Ed Kaske’s origin story illustrates that it does not matter how you get into the gear trade. Once you are “in” your success depends upon your willingness to take risks and to work hard. The burr bench is one of the nastiest jobs in the shop and it is not unusual for new hires to quit within hours, not days or even weeks. Another less-than-choice entry level job is drill press operator; yet I know two multi-millionaire gear executives who spent many “quality” hours pulling those handles and brushing away those oily chips.
Automation threatens to eliminate many low-skill, entry-level jobs, but there will always be a need for hungry, hard-working people in our shops. In some operations, such as very fine pitch gearing, the manual dexterity needed to delicately remove burrs has yet to be equaled by robotic hands. On very large gears, it may never be practical to mechanize burr removal. These technical considerations aside, a fresh set of eyes and nimble fingers connected to an inquiring mind are the best attributes an organization can seek in new hires.
And new hires owe it to themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. There are few “safe paths” in the modern work world where you are competing against the entire planet to produce the highest quality widgets at the lowest possible price.
When you take your next plant tour, take notice of the support cast. Which one of those janitors, loaders, burr bench hands, or drill press operators will be leading a shop twenty years from now? You can count on them to be watching you and everything else that is going on today — learning what they can and pondering it when they fall asleep at night. Be someone who inspires them — not a “bad example” they use to educate a future “up and comer.”