Bear with me for a minute. I'm about to bring up the name Jesse James, but I'm not about to spend 500 words on this tabloid fodder. (This would be the guy behind West Coast Choppers, not the American outlaw of the 19th century Old West.)
Of course, James is also the guy that stepped out on Sandra Bullock, who learned of the news just after her big Oscar win for her role in "The Blind Side." The welder and chopper fabricator is now in rehab for "personal issues." If you haven't checked out his mistress, Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, you really don't know how deep those issues go. The heavily tattooed young lady has the phrase "Pray for us sinners" plastered on her forehead.
I'm thinking of James today because I'm thinking about how he had been propped up as a sort of role model for getting young people involved in welding and fabricating. The former roadie with metal bands made his mark in life bending metal bands and other material to create choppers desired by the rich and famous.
James was rough around the edges, but people could connect with the down-to-earth, hardworking young man. Sure, he was married to a porn star at one time, but he was a rock 'n' roller.
Actually, that may have been a small clue hinting at James' penchant for bad choices. At the very least, some real investigations needed to take place before we put people like James on pedestals.
I even get squirrely watching the folks at Orange County Choppers. They don't strike me as particularly great examples of business owners, and I have heard comments that some of their manufacturing practices can be construed as somewhat irresponsible. Again, is this really the best of the metal fabricating world?
The obvious answer is "No!" It's just that people get caught up in the celebrity scene. Everyone is guilty of it. It permeates our harried lives in such a way that celebrity gossip is almost a sure-fire way to begin any dinner conversation. Everyone has an opinion because everyone knows a little about the details.
Think about Tiger Woods. No one would have guessed that he was the freak he turned out to be. The elevating of celebrities as role models is not a wise practice.
That's why I like what The FABRICATOR and thefabricator.com do. (Shameless plug is coming.) We aim to tell the stories of fabricating professionals who make a difference in the real world. These are the people to be admired and respected.
The battle to encourage youngsters to consider a career in manufacturing shouldn't be waged with television celebrities. That's obviously the plan of a 50-something marketing professional who still thinks television is as relevant as it was when Ward and June were settling into their separate beds at night. To convince kids that metal fabricating and other manufacturing jobs make sense as a career path, the shop owners, welders, and engineers need to get out and show them that working with their hands is rewarding. It also will introduce those students to careers that don't involve sitting behind a desk all day, where they will only be tempted to look for celebrity gossip on the Internet while they should be working.