While the news media is heralding improved job and income growth, people in gear manufacturing are worried about the security of their jobs. Low mineral prices, the drop in oil prices, political opposition to fracking and wind turbines, and gridlock on infrastructure repairs have hurt our biggest customers. One perfect example: A 100+ year tradition of large gear manufacturing is coming to an end in the United States with the sale of Rexnord’s foundry.
It isn’t just in the United States, either. Thanks to the Internet I am able to stay in contact with an engineer who previously worked for a consulting client in Western Australia. He is with his third employer since our original project began four years ago, and has endured several months of unemployment along the way.
This gentleman has my admiration for the positive attitude he has maintained throughout this experience. From the family photos and comments online, you never would have guessed he was stressed out. Perhaps it is a better social safety net or just having his priorities right.
When people talk about the 1950s as a Golden Age for the American worker, I can’t help but wonder what data they are looking at. My father was a factory worker who never missed a day of work — when he wasn’t laid off. He took whatever work was available to keep a roof over our heads, and often worked two jobs. It took a toll on a young father; sapped him of his strength and took away his hopes for the future.
There are a few employment gaps in my resume. I remember the sleepless nights, the worry, fear of the neighbors finding out. For those of you going through this now, or facing the possibility of unemployment in the near future, I pray that you’ll maintain your dedication to family and friends. Don’t try to be Superman. Talk to your spouse and family and friends. Network when you can. Develop a plan. Our industry will recover, and reliable people will always be in demand.
Most of all — put those worries aside when you interact with your kids — they are only this age once. To quote one of my favorite musicians, Paul Thorn: “Don’t let nobody rob you of your joy.”