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Learn a trade, says master tiler Michael Harris

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2016 | 1:00 AMShanna Monteith
CONTRIBUTED Tradesman Michael Harris tiles a house in St Thomas.

YALLAHS, St Thomas:

It's a strange story how many people come to be the person they are and the things they are good at.

Take Michael Harris, of Yallahs St Thomas for example, who is a full-fledged tradesman who taught himself how to do almost everything he is able to do today.

With the tiling of houses being one of his many trades, Harris recounted the story of his first tiling job.

"I hired a man to tile my house. He began the work, then went missing for two days. By the time he got back, the house was finished tiling," he laughed, revealing that he had completed the job.

Now 18 years later, the 43-year-old told Rural Xpress that he has tiled scores of houses locally and regionally.

When asked about the various things he was skilled at, Harris gave a haughty laugh and said: "There is nothing in the construction world that 'Tawnie' (what he's also called) cannot do. I can do everything. Electrical, plumbing, carpentry, steel work. I do the complete package man. From clearing the land to the finished product. When I'm done all the client has to do is live. But my specialities are really carpentry and tiling," he told Rural Xpress.

Harris revealed that growing up, he always wanted to become a farmer.

"But I got started in the plumbing work first, then after that I began learning the other trades and so on, so I never got around to doing that.

I've never thought of becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher or any of those careers that people normally aim for. I've always loved the physical work," he said.

LIKE A RELIGION

The tradesman has been in his field of work ever since he was 16 years old and has never paused to do something else.

He describes having a skill as being like a religion, explaining that it helps him and he can then teach someone else the skill and the cycle continues.

Members of his community rate him highly for his quality of work and admit that they would recommend him to any prospective client.

Harris advises that parents encourage their children to learn a trade.

"A trade is something that any youth can survive off. No matter where in the world you are, your skill will always be useful to you.

Once you have a trade, people will look for you. You won't have to go around searching for jobs. It's the best investment. Anywhere you go people will recognise you as a skilled man and will always have use for the skill you have," Harris said.

He added: "While I agree that education is very good, I have seen where people who are educated are forced to stay home because they are unable to get jobs. I've been in this a long time and it is very unusual that a tradesman is left unemployed. We are some of the most employable people. I always tell parents that every youth should have a skill because when they have a skill, they won't sit down at home," Harris shared, adding that his abilities have been the sole source of income to finance his five children.

Almost 30 years in, Harris reveals that he does not plan to retire soon.

"I still have a lot of work left in me. I never get tired of doing what I do, and I can only get better," he said.

rural@gleanerjm.com