The October “Welding Wire” e-newsletter asked readers to share their observations about today’s workforce, specifically, younger workers. You can always count on “Welder Wire” workers to respond and to do so with candor and conviction. Based on their responses, there are some issues with some young workers, but also reason for hope that things are not as dire as they may seem. Isn’t that the way it’s been for most generations? Here’s what some had to say:
A reader from Kansas said, “It has been my experience with young workers they want everything NOW. I don't blame the individual, because I feel it is the way the generation was raised. They do not know what it is like to enjoy company and conversation after ordering a good meal that takes time to prepare. They hit the drive-thru or some fast food place. If the order takes more than 5 minutes they are upset. They do not have to send a letter and a week to 10 days later get a reply. They e-mail a friend on Facebook and the reply is immediate. Or text a friend with the same fast response. When they take pictures with a digital camera they have a machine which develops the pictures in just a few minutes instead of dropping off the film and getting the pictures several days later.
“I feel … they feel everything should come to them fast and easy. When they see a co-worker who has been at their job for 10-15 years, they feel they should have the same pay and benefits as the co-worker. They know nothing about ‘paying their dues’ or earning the respect of the supervisor before they deserve more pay and benefits. They feel if someone else has something, they should have it too, just because.
“However, if you look at both sides of the coin, employees are not as loyal to the company, but the company does not take care of the employees as in the past either. If you have a good young worker, who is willing to listen, you should guide this young person and help him become a good employee. It doesn’t just happen overnight. A person can be a good worker, but it takes time to be a good employee. Most young workers don't feel they have the time, they want it NOW. You can't blame them for this it is just the way they are. I am sure my father said similar things about my generation. We need to find a way to make the best of it and work together.”
Mike said, “I have had varied experiences hiring and working with younger workers. I’d say one or two out of 10 or 12 were keepers. They come out of school lacking the most basic skills: math, communicating, responsibility, accountability, unable (mostly unwilling) to work on their feet for hours at a time … even manners. The ones that do well really shine. But seems like they decide they want nothing to do with labor.
“I do sheet metal fabrication, welding, grinding, painting – mostly precision-type work but also some ornamental and automotive fab work. It’s hard work, dirty work, but we use state-of-the art 3-D modeling software for designing and CAD
for programming the punch press and the brake— many opportunities to do brain work—but they don’t want to put in the time to learn metal …just want on the computer now. They want $20/hr. now.
“It’s a tough situation. All the other shop managers I network with run into the same problems. We try recruiting from school tech shops. Some students show up and decide right then they’re not interested. We have a very modern, clean, well-lit, maintained shop that we’re proud of, and they scoff.
“And all the older skilled workers are just that—getting older and looking towards retirement. Who will replace them? I see (an equipment supplier) has come out with a new press brake tool storage/loading system. Yet another move
to keep workers from touching things, feeling them. Getting to know the basics. Our technology is gearing towards that dumb idea that we don’t need skill; put the smart guys behind glass on computers and put ‘monkeys’ in front of the
“I’ve had applicants with 5 years’ experience that, after interviewing and testing, had NO valid experience in my book. ‘So, how would you set this up?” I would ask. “Oh, there was a guy there that did that” was the typical answer. But they
wanted top dollar because someone told them that’s what they could earn.
“Some ask why I don’t have a reality show. I thought OC Cycles and Jesse James and the like would create more interest … but only if a camera is involved. I tell them, ‘Well, if you knuckle down and learn this stuff you can go get your own
show.’ But that takes too much time and effort.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, I have not given up. We need young people in manufacturing and keeping the skills alive and the shop floors humming. But the pickin's sure are slim these days. It’s up to us old fab(sters) to find ways to spark
interest in new recruits.
“I have four success stories in the last several years or those who have learned the trade. Two went on to tech school to better their welding skills, and they are now making a good living, because they put in the time, effort, and, most importantly, recognize the personal rewards it offers.”
Mike has witnessed success stories. So have others. Check back next week for some of these.
Things change and businesses move. Change and moving aren’t always easy, but acceptance and good planning can help make the transition as seamless and painless as possible. Remember, it is what it is. Make the best of it.
Practical Welding Today was created to fill a void in the industry for hands-on information, real-world applications, and down-to-earth advice for welders. No other welding magazine fills the need for this kind of practical information.