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Wednesday, October 03, 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.
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Blogger human said...
Did you actually send that? I'd be interested to know if he replies.

Blogger Phil said...
Nail, meet hammer.

Dude, you nailed it. The motherfuckers don't want to pay for training anymore, period.
I just went through that whole placement agency to get hired bullshit and after one year, I have had ONE DAY of formal training on how to use a fucking pipe threader.
I work around super high pressures in containment vessels that can easily reach thirty thousand psi, electrical systems with four hundred and forty volts and potentially deadly gasses at high pressure.
All "on the job" learning. As a matter of fact, I learn something new every damn day and I have been wrenching for over thirty years.

One thing these asshole love to hear in the interview from guys our age is that we are looking for long term full time employment and want to find a place that we can work at until we retire in twenty years. Their eyes just light right up when they hear that.
They lie to you so lie right fucking back with a smile.

Good luck on the job search from a guy who has been there.

Blogger Patricia said...
That was awesome! The crazy expectations employers have now, blows my mind. When I go on Craig's List, I repeatedly see jobs with a laundry list of duties, that is so long, no human would be capable of accomplishing these tasks. This is usually my first hint that this employer will be impossible to please.
Not only that, but the pathetic wages, often without benefits, if you can get full time that is. I wish you luck, you must be so angry, I can't blame you. This job market blows, so do the attitudes of many employers.

Blogger Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Bob said...
So true. They don't want the time & expense of in house training. But that's how local governments, like counties (& some Federal agencies), keep so many of their jobs filled. Hire off civil service list to general qualifications, train to specifics. Then Repugs come along, say it's wasteful, cut the training, can't find qualified applicants, then privatize whole damned departments that end up costing more than when government handled it all.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Terrific post, and absolutely right!


Yeah, they like people to take out loans to get training they may or may not be able to get jobs with as the employers carp about as you say the 5% of the job you might not know already.

How inefficient is it for people to train without knowing if they can EVER get hired? How efficient, by contrast, is it for employers to train people for jobs they in fact have?