Unions, interviews, and worker shortages
Readers don’t like unions, don’t care for off-target questions during job interviews, and don’t fully believe there’s a shortage of engineers or skilled workers in the U.S. Those readers who do agree that the U.S. lacks skilled workers, point the finger at companies that refuse to do any employee training or pay commensurate wages and an education system that tries to get everyone into college.
Thanks, but no to unions
The recent commentary (“Time for Engineers to Think About Unionizing?” Jan. 19) is right about one thing; engineers do have a reputation for individualism and shy away from unions. But do unions offer better pay and benefits? For the most part, they do. However, I look at unions as placing a cap on my earnings. I can produce results and earn a higher wage in a nonunion company. Also, as a former union employee (U.S. Steel Workers), I was unable to perform even the easiest multitasking job. I could only do one thing at a time, which was inefficient and boring to say the least. This was not an option for someone who likes to create.
In my position today within a large organization of 25,000 employee’s worldwide, I feel like an entrepreneur as I can respond to various situations without fearing reprisal from colleagues concerned only with job preservation and working at a minimal pace. Besides, unions are notorious for protecting less-than qualified or derelict workers simply because they are union members.
I’ll take my chances in the nonunion masses any day and protect my hard-earned money from being used by union management to support their wealthy lifestyle and political interests that are not always in tune with the average union worker.
Unions are a racket, just like any other organization with power. They want to preserve the power within their small group of people. They are not necessarily looking out for the workers as they should be.
Odd job interview
If I caught one of my managers asking those type of questions (“How to Ace an Engineering Job Interview,” Jan. 19), I would escort them to the door. If you want to see how an employee performs, give them the rundown on a current problem you are facing and see how they approach it. Make sure to emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers. Watch them and talk to them, periodically picking their brain, while they work out a solution. This will give you a glimpse into their capacity to think, their creativity, aptitude in working with your company’s product, and their temperament. Plus, I always walk away from such interviews having learned something new.
Many year s ago, I was interviewed by a HR type who seemed to me to be smug and pompous. He asked if I was a plodder. I told him that if I were a plodder, I would have gone into human resources. I didn’t get the job.
It seems the only purpose such questions fulfill is to take a measure of just how many stupid, asinine, and totally irrelevant to actual performance questions a candidate is willing to tolerate. This can be a useful skill as an engineer.
No skilled U. S. workers and engineers?
The lack of qualified engineers and designers has nothing to do with academics (“Why does the U.S. lack skilled workers?” Blog entry). U.S. manufacturer’s don’t pay and education costs are rivaling the housing bubble. Hence, the cream of the crop use their engineering degrees to work on Wall Street where they can make a living wage. Want proof, you say? At my company, there are newly minted MIT graduate engineers who are forced to share a two-bedroom apartment among three renters.
I used to think the dumbing-down of public-school systems was a result of misguided but good intentions. But things are becoming so bad you have to wonder if it isn’t intentional. The biggest threat to a king’s power is not posed by other kings, but rather his subjects becoming fit to rule themselves. Perhaps this is all a ploy to mitigate the threat that an educated and capable (i.e., independent and critical thinking) pubic pose to those who want to rule them. I doubt it is really intended to dumb everyone down, but it does make you wonder if there isn’t a grain of truth in there somewhere.
As a former teacher, it seems to me that what we in the U.S. need to learn is that it’s a waste of time and energy to try to turn all highschool students into college students. Instead, we need to take a more European approach in which high schoolers are put into tracks based on their capabilities, aptitudes, and desires. That way, some go to college and others pursue vocational training. Each student gets what they need to be successful and will be ready to enter the workforce. And don’t forget those in jobs using vo-tech skills can earn just as much or more than those with jobs requiring college degrees. Just look at teachers compared to plumbers or electricians.
The problem with our current system is that the schools try to prepare everyone for college. The fact is that on average only 10 to 20% of high-school grads continue on to college, and only 10% of those make it through college. In other words, our current system works for 1 to 2% of the students. You would think someone, especially educators, would realize this and change it.
Another contributing problem is that most current high schools don’t teach basic personal- finance skills. Guess what the number one reason is for quitting college? Finances.
You’ve taken a corporate manager’s statement about a lack of skilled workers as gospel and ran with it. Perhaps you could investigate if a “shortage” actually exists. Our firm gets over 600 qualified applicants every time we have an entry-level apprenticeship opening, absolutely unheard of ever before. And the part-time worker at Home Depot that sells me conduit fittings is a mechanical engineer with 18years experience. (His previous company shut down its U.S. operations.) Unemployment is at record highs.
There appears to be little evidence indicating a lack of skilled U.S. workers, but plenty of evidence pointing to a cover story trying to justify giving U.S. jobs to other countries. Perhaps, as one previous letter writer said, the problem developed when pure greed and ambition replaced skill, responsibility and plain old common sense as job requirements for managers and corporate bigwigs.