Readers respond to the skilled worker shortage

May 31, 2006
Read these real-life anecdotes about the shortage of skilled workers that is leading to the Maintenance Crisis. We are withholding the names to protect the honest.

Joel Leonard has been very busy launching a new multi-craft apprenticeship program, developing Skill-TV Internet content, meeting with government leaders current and past, conducting radio interviews, setting up the Thursday, July 20, MPACT Skilled Maintenance Job Fair, and recruiting more bands to record his song (he mentioned something about a Polka version).

In between, he’s fending off predators from his 11-year-old daughter (who is already 5 ft. 7 in. tall), growing ingredients for “High Maintenance Salsa” (you can check out his “girlfiends” at http://gretasgarden.blogspot.com) and taking care of his dad, a retired physician. He’s one busy man.

So this month, instead of his usual column, we’re publishing some of your responses to his call for real-life anecdotes about the shortage of skilled workers that is leading to the Maintenance Crisis. We are withholding the names to protect the honest.

Generation gap

One of the largest contributing factors to the Maintenance Crisis in my experience is the limited amount of skills in the hands-on work needed for maintenance. In southeast Michigan, in particular, there seems to be a culture of, “I come to work, so you owe me,” rather than the concept of an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

The majority of people who I interview seem to believe that just because they went to college and have some education, they are automatically at the top of the list. The problem is, they don’t have the experience to troubleshoot and repair the machinery, but they do expect to make top wages.

We have lost the hands-on skills required to perform maintenance work and to keep the machinery working. Everyone wants to work in a nice, clean environment and not get dirty, or they have a specific skill with no ability to multitask. On the other side of the generation gap are the candidates who have worked from the ground up, can do all of the repairs and have the skills, but don’t want to get the education to keep up with advances in technology.

It is a double-edged sword and really shows the gap between the work generations. Most of the younger generations doesn’t want to work where their parents have worked, nor do they look for a long-term job. The younger generation has a nomadic concept of work. Couple this with the advent of trying to balance the two in a shop environment in a declining economy (especially in Michigan) and it makes for a challenging work environment.— B.B.

Keep shouting

I have attended a couple of the local high schools on Career Day and talked to the students about careers in our industry.  It is sad to note they don’t even think about where they get the power and products they use every day. Most think it is all automatic and run by robots, so why would they want to look at that as a career?

Never, never, never stop shouting about the need for good skilled maintenance and the need to train those who will be or are following us retiring engineers. We’re outsourcing all of these industries so CEOs can leave with multimillion-dollar severances or retirement packages, and maintenance is cut again and again. Where in the world do these people think the products and services they are outsourcing are going, and who is going to have an income to buy what they are sending overseas to be made?

You must have a career and a job to buy a product or service. — C.D.

If you have direct experience of the effects (or lack thereof) of the Maintenance Crisis, please tell Joel about it at the address below.

Contact Joel Leonard at [email protected]

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