a really interesting addition as well.


Dig deeper into your love for guns. Guns will always be important. They will be instrumental in both hunting and self-defense. Develop a real understanding of how they work and how to repair them. Gather the tools necessary to do so. Consider taking gunsmith courses to further your knowledge. Also consider stocking a variety of parts for the most common makes and models. Learning to reload ammunition can also be an important skill. We’ve seen just a taste of how hard ammunition can be to find in recent months. Extend your hobby into a real understanding and knowledge base that can be leaned on for survival and barter if necessary.


Love tinkering with cars? Now is a good time to collect the tools necessary to turn your love for engines into a viable business if times get tough. Engines will always be an integral component to modern society. Whether for boats, chainsaws, wood splitters, generators or vehicles, the skill of engine repair has timeless value. Consider learning how to convert diesel engines to run on bio-diesel and also how to make/filter biodiesel fuel.

First aid

Do you like caring for people? Have you always had an interest in the medical field? You don’t have to become a brain surgeon to be valuable. From homeopathic remedies to basic medical knowledge, society will always need medicine men and women who can help with common ailments. Consider taking formal medical training to become proficient in procedures such as suturing and minor surgery, splinting and casting, poisoning, dealing with infection and childbirth, to name a few. Many such courses are taught by board-certified, survival-conscious doctors and nurses.

Now may be a good time to trade some of your free time for a trade skill. There are so many trade skills to choose from – I’ve only listed six! Start with something that interests you. Make sure it is valuable to other people. As your proficiency and knowledge base increase, begin to consider how this hobby can be scaled into a larger, survival-type career or part-time business if necessary. The worse that can happen is that you develop a valuable skill by practicing something you already like!

Remember, it’s not IF, but WHEN.

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