Speaking at the annual meeting of Wall Street trade group SIFMA, Bloomberg urged people to consider their career plans according to their strengths: “Today if your kid wants to go to college or become a plumber, you’ve got to think long and hard.”
“If he’s not going to go to a great school and he’s not super smart academically, but is smart in terms of dealing with people and that sort of thing, being a plumber is a great job because you have pricing power, you have an enormous skill set,” he said.
Michael Bloomberg: Financial considerations
He even gave some practical advice on the relative costs, comparing the $50-60,000 per year tuition fees at Harvard to the salary of an apprentice plumber, which falls in the same range. The potential for middle-class Americans to profit from gaining a trade follows a similar trend in the U.K., where droves of professionals have retrained as plumbers in recent years.
Bloomberg sees the possibility of growing your own business through the trade, citing the father of one of his employees, who built a company that now has six employees. The former mayor claimed that getting a trade is now a viable alternative to traditional middle-class careers, which have suffered due to the growing influence of technology.
“In law firms now you hit a button and get research. It used to be law clerks looking through books,” he said.
There was also time for Bloomberg to comment on wage stagnation, which he claims is a continuing problem, even unemployment rates decreasing. He is not the only major figure speaking out on the subject, with David Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of private equity giant The Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG), sharing a similar train of thought at the same event.
Rubenstein drew on his own family history as evidence that the American dream is still alive and kicking. Neither of his parents graduated high school, but he clawed his way to the top through hard work. The comments form part of a growing discourse on social mobility, which many worry has ceased to exist in advanced Western economies.