This week’s pomp, sparkle, and pyrotechnics celebrated, among other things, Jefferson’s inspirational sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The last of these unalienable rights may drive us more than anything else. But it may also be misinterpreted. We have the right to pursue happiness, but that doesn’t make happiness itself a right. We have to go after it. We have to work for it.
This may be something Edwin Trevino thinks about. At V.I.P. Staffing, a technical staffing agency, he’s a talent scout for the skilled trades in Houston. Keith Jennings, president of Crow Corp., an area contract fabricator, is a client. Like so many, Jennings had trouble finding skilled personnel, especially welders. So several years ago he decided to outsource the staffing function to V.I.P., which handles all the hiring paperwork and background checks.
Jennings outsources to V.I.P. for more than just the convenience. Staffing is one of the most critical functions in any business. People make or break a business, and costs mount when a company hires the wrong person for the job. And as it turns out, Trevino has a knack for identifying the right person. He has toured Crow’s facility, knows its workers and its culture, and uses this information as a guide when interviewing applicants.
According to Trevino, identifying people who have the necessary skills isn’t difficult. The skills are concrete and measurable. A part is fabricated within tolerance or it isn’t. But evaluating the soft skills--personality, character, work ethic--is not an exact science.
“If I get a candidate and the first thing out of his mouth is about how much the job pays, there’s a problem,” he said. “The pay is usually already stated in the ads. If he still asks me about pay, that’s a sure-fire sign he’s not going to stick around. He’s going to leave for a little more money.”
These types of candidates may be talented fabricators, but to them the job is more about the money, less about the workplace--and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, the fabrication industry has plenty of jobs suited for this kind of talent. Trevino mentioned one such job in the refineries around Houston: shutdown workers, those who go into a plant or refinery during a planned or emergency shutdown to perform maintenance and repairs. These people are paid well dollarwise but poorly in job security. Trevino doesn’t look down on these workers. The industry needs them, often direly. But if a candidate thrives on temporary work, he may not be the best fit for a job shop with relatively low turnover.
All this may well boil down to discovering how people pursue their version of happiness. If a person enjoys temporary settings, his or her pursuit of happiness will differ greatly from a plant supervisor who spends decades at one company.
Then there are the people who have ended the pursuit, as well as those who never began it in the first place. Some act as if happiness should be doled out as their inherent right. These workers, no matter how talented, probably won’t fit in anywhere.