Barely 18, Part II

October 23, 2013
By: Vicki Bell

Joe, Joe, Joe. It’s now been three weeks since I e-mailed you in response to the comment you left for a blog post about how welders began their welding careers. You wrote about your desire to begin yours and how no one would give you a chance. I wanted to find out and report on your experiences looking for work, in hopes that someone out there might have some suggestions for you, or even a possible job opening.

Well, someone who read Barely 18, Part I—which was about you—commented on that post, and while this reader’s remarks were no reflection on you, they did reflect poorly on some young people in the job market. 

Jim wrote, “I had a young man who worked for me at my former job. After I left the company, he came to me and shared his career goals. He didn’t feel that he had a shot at them staying where he was. He understood that the market demanded a greater skill set and was willing to put in the effort to acquire them.”

Jim found this individual a job in a “small, very high-end shop that did very complex and challenging work. By all accounts, the owner was very happy with his work and potential.”

The young man quit with no notice or warning. After getting both sides of the story, Jim leaned that he “wanted a pay and benefit package that was out of line for his skill set. He was unwilling to do the things and meet the challenges to get that skill set.

“If he had been willing to work for this owner for five years, he could have gone anywhere in the industry and written his own ticket as an aerospace five-axis programmer. He was already making $20 per hour with a modest benefit package.
In five years he could have been bumping very high five figures with potential to go over a hundred grand or more.

“The point I wanted to make is that most of us older folks are kind of gun-shy about giving the younger generation an opportunity. This story is all too typical and it happens in every shop.

“A lot of the younger generation just don't see a need for commitment and hard work. Most of us manager types really don't know how to find the ones that do have these qualities. I can assure you that we would very much like to find
these young people and invest deeply into them to raise the next generation of machinists, welders, and fabricators.”

Unfortunately, Jim is not alone in his experience and thinking. Some readers of October’s “Welding Wire” also made similar observations in response to the newsletter’s lead item, which featured theremarks by Joe and Jim.

One reader, a QA/QC manager for a machine tool manufacturer, works with two advisory groups that are tailoring high school and community college welding programs to the needs of communities and industries. He shared the seven most common comments he hears from both educators and fabricators regarding young workers. It appears that some of these comments are verbatim responses to group questionnaires:

1. They don’t want to work.

2. They don’t want to get dirty or sweaty in a welding industry environment.

3. They expect to be paid the wages of highly experienced welders, but their capabilities are that of entry-level personnel.

4. They lack commitment to working, but they’re fully committed to texting.

5. “If it doesn’t act like a video game, they don’t want to mess with it!” The intended message was that if we want to attract younger welders, our industry had better be moving toward automation—quickly.

6. “We’re seeing the product of the decay of families and a broken education system that focuses on measurements that don’t prepare kids for the workplace.” Other statements that seem to back up this belief are: “They’re being brought up with a welfare mindset;” “They’re receiving awards just for showing up at school;” “They have no real incentives to improve or to better themselves, and no matter how little they do, it’s OK;” “The standards are already too low, and they’re still falling;” and “It’s only going to get worse.”

7. “We get some applicants who can weld, but then they can’t pass a background check or a drug test.”

This is some sad commentary on the state of the young-worker pool, but it’s not the whole story. Check back for future posts with more “Welding Wire” reader comments, including some that describe positive young-worker experiences. There are some great young workers out there, but as Jim pointed out, they can be tough to find.

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Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209