Don't Sweat The Shadow

A traveler hired a donkey and his owner to convey him to a distant place. The day being intensely hot, and the sun gathering strength, the traveler stopped to rest and sought shelter from the heat under the shadow of the donkey.

Columns From: 6/1/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

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A traveler hired a donkey and his owner to convey him to a distant place. The day being intensely hot, and the sun gathering strength, the traveler stopped to rest and sought shelter from the heat under the shadow of the donkey. As this afforded only protection for one, and as the traveler and the owner of the donkey both claimed it, a violent dispute arose between them as to which of them had the right to the shadow.

The owner maintained that he had rented the donkey only and not his shadow. The traveler asserted that he had, with the hire of the donkey, hired his shadow also.

The quarrel proceeded from words to blows, and while the men fought, the donkey galloped off.

The moral of this fable: In quarreling about the shadow, we often lose the substance.

What does this fable, adapted from the 19th century translation of George Flyer Townsend in Leadership, May 2, 2000, have to do with preparing the workforce? Actually, a lot. The donkey’s shadow in the fable was the very scarce resource fought over by the two men.

Increasingly, today the precious resource we fight over is available, trainable people to fill the growing list of job vacancies. We can choose to fight as an employer with the supplier (a school) and complain about the quality of candidates coming from the schools. As we continue to do so, we probably will watch the donkey (the students) gallop away to other pastures (job opportunities and career fields).

Alternatively, we can choose to bolster school programs and help them attract more students and better prepare the ones they have. Every job requires a tool, and there are tools to assist you for this one, too. One great tool is getting students exposed to the dazzling array of technology in the metalworking field. No better opportunity will exist than to get your area’s students, their parents and their instructors to attend and participate in the IMTS 2000 Student Summit. (Remember, it’s in Chicago from September 6-13, 2000.)

Other tools exist to help schools improve upon their quality. Urge your supplying schools to earn accreditation for their metalworking programs. Yes, metalworking programs can earn recognition for meeting quality programming and outcome standards as defined by the metalworking industry through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. Students, too, can prove their trainability by earning NIMS credentials. The latter involves a performance assessment to 100 percent accuracy and passing of a related theory test written by subject matter experts from shops across the country.

Seek to assist schools not because it’s a good thing to do, but rather because it’s good business. The competition for available employees is going to get worse over the next five or more years. Jobs and career opportunities simply are growing faster than the number of people entering the workforce. An increasing number of job openings are going to go unfilled. Your task as a company or a business owner is to assure as best you can that when you need to hire there will be people available. This means developing close relationships with schools and other training programs, and being part of the team to make them better and attract students to their programs. A truism in education is that the higher the quality of a program, the greater the demand for entry into it.

Encouraging students, instructors and parents is a responsibility for every shop, company and business owner in the field. It is simply good business to do so. Other commentators for this column already have indicated ways you can accomplish this encouragement. I’ve added a couple, too. The competition for students’ attention is real; it’s now! Be part of a team of companies working with training suppliers and students, but get involved so that your company can benefit. As the well known, modern-day philosopher Michael Jordan has observed, “There is no ‘I’ in teamwork . . . but there is in WIN.”

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