How pervasive is the push to try and channel everyone into college? Check out this story.
During an interview I had with a very successful job shop owner in November, we began talking about the dearth of qualified manufacturing talent in the local area. The owner lamented how the educational systems, both at the high school and community college level, just weren't producing new blood for local manufacturing companies.
However, he also said that parents have as much to do with this problem as anyone else. In fact, he had a personal tale.
"I have a 9-year-old son. I also have two girls that are double-accelerated everything. They're bright. They're always way out there. They've got their homework done before you can ask them to get it done. My boy? Whatever?
"'Homework? Why? Why do I need two problems if I can do one? I don't need to do the next one.' That's what I hear.
"I said to my wife, 'Our son might be a good candidate for a tool and die or a trade apprenticeship or schooling versus going to college.'
"'Absolutely not!' she replied. You'd think I'd been a sinner. In her mind—and this is a perception that we all face—she's thinking that her son has to get a four-year degree and get a college education to be successful."
This shop owner is operating a $24 million business that's in expansion mode, and even he's fighting the perception that manufacturing is not a suitable career choice in his own household. That honest account only reinforces the uphill climb that metal fabricators face in trying to convince people that they can enjoy a successful future bending, cutting, forming, and joining metal.
It also signals that these job shops are not alone in this battle. Even the most successful ones struggle to find the right employee fit for their manufacturing operations. Truthfully, many are struggling just to find a warm body that wants to show up on time.
A great way to find out what other fabricators are doing—beyond reading The FABRICATOR and www.thefabricator.com--is to mix it up with other fabricators. Attending The FABRICATOR's Leadership Summit might be a good start. The information exchange is fresh and valuable, and some fabricators have made solid friendships with their counterparts from other places in the U.S. They rely on each other for benchmarking and new ideas—which is a nice resource to have in today's competitive environment.
For more information on the Leadership Summit, to be held Feb. 29-March 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz., visit this link.