Keepers

November 6, 2013

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As promised, here are some positive comments from “Welding Wire” readers about their experiences dealing with today’s young workers.

First up is Dan, who works for a Michigan-based company that touts its “benchmark craftsmanship by certified welders.” Dan said, “I like to work with the younger work force. Most of them are great kids and highly motivated. I volunteer my time to help judge the Skills USA welding competition held each year here in Michigan with high school kids. I have found many good workers (at the competition).

“I also donate scrap materials to the local high school welding programs and offer opportunities for students, future welders of America, to come and tour our shop. I also have made it possible to bring in boy scouts and let them all do some welding when they are here. I start recruiting welders as young as 8 years old as boy scouts in hopes of hearing from them in the future. We have a shop full of good welders. Most of them started here when they were young and are still with us many years after training.”

Joe, a welding supervisor for a Wisconsin- based manufacturing shop said, “My company does mostly production welding, which is very simple and repetitive. However, you must be able to read prints and have a solid skill set to work here. Recently, we have had trouble finding good workers, with lots of people coming in here talking a big game on how they are the best and how they can do anything.  We quickly find out that nine times out of 10, they are not what they say. It usually is an attendance issue that eventually does them in.

"Not too long ago, I got together with the president of our company, and we discussed the idea of looking at the technical collages for good talent. The idea behind this was to find individuals who were more hard working than experienced. We believed that if you are a hard worker, then you can catch on to what we are teaching you.

“A few years ago, I met this high school student named Andrew.  Andrew was in the 11th grade, and I got to talking with him and asked how his grades were.  He said they were very high. I then asked him where he was planning on going to college.  He replied that he was not going to college; he was going to technical college for the welding certificate program.  I then told him that this was my field and that I ran a fab shop. In a joking manner I said to him, ‘Maybe you can work for me one day.’

“Time passed, and I had very little contact with Andrew, but we stayed in touch. I heard that he indeed went into the certificate program and completed it.  Upon hearing this, I got in touch with him and asked him if he wanted a job. He applied with us, and after a month, I was able to bring him on.  My thought process was if a kid who is a junior in high school is telling me what he is going to do and then does it, (he was going to be a good employee).

“Fast forward to today. He has been with us for several months now. He has not missed one day, he is here 20 min early, never refuses Saturdays, and shows that he cares about what he is doing.  His drive, determination, and work ethic are unreal, and although he has a lot to learn about the industry and about life in general, I wish I had many more like him.  The bottom line is that failure is not an option with him, and he is barely 19 years old. This a keeper, and I believe we hit a home run.”

Sadly, these positive comments were the exception rather than the rule in terms of the feedback from “Welding Wire” readers. Most who shared their thoughts and experiences were highly critical of the younger generation in the workplace.

The moral of the story: if you are lucky enough to find keepers, hang on to them. They can’t be easily replaced. A lesson with infinite applications.

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Vicki Bell

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