It was refreshing to see the skilled-labor crisis--an issue near and dear to metal fabrication--grace the front page of the Sunday New York Times last week. It was the first in a weekly series called “Learn to Earn.” That’s such a great title. It hints at a pervasive problem. Recent grads may know plenty, but not what the business world needs. Meanwhile, metal fabricators have trouble finding people who can read a tape measure.
The article again sheds light on the fact that yes, indeed, the U.S. manufactures plenty--a persistent misconception that’s unfortunate, even if it does lead to some amusing parodies.
It also sheds light on the high-tech nature of the modern shop. At the same time, though, it points to a fact that clouds the manufacturing sector and perhaps prevents some of the best and brightest to consider the sector as a career option.
“In manufacturing … work once performed on low-skilled assembly lines has mostly moved offshore or been automated. The jobs that remain require workers who can interpret blueprints, program computerized machinery, and solve problems on the fly.”
The second sentence trumpets the fact that high technology doesn’t mean zero human intervention, that people tending machines are mere button-pushers. They’re problem solvers, and as anyone in manufacturing knows, they can make or break a company.