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If you build it, you are unusual

Posted by Bert Maes on December 15, 2009

Survey finds Americans avoid hands-on projects or repairs

12 december 2009 — By RICK BARRETT

In a poll of 1,000 U.S. adults, nearly six in 10 said they had never made or built a toy. Six in 10 avoid doing major household repairs themselves, noted the survey from The Foundation of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association

It’s worrisome because the “hands off” policy around the house has kept people from learning valuable skills — including ones associated with productive careers in the metal fabrication industry.

Many Americans simply do not work with their hands anymore, whether it’s to tackle a hobby for pleasure or to handle a necessary household repair. Young people essentially have no role models when it comes to fixing things or taking pride in building something,” said Gerald Shankel, Fabricators and Manufacturers Association president.

It’s no wonder why so many teens today dismiss the idea of a career in manufacturing,” Shankel said.

There’s a growing shortage of tinkerers and people with hands-on skills in the workplace. The Hudson Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., predicts the supply of skilled labor in the U.S. will not catch up with the demand until the year 2050. Many studies predict a labor shortage as waves of blue-collar workers reach retirement age.

A national poll of 500 teenagers, however, showed that 73% had little or no interest in those hands-on careers.

It’s absolutely critical for this mind-set to change because when America recovers from our economic downturn, there will be a dire need for skilled manpower in the trades,” said John Ratzenberger, producer of the television show “John Ratzenberger’s Made in America.”

We need to convey that such occupations are honorable ones,” Ratzenberger said. “And if adults are not showing by example the joys and feelings of accomplishment gained from tinkering, they at least should take time every week to encourage children to play with plastic tools or even take a household item apart and put it back together.

Reaching out to youth

At Milwaukee School of Engineering, students are encouraged to do hands-on work as part of their studies. MSOE also reaches out to children, encouraging them to tinker.

Kids love to touch things and do things,” said Julie Schuster, MSOE associate director of admissions. “We want to show them that things like fluid power can be fun. It’s important because by the time they get to high school they often have preconceived notions of what they want to do when they grow up.”

It’s a tragedy that we no longer teach our young people to work with their hands or even encourage them to try it on their own,” Ratzenberger said. “When so few experience a factory tour or can’t take pride in finishing a shop project, it’s no wonder that a manufacturing career receives low marks.

Even if manufacturing does not rebound, Ratzenberger added: “This country is going to be in trouble if we don’t have people who can weld or operate a backhoe. Who are you going to call when your air- conditioner breaks or the sewer backs up? A hedge-fund manager?

Eric Isbister, chief executive officer of General MetalWorks Corp.  said he agrees that we are becoming a nation of non- tinkerers, and he worries about the consequences. “If someone doesn’t know which way to turn a screw or what tool to use in fixing something, they will shy away from tinkering-type careers. Then we will have a nation of service workers and paper pushers.”

We won’t be able to invent new life saving technologies…

Source: Industrial Laser Solutions


One Response to “If you build it, you are unusual”

  1. […] Here is the original: If you build it, you're unusual « BERT MAES […]

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