Shortage? What shortage?
Several readers commented on Leland Teschler’s recent blog entry (“Not So Bad: Manufacturing Skills Gap is Local, Not National,” Oct. 16). It mentioned a study that indicated machinists and welders were in short supply in only five of the top 50 manufacturing cities in the U.ŸS. Readers, all manufacturers, disagreed.

Tulsa, Okla., may not be one of the top five manufacturing centers, but we manufacture a lot of the equipment used in oil and natural-gas production and refining. There are billboards, roadside signs, and even a sign in a local BBQ restaurant put up by local companies looking for CNC machinists with at least three years of experience with starting pay of a minimum of $25/hr. Skilled welders start at $18 to $20/hr, plus overtime. That is good money in this region with some of the lowest housing costs and gasoline prices in the country.

Don Allen

This is the biggest load of nonsense I’ve read in a long time. Manufacturers, including me, have a completely different experience with trying to hire and retain good machinists and manufacturing people.

Chis Reeve

I think the study’s analysis is severely flawed. In our area in central Minnesota, we have serious skill gaps in many areas, especially for welders and skilled machinists. A large effort is being expended in our area to address the skill gaps and train workers.

Lester Engel

Their statistics don’t match the on-the-ground experience among manufacturers I’m networking with in the Los Angeles area. It’s a bogus study.

William Pratt

Companies crying crocodile tears
Your editorial is just another tearful plea by companies for more lowcost yet fully trained employees (“More Green cards, More H-1B Visas,” Nov. 6). If they want employees trained beyond the ability to read, speak, think, and perform math, I suggest they train those employees themselves.

Over the years that I ran a tooland- die company, we routinely trained apprentices at a ratio of one for every eight journeymen. It was a four-year program and included almost 1,000 hr of class time, paid at straight time, but wages rose as the apprenticeship progressed. The apprentice paid tuition but got it back as a lumpsum reward after graduation. Unfortunately, these new journeymen then went to the bottom of the seniority list and got laid off first and soon, due to the cyclical nature of the automotive trade. Most of them quickly found another job. About half returned and several stayed with us over the years, several rising to managerial positions in our company.

I guess we trained them too well. Many went on to management or engineering jobs at the big three (gasp — on only a fouryear apprenticeship after high school). The goal was that any graduate apprentice, left alone in the shop with a part print and a wood model (or later a math model and a computer) would be able to design, build, and tryout dies for a sheet-metal part — from a bracket to a quarter panel. We were a small company, but we did okay in competition with the Henry Ford Trade School and the GM Technical Institute. Those institutions are also gone now, of course. No need to train people if we can get them trained to our specifications at public expense from state universities either here or in China, India, or Korea.

Hey, Microsoft, while you’re looking for those trained employees, dry your eyes and try spending a little bit of your millions to train a few people for yourselves.

Richard Distel

Snow clones?
I read the article, “Rethinking the Snowmobile” (Nov. 20), and noticed that the Snow Runner is similar to the Snow Hawk which has been around since 2002. The asking price for the SR-125 ($5,550) is comparable to a Ski-Doo MX Z Sport ($6,549), which seems like a better deal.

Jim Smouse

Yes, our Snow Runner and the Snow Hawk are both single-ski vehicles, but that’s where the similarity ends. Look at the design requirements we set out and met in the development process — completely different than the Snow Hawk or traditional snowmobiles. The concept sketches and idea for the vehicle started in 2001 and sat for a while until our patented ski was developed. The ski turned our vehicle from a difficult-to-ride vehicle into the fun, easy-to-ride machine it now is. We have had people from 10 years old to well over 70 riding vehicles in just several minutes of practice with no instruction and, in some cases, doing extreme maneuvers just not possible with other vehicles.

I could go on and on but the Snow Runner and Snow Hawk fit different niches in the market place (cost, size, weight, end user, zero pollution electric, etc).

Good luck and have a great winter snow season. — Jim Wade

Seawater not fit for fuel?
Why do we neglect the obvious, cold fusion? It still takes nuclear and fossil fuel to make this fuel (“Navy Tries Turning Seawater into Fuel,” Nov. 20,). There are many better ways to reach this objective.

Al Nabhani

First off, you do not catalytically combine CO2 and H2 to get hydrocarbons without a lot of energy input. Second, there is no free hydrogen in seawater. Any hydrogen would have to come from breaking down water molecules, a process which requires more energy than the resulting fuel can supply. And finally, there is not a lot of carbon in seawater. Seawater is 1.4% CO2.

Jim Deggit

If this is for real and is an indication of the “science” in the U.ŒS. military, they need to start firing a lot of people, starting with the idiot who approved this garbage.

Brian Dermot

Such projects are worth funding early on for addition to our scientific knowledge-base. However, failing to honestly identify further development projects as impractical nonstarters illustrates what is wrong with how our government decides where and how to spend our money.

Selfish researchers, bent on making a name for themselves, or on creat ing a fascinat ing open-ended career-length project, should not be permitted so much influence over the decisionmakers. Objective experts should have majority influence, not the pioneering expert or the ignorant politicians.

Mike Netbith

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