Monday, November 19, 2012


The Mustache of Understanding:

Tapani eventually found a welder from another firm who had passed the American Welding Society Certified Welding Inspector exam, the industry’s gold standard, and he trained her welders — some of whom took several tries to pass the exam — so she could finish the job. Since then, Tapani trained a woman from Stacy, who had originally learned welding to make ends meet as a single mom. She took on the challenge of becoming a certified welding inspector, passed the exam and Tapani made her the company’s own in-house instructor, no longer relying on the local schools.

“She knows how to read a weld code. She can write work instructions and make sure that the people on the floor can weld to that instruction,” so “we solved the problem by training our own people,” said Tapani, adding that while schools are trying hard, training your own workers is often the only way for many employers to adapt to “the quick response time” demanded for “changing skills.” But even getting the right raw recruits is not easy. Welding “is a $20-an-hour job with health care, paid vacations and full benefits,” said Tapani, but “you have to have science and math. I can’t think of any job in my sheet metal fabrication company where math is not important. If you work in a manufacturing facility, you use math every day; you need to compute angles and understand what happens to a piece of metal when it’s bent to a certain angle.”

Who knew? Welding is now a STEM job — that is, a job that requires knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math.

Applying my STEM skills, $20/hr x 40 hrs x 52 weeks = $41,600, which is nice, I suppose, but for a specialized array of physical and mental skills, couldn't they just pay more? $20/hr. might sound like a lot if you haven't been paid an hourly wage since a summer job 20 years ago, but it doesn't go so far today.

What's particularly aggravating about this case is that it is in the defense industry. How many other people with fewer and more commonly held skills are making way more money off this Humvee armor? Pretty much everyone else probably. It isn't like they have to shave off pennies here to compete with Walmart Humvee armor.

Also, note that they "solved the problem by training our own people," anyhow. So why was this article even necessary?

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