Companies need workers?
Leland Teschler’s recent blog entry (“Manufacturers can’t find workers? Not hard to figure why,” tiny.cc/4bzh5) takes a look at why some manufacturing companies can’t find enough trained workers. Readers suggest that blame rests with schools that don’t teach the basics for holding a job and companies unwilling to invest in training.
Where are all the workers?
To get good qualified shop workers, companies have to go back to the way it was done in the years between World War II and the cost-cutting 1980s. We used to actually train workers just out of high school in apprentice programs.
My first real job was at the Warner & Swasey Co. I was interviewed and hired by the Lathe Dept.’s general foreman after a 10-minute interview. He showed me a drawing of a part, asked me a few (easy) questions about the part, and told me I was hired. I started working with a senior machine operator for about two weeks. He showed me the ropes, how to operate a turret lathe and use the tools and gages required. During those two weeks, I was not productive at all and my mentor was probably not either. We were in “training” and the company accepted that as a normal and valuable expense to maintain it’s workforce.
After about two years, they asked if I would be interested in the company’s management training program. How often do you see that today? I accepted and worked in various departments while going to a nearby engineering school for four years —mostly nights. Once I earned my BS in mechanical engineering, I became a salaried worker and assigned to methods and standards in the engineering department. I spent the next forty years as an engineer in seven different local firms.
Today I don’t see any companies with the same interest in training people. If you can’t “hit the ground running,” you are probably going to be passed by and have to accept a low-wage job. And if you can’t afford college, the future is not too bright.
Companies need to reevaluate the importance of training and apprenticeships — it will pay off in the future with loyal workers who understand all the facets of the company they are working for.
While Jim Kovach makes valid points, the fact is the jobs in question are entry-level jobs and it would appear any high-school graduate would be qualified for them. So I would criticize the schools for failing to adequately prepare graduates with basic skills.
What Jim Kovach said is perfectly correct because high schools, colleges, and universities can only teach so much. After that it’s up to the private sector to invest in training about its own business particulars to “fresh-outs.” Believe me, the list of particulars is extremely long. And from what I can see, schools just don’t teach enough of them for most entry-level jobs. And this doesn’t just go for engineering, it holds true for all professions, industries, and job types.
The Feds used very small amounts of its bailout and stimulus money to fund national on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs. But if we were serious about putting a lot of people back to work in good-paying jobs and careers, OJT and apprenticeships for qualified high-school and college students would top the list of solutions.
Apparently quality workers aren’t what manufacturers have been looking for. Perhaps a good program such as Lean Six Sigma would help corporations cut costs in other places beyond cutting wages and skilled workers. Just a thought, since what they’re doing doesn’t seem to be working.
It seems simple — supply and demand is at work here. $15/hour is a 1980s wage. Anyone qualified for these job listings is obviously gainfully employed at a much higher wage than this.
The major reason for the growing wage discrepancy between manufacturing and the government/services industries mentioned in the blog is that the manufacturing jobs can be outsourced. Police and fire department jobs cannot.
Engineering as a Career
Mr. Teschler’s editorial ("Why choose engineering as a career,” July 8) was alarming, not for its emphasis, but because it describes once again how the “engineer” title was hijacked to describe another profession. The “financial engineering” position talked about has nothing to do with engineering. Instead, it describes a professional statistician or mathematician position. Let’s call these people what they are: Computer programmers, financial analysts, actuaries yes, but they are certainly not engineers. They are not manipulating the laws of physics to create or improve anything but merely write programs that predict and manipulate investments and move money around. We bemoan the fact that the once respected position of engineer has been watered down, yet we allow every Tom, Dick, and Mary to hold the title. Our friends the architects are constantly pulling their hair out over the misappropriation of their profession’s title by the computer programmers. Systems “architect” indeed. Programmers and mathematicians must feel constantly inadequate to have to pull the engineer or architect title out all the time.
Yet another reason to demand professional registration to hold the title.
Bill Gillette, PE
Whose keeping it safe?
It is the responsibility of the person or company that modifies a machine to bring it to the most current safety standards, not just to add warnings (“Who’s at Fault When a Broach Amputates Fingers?” June 8). In this case, replacing even a single properly guarded palm button with a lever significantly increased the risk of unintended actuation.
Not knowing who performed the modifications, the bulk of responsibility then shifts to the employer, the firm that owned the machine. Also, the employer was on notice by OSHA and had a year to take remedial action. The light curtain that was discussed should have been installed within days of the citation.
And where was OSHA? Was there any follow up to assure that the machine was brought into compliance after the initial inspection?
My take is that the original machine manufacturer’s liability is significantly diminished because the machine was modified to become less safe.