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Technical Schools & Natural Talent

When blue-collar employers hire from technical schools, what do they get, intellectual talent or technical talent? What does the employer want, intellectual skills or technical skills? To enter technical schools, students must achieve academic skills before they are allowed to develop technical skills. People who have natural intellectual talent are accepted, people who have natural technical talent are rejected.

Blue-collar employers hire technical students from the top of the class. One skill a college graduate is good at is writing impressive reports, that's how he got the the top of the class. The problem is, people who can write impressive reports do not have natural technical talent. The person who has natural technical talent is on the street looking for employment. He is not an intellectual and his report writing skills are in the dumps. What kind of technician does the employer want, report writers or people who have natural technical ability to get the job done? Supervisors like report writers, because it makes the department look good on paper, which, in many companies, has priority over getting the job done. For this reason, management gives high praise to students from technical colleges.

Technical training via the underground route.

It's not hopeless for technical school rejects. The alternative is to enter the professional world through the underground, meaning, bypassing the formal education system. The secret is to start in a small company that pays low wages. Employees natural talents are quickly recognize and opportunity is offered. This is how small companies can attract motivated young people.

The cycle continues... There are always companies that pay rock bottom wages, who always have openings, will ask few questions and hire anyone willing to accept a position. These companies are entry-level training grounds for the development of technical natural talent.

When the technician gains some experience, he moves to a company that pays average wages. In time, he can advance to a large company at top wages. They desperately need someone who has wide experience and knows how to get the job done.

I call "job hopping" the underground route to the top. The downside is, many technically talented people never find the underground route, opportunity that would lead them to a professional skill. Employers who need natural talented technicians can’t find them because their hiring criteria place academic achievement high on the qualification list.

The quote, "Job hopping is bad for your résumé," does not hold up in the blue-collar world. Employers want experience and job hoppers have a greater variety of experience than someone who is a one-company person. The personal office will complain about a job-hopping applicant, but will hire him for the variety of experience. In the blue-collar world, an applicant can increase his salary 25% to 50% by changing jobs. He could not get that with his current employer. Companies that pay top wages are not concerned with job hoppers, they are the end of the line. The plus side, they bring a treasure chest of experience, knowledge and new ideas to the company.

I job hopped my way to the top.

The above statements are based on my experience as a machinist during my twenties, 1955 to 1965. They also reflect experiences of many coworkers. I was rejected by technical schools and companies with formal apprentice programs. My big break came with the Panama Canal Company, Panama. During the interview, the interviewer seemed more interested in my attitude than my experience as machinist. In fact, at this time, I had not filled out an application form. At the end of the interview, I was told to fill it out. On the job, I soon found out why the attitude quiz. Craftsmen work with highly motivated coworkers in teams, a leadership style that was adapted during the construction days in 1905. I was assigned to a team and had ninety days to prove myself. Coworkers would determine if I stayed or went. I retired twenty-five years later. 

Looking back at the interview, I believe my attitude profile was being tested and found to be in harmony with current employees. What skills I lacked would be learned in team environments. I also believe the interviewer knew I was at the end of my job hopping days and would retire with the company. The starting wages were double my former job, plus opportunity I never dreamed possible.

Some craftsmen I worked with had college degrees, but remained with the trade. Because of the empowerment nature of the organization, there was greater decision making and promotion opportunity than at the engineer level. Engineers made decisions on long-term projects, such as adapting new technology, while craftsmen made decisions for the day-to-day operations. Employees, at all levels, developed high quality job skills. As a result, some of my coworkers and supervisors became self-made millionaires. 

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