Often, trade employers find themselves fighting against stigmas associated with their industry: they work dirty jobs, are unskilled laborers, and hold less value in the workforce than 4-year college degree-holders.
3M is aiming to change that narrative.
The leading manufacturing company debuted the documentary “Skilled,” at a 2023 Sundance Film Festival event to celebrate the skilled trades and topple barriers that precluded prospective workers from pursuing a career in the field. Vivica A. Fox hosted the premiere event at Sundance, and it will be available for streaming on Apple TV+, Google Play, Kanopy, Prime Video and The Roku Channel on May 3.
The film follows the lives of four successful trade workers, a plumber, fall protection specialist, welder, and film gaffer. They all share their stories, challenges and triumphs around their interesting careers.
ESSENCE sat down with Vivica to learn more about the film and why it’s so important to shift the way we view the trade work industry.
Vivica, what compelled you to be a part of this project?
You know your girl Vivica A Fox is all about girl power and I have been forever. I’m so happy to see the advancement of women from the WNBA to movies to being the owners of studios. It’s just lately been all about girl power, so when 3M came to me and asked me to host their event at Sundance for their wonderful docu-series called Skilled, I jumped at the opportunity. I saw it and it’s just really, really wonderful. The cast and some of the participants in the film moved me, touched me and if I can help them to get more exposure, I’m all for it.
What are some misperceptions you had about trade work that were dispelled after working on this?
You see, I’m a believer that women can do anything, but I do believe the public has some misperceptions especially about women being in the skilled trade business as health professionals and also in show business. I have two good girlfriends, Vanessa Zeno and Alyssa Nelson. They’re a mother and daughter duo that drive forklifts in a factory in Detroit and they sent me videos of them early in the morning at work and I was like, “Oh my God look at you guys driving forklifts with your hard hats on!”
I also have a wonderful friend by the name of Shauna Chin. Shauna helped us get through Covid. The absolute sacrifices that she made, she’s a nurse and first responder, she sacrificed so much of time, without her friends and family and she is really wonderful.
And then in show business to see the power positions that women are having now finally as gaffers and electricians. Here on the set of my latest film, Twisted House Sitter 2, the first and second AD are both females, so as I’ve said it’s just amazing to see girl power grow and then we have this wonderful docu-series. I believe that we’re all dispelling those issues that women can’t do anything. They think that you have to go to college and get a degree, well that’s not for everyone.
What is your hope for the film and everyone who sees it?
I hope everyone that sees Skilled is inspired, enlightened, and encouraged. With some minorities and some that are getting a second chance at life, say if they were incarcerated like Cedric, the gentleman in the film that gets a second chance at life and becomes a welder. You really don’t get to see a lot of African Americans as welders. That you know he wasn’t – his life and his future wasn’t based on the one mistake he made when he was young. So I’m hoping we enlighten, we encourage and inspire others and women that they can do anything and to never give up on themselves.
I also think Skilled is needed in today’s world because the skilled trades have a certain image: of the value of a technical education, of the type of person that goes into those jobs, of how successful you can be. Skilled helps to shatter those stereotypes, which is important because there’s a massive shortage of skilled trade workers around the world and a huge reason behind that is the image. The shortage is a big deal. I can’t even imagine what our lives would be like if there weren’t enough plumbers, electricians, construction workers to get infrastructure done. We all need safe roads, buildings, bridges. Stop for a moment and consider what would happen if we didn’t have workers to build and repair those essential things we often take for granted. The consequences are huge! So yeah, this is important work.
To learn more about “Skilled” visit 3M.com/Skilled.
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