Finding Future Superstars

Fans of American football have moved on to the next phase of their pre-draft preparation: digesting the advice of hundreds of experts on which players their team should select. Of course, they have to squeeze this work into the time not used evaluating available free agents and studying the proposed collective bargaining agreement. Contrast this “crowd sourced” effort to the process your firm uses to find those “well trained employees” the executives claim they need in survey after survey.

My first gear industry employer was the last one that had an established system for developing “talent” in-house. The Apprentice Department had over 100 “kids” learning something like 31 jobs. Drafting apprentices like myself were very low on the totem pole, akin to kickers on a college football squad. The more critical positions were out in the shop, running machines or building tools to fit in those machines.

A machinist apprenticeship took 4 years, one year longer than a draftsman; at a time when only a few machines were computer controlled they had so much more to learn. Gear cutter apprentices started their 2 years of training after they had that machinist’s ticket; it was 6 or 7 years before a green kid was allowed to make gears on their own.

It took planning and money to keep that program going. The advent of computer controlled everything changed the human resources landscape permanently. No one knew how many machinists would be needed in the years ahead. When I started in 1971, the shop had an entire building filled with manual turret lathes; ten years later that 25,000 square foot building was home to maybe 2 manual machines and a like number of CNC versions. Instead of needing a dozen new journeymen a year, the company scrambled to find a programmer and “operators” who could load and unload those new “work centers.”

So I can somewhat understand why HR directors are always looking for “well trained employees.” We are 35 years into an unrestricted free agent market for manufacturing talent.

What can be done about it? How about a return to developing talent in-house? Those first CNC “programmers” tended to be curious machinists who were offered night classes at the local technical college. For more specific gear related jobs, there are more training opportunities than ever. Why not see if team members you already trust want to expand their skill sets into new areas? Check the magazine for AGMA sponsored seminars.

About Charles D. Schultz 659 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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