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USS Constitution, Johnson

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Trades and Skills
Conducting a survey

Students might be interested in comparing the trades and skills of workers in the late 1700s with those of today. Have the class focus on trade groups in your area and conduct a survey. Before embarking on the survey, be sure students have some background information on the skills, training, pay and working conditions for tradespeople two centuries ago. Have them research when trade unions were established and how unions compare to artisans guilds. Divide the class into four groups to:

(1) design and test the survey questionnaire,
(2) distribute and collect the questionnaire,
(3) analyze the responses and
(4) present the results to the class.

The survey results should include how many trades are represented on a big project, a description of working conditions, safety, pay and training. Students might be under the impression that trade work today is accomplished by machines and that such button pushing requires little skill. Is the artistry gone from trade labor? Try to design the questionnaire to test such assumptions. The questionnaire should ask exactly what skills are involved; how long it takes to master these skills; and how the skills were acquired.


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