Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An open letter to the unemployed seeking good jobs

This is an actual open letter that I just found on Worcester, MA Craigslist in the Manufacturing section. He describes himself as a business owner who's frustrated at not being able to fill the positions in his factory and seems to be a genial (if semi-illiterate) soul and an all-around nice guy. But, as often happens with Us and Them, there's a certain disconnect often producing a tendency for the employer to blame their workforce or potential hires for existing evils. Outsourcing is one of them, a fact he sort of addresses in his open letter. Gee, isn't it guys like him and not we the workers who send our jobs to China and Mexico? I'm living proof of someone who's trying to get a factory job and am being denied employment time and again for unknown and unknowable reasons. So, here's his letter in full, ver batim and below that, un-italicized, my rejoinder to him:

There are so many people out of work these days, Did you know that manufacturing jobs have hundreds of thousands of unfilled positions across the USA?
Manufacuring has some kind of stigma attached to it that is just not true. Todays CNC machine shops, for example, are state of the art, bright,clean manufacturing facilities with modern CNC enclosed machine equipment.

Thes are also safe jobs, as there are so many saftey precautions now, that your in more danger crossing the street!

Did you know a good machininst who can program and setup these machines to make parts, can earn 20-30+ dollars per hour? (41k to 62K plus range plus benefits!) With overtime, even more!

If you have the drive to learn these skills, there is a LOT of oppurtunity out there for a lot of people. Manufacturing used to be the backbone of the USA, we need to get that back!
Take advantage of the oppurtunities! Take pride in what you can make and actually hold it in your hand! College costs are through the roof and may not be worth the cost anymore!
Vocational schools are still teaching these skills, and are there for night programs as well!

I want to raise awareness of the situation in manufacturing and hope this letter will inspire some people to take this path to success!
(Frustrated Company Owner who cannot fill good paying positions in the CNC machine shop, despite the high unemplyment rate)

I am one of the unemployed seeking good jobs that you'd addressed in your open letter. Here are some of the problems I have with it.

#1, business owners as you are purported to be almost invariably go through temp agencies, which have ceased becoming employers or facilitators of employment and, starting just over a decade ago, became mere paper-pushers who forward along resumes so their clients get first refusal rights on people they often refuse to meet. Contracting through a temp agency under the current protocols makes little sense because the process has gone from being streamlined (i.e. sending workers directly to the work site) to being the exact opposite. It takes longer for guys like me to find work, it takes the temp agency case manager longer to make a commission, it takes you longer to get those jobs off the shipping bay floor while you hem and haw about finding the perfect candidate and it takes your customers longer to get their orders filled. From a purely business standpoint, going through temp agencies makes little pragmatic sense since you wind up paying 50% or more over the worker's actual wages. You're better off just cutting out the middleman and hiring directly. Massachusetts is an employee at will state, a despicable legal designation that allows people like you to fire people like me on a moment's notice for little or even no reason.

#2 The current zeitgeist states that training is a drain on the bottom line and that only experienced people will even be considered, let alone interviewed let alone actually hired. The presumption is that there are so many unemployed people in this country that you're bound to find, by dint of the law of averages, a qualified person that doesn't need to be trained.

This is fallacious in the extreme. #A, it's short-sighted and seems to be predicated on the presumption that the existent workforce is immortal and will never die, retire or move laterally to other careers. By your rubric, when these workers currently running the world and what's left of our factories finally do disappear, we'll have a vast workforce of people 20-60 or so who will be untrained and more vulnerable than ever to being forced to work for low wages and no benefits because no one gave them an opportunity a decade or two ago.

#B, even among ISO-certified companies, everyone has their own way of doing things. The process, at some point, has to slow down while someone explains to the new hire who is where, does what, where certain things are kept, etc. Training at some level is all but inevitable. But as long as your fellow business owners continue this prejudice against training and are quite comfortable with making fewer people work harder for the same money and having job descriptions expanded and consolidated while you hem and haw in your search for that guy who walks on water, nothing will change, certainly not for the better.

A little over a decade ago, I was given an opportunity by my company for which I will ever be grateful. I was promoted off the floor and into the Quality Control dept. I had in my corner a contract acquisitions engineer at Boeing who saw something in me worth cultivating. On his initiative, I was given the full court press by my company and I had the job all along.

After 9/11, my job was phased out because of the deleterious effect on the airline industry whom we'd served for decades. I wasn't able to start a career arc capable of getting anyone's attention nor was I able to get ASQ, Six Sigma or any other kind of certification that would've made my skills more marketable.

After my lay off, I began getting calls from head hunters and "staffing" agencies that had seen my resume on the internet and that's when I began hearing that they'd suddenly moved from simply putting us to work to forwarding  resumes along. Suddenly, all QC jobs required 3-5 year's experience, plus a degree.

To reiterate, I was promoted into QC after temporary stints in the department. There was no demand for degrees, certification, equivalent experience. I didn't have to undergo the humiliation of a criminal or credit background check (as with my last interview 2 weeks ago). There were no barriers put between me and my promotion.

You seem to think that the fault for many of us not having jobs seem to rest with us, the workers. That's hardly true and I took great offense at your open letter.

Haven't you noticed over the last several years at how much of the manufacturing and general labor positions on Craigslist have been co-opted by temp agencies, many of them offering minimum wage? I've registered with nine temp agencies over the last 3+ years and have gotten precisely one interview because once they hear a "No" from one of their "clients", you never hear from them again because you're damaged goods.

These temp agency scumbags are avaricious, career-driven and if they can't even secure for you an interview, they harvest your job history and transform them into referrals so they can spam your former employers. People younger than my kids presume to tell even people my age (53) how to conduct ourselves during a job interview, take it upon themselves to rewrite our resumes and all the while adopt some arch, haughty attitude so that if they don't get exactly the response they're looking for, they're always ready to pull the plug as a means of threatening you to heel to.

So, you want to know why I can't get a job after losing my last fulltime gig almost four years ago? It's because the system has been rigged to favor those who already have an education, those who already have the experience. Even when I apply for jobs for which I'm qualified, I find that guys like you who love the idea of getting as much if not more done with less people have consolidated job descriptions. And when guys like you look at resumes of guys like me and get the slightest impression that I don't know how to do 5% of the job, I'm denied even a pre-interview and am persona non grata for the rest of my life.

It's not because we don't want to do factory work. That's where I feel most at home. But if your CNC jobs are going unfilled, maybe guys like you ought to get over your ridiculous prejudice about training, stop going through temp agencies, stop outsourcing our jobs overseas in order to "remain competitive" and pay a living wage and offer a benefit package that can actually sustain life.


At October 3, 2012 at 1:05 PM, Blogger D. said...

This is excellent. Mind if I link?

At October 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Sure. From where?

At October 3, 2012 at 3:36 PM, Blogger D. said...

Links back doesn't work for you, either, I see.

You're mentioned here:

You can delete this afterward.

At October 3, 2012 at 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JP: Just for the info file, "at will employment" is catalogued by the legal profession under "Master and Servant", nice huh?

At October 4, 2012 at 8:43 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Outstanding. Serving at the pleasure of your master, in other words.

At October 7, 2012 at 5:51 PM, Anonymous tmk said...

I (almost literally) taught myself to use multiple flavors of CNC lathes, and 3/4-axis VMCs, to the point where I was rewriting entire programs with the shitty edit functions the machines provided because it was easier than getting the idiots in the office to come out with a laptop and do it...

and nobody will even touch me at this point, because the aforementioned former employer has been sandbagging me to every place I apply to.

Because I told my supervisor the truth, which was the LAST thing he wanted to hear.

Sigh. ~:(


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