'Money and prestige'

June 20, 2012
By: Vicki Bell

A colleague brought an interesting article to my attention the other day. The article, published on jsonline.com, told the story of Marinette, Wis.-based shipbuilder Marinette Marine and its struggles to attract young workers. Among its efforts are reaching out to local schools and offering paid training programs ($12 an hour).

The company is holding open 40 positions in its training program for welders, pipe fitters, and other shipyard jobs. It has reached out to nine high schools to attract candidates and so far, only seven recent graduates have applied for the training, which begins in July.

In an attempt to spread the word, The FABRICATOR posted a link to the article on its Facebook page. We also featured this story in yesterday’s “Tube Talk” e-newsletter and asked why, in this time of relatively few job opportunities for high school and college graduates, more young people aren’t taking advantage of opportunities like Marinette Marine’s? Is it the nature of the work? The image of manufacturing and the trades? A “soft” generation?

Soon after the link was posted on Facebook, Jon L. commented, “At $12 an hour, no wonder they are having issues finding skilled workers.” 

An educational facility representative responded: “On the job training is paid at $12/hr. One would assume with qualified training the pay would increase.” 

“Tube Talk” readers also shared their opinions about why more young people haven’t responded to the opportunity.

JRT—location unknown—cited wages: “In the early 70s, I was earning $14,000 per year. At the dealership (import) where I worked, a new vehicle cost a little under $2,000.

“A local electronics superstore advertises jobs at a starting salary of $13 per hour (no skills required).

“Why do you suppose Marinette Marine can't find highly skilled workers for $30,000 per year when a new vehicle would only cost a year’s wages ($30,000 = approx $16 per hour)? Cost of living escalated disproportionately with increase in wages.”

Bob from Duluth, Minn. (which is in the news today because of serious flooding) said, “Since the 90s, the educational world has been pushing the computer world in our schools. Having the choice of burning rods building ships or working in a clean office environment is an easy choice for a young person, especially since their world has revolved around a computer. This was fine until most of the jobs were outsourced. Now we sit with a young unskilled work force.”

David, who works for a wire and cable manufacturer, said, “One company or even many companies reaching out to young people will not change anything. We as a nation have been placing so much importance on higher education and convincing people young and old alike that the only way to happiness is through education; we have much more of a barrier then just the young people’s attitude to hurdle. We need to change the attitude of their parents so that they can feel satisfied with the jobs that are offered.

“I keep hearing about the efforts to reach out and also the effort to bring jobs back home, but what I don’t see or hear is anyone recognizing that the methods of training of the past are just that—in the past. I will soon be retiring, and there will be at least three people needed to replace me. It is not because of how much I do, but how diversified I have become. We used to have older workers working with the younger workers, and what they really taught was how to think and troubleshoot.

“I spend a lot of time trying to pass on what I know, and it is not unusual for me to forget some things because they have become standard operating procedure to me. It is only through repeated contact with the senior workers that information like this gets passed along. It is only when an individual is exposed to the work with someone that understands it that they can appreciate the reason things are done a certain way. Many times I have young people looking for short cuts, and although I don’t object to making any job easier, it is only when they can understand why things are done as they are can anyone understand what can be changed and what should not be changed.

“In short it all comes down to attitude. In the 60s, my father told all of his kids that he didn’t care what we did just that we learned to do it right and then were the best we could be. It wasn’t about money or prestige it was about self satisfaction. Today it is about the money and the prestige.”

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Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

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