In my area of the country, what’s been called the “rust belt,” there are manufacturing companies with openings for qualified welders and machinists, there isn’t much call for unskilled manual labor, it’s the guy who can actually do something, run a CNC machine, do high quality welding, install, maintain and repair all sorts of complex equipment, but what we have are lots of people with degrees in Peruvian pottery or its intellectual equivalent.
The most common complaint I hear from anyone looking for employees right now is that applicants, when you sift through the resumes, lack basic skills, let alone a real capacity and willingness to do the work. The serious manual skills, the kinds of things you used to learn the basics of in shop class or a trade school, have disappeared. Jobs we’ve been exporting because everyone here was going to magically transform into some sort of high level knowledge worker, along with a concerted push for universal college degrees, have made an absolute mess of what used to be a strenuous, but well worn road, to satisfying work and a decent income. A fact slowly and grudgingly being recognized is not everyone should go to college or is suited for college, but those same people are superb candidates to learn the skills for the exact positions now going begging.
Knowing about and knowing how are two very different sorts of knowledge and we have far too much of the first while the second has been almost totally abandoned. It is time to renew these skills, to bring young people back into the hands on world, to stop them from desiring only the clean, easy knowledge work where they will supposedly direct those “below” them and instead reconnect them to the concept of doing something where the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment is available every day, where you can see what you have done and where people really need you to be there.
People my age, in many companies have begun retiring or will be in the next five or ten years and there’s no one to replace the skill that will walk out the door when they do. When the skills are lost, it’s hard to bring it back. Industries where the US used to be strong have been lost and when someone tries to reestablish them, they find it almost impossible because there’s no pool of talent to draw from.
If you have a skill you can pass on to someone younger than you, make every effort to do so. If there is someone that shows any interest, try to blow that spark into a flame. If you’re young, think of the sense of achievement you’ll feel as you actually build something and develop those skills. You’ll also learn a little secret, people need you when you can do something. You won’t be wondering how to earn a paycheck, you’ll be able to find work when you want. Yes, … really.
Now, here’s the most important takeaway from all of this and it goes beyond renewing skills. In the previous post about building your own charcoal foundry, there’s a process where you use basic hand tools, some lumber, charcoal, a hair dryer and other odds and ends to create everything necessary to melt scrap metal and cast it into carefully shaped and designed pieces that will, in turn, be used to build a lathe. Continuing this process, after building the metal lathe, it’s used to build more machine tools. Think about that. You have taken a whole pile of scrap pieces and odds and ends plus basic tools and literally created “capital,” wealth, something that can be used to then build and create more tools, more capital, you can create more wealth, from practically nothing! It doesn’t grow on its own, you make it by combining knowledge and skill and effort and determination to make something that would not exist unless you decided to make it. You create a huge increase in the value of what you have to work with by applying your mind to the tools and materials at hand. OUR WHOLE COUNTRY WAS BUILT THAT WAY! These manual skills that are drifting away and the mindset of using them in productive and creative ways needs to be renewed, and yes, I am fired up about this because it pains me to see so many people complaining about everything, of how little they have, while failing to see or act upon the opportunities they can create for themselves to improve their own lot.
Skills can be learned and wealth can be created, from practically nothing. You don’t need permission to learn, just desire and determination. You don’t need a college degree to create wealth, you need skills, hard work and a positive attitude.
A few days ago on New Years Day, I sent out a newsletter to everyone who has subscribed, titled “Let’s Get Started!” In it, I asked everyone to make this year, 2012, the year to do it, whatever plans and dreams you might have, just do it. For those of you who didn’t receive it, I think it’s important enough I’m including most of it below:
2012 is here. What are your plans? …
Whatever your dream, mastering new skills, tackling a project that’s been in the back of your mind for awhile or even if you just want to get your old bike back on the road, this is the year to do it. Sure, there are lots of reasons to wait, until things get better, until the economy is booming, until after the election, until …, until …, or you can just get started now.
You already know you’re going to hear about a lot of people working on their dreams, starting new companies and moving ahead, even in this economy. They’ll accomplish a lot and you can be one of them. You can wait or you can work. On The Kneeslider, we write about the ones who get to work. I can’t wait to see the results; I know I’ll be surprised and inspired, you probably will be, too.
This year, I’m going to stay in closer touch with all of you through these emails. You see, I think this year is going to be absolutely great and I want to make sure you hear about it. In a way, I have an unfair advantage; I’ve been getting emails from builders telling me about projects under way so I can see they aren’t sitting around waiting for the world to change, I already know about cool things in the pipeline you’ll be seeing later this year. I get charged up just thinking about it. Wouldn’t you rather be in that productive and creative group than sitting around waiting? Don’t let the bad news fool you. There are a lot of good things already happening!
This sluggish economy is a huge opportunity; you just have to look at it with different eyes. Be a problem solver. Learn new things, try new things, be one of the success stories and above all, be positive. A negative, critical attitude is your enemy, it keeps you from seeing the enormous possibilities, it makes obstacles look bigger and creates excuses. Don’t be “that guy.” Be positive and aware, look for ways to do things better and then do them. Start today, whenever you look at what someone is doing, pick out the good points instead of trying to find flaws. If you catch yourself saying “somebody should,” start saying “I will.” It’s all attitude.
If this entire post sounds like it’s written with passion and emotion, it is, probably more than has ever appeared in any post on The Kneeslider. Some of you may already feel the way I do, but I believe every one of us can do so much more and waiting for some perfect alignment of the planets with an economy humming along and everyone in good spirits before getting started will keep you from ever accomplishing anything at all.
None of us needs to be “given” an opportunity to do something great, each one of us can create our own opportunities. The skills and attitude that built this country can be renewed, the opportunities for each of us to get to work are already here, you just have to start.
If you have skills you can teach to someone younger, create an opportunity to do just that and begin. If you want to learn more skills, start learning. If you have a dream, begin working on it today. Right now is the time.
Join me in making this year the best year ever. It will make your life and the life of everyone around you better. I think that’s a goal worth pursuing.
One final note: I will be saying much more along these lines in upcoming newsletters with ideas, projects and other material that will not appear on The Kneeslider. If you want to be a part of it and you haven’t already subscribed, just enter your name and email in the form over in the sidebar and click “sign me up!”.