This is a guest post by my friend Silver. All credit for it goes to him. — C
In Making it Through the Next Normal Claire questioned possible roles for us old folks.
One of the things we oldsters can do to help the young folks through their coming trials is to teach them that they don’t have to be high profile, high paid, high stress, famous people to have good, satisfying jobs and wonderful lives.
- They felt that their work was important and valuable
- They could take pride in doing the job well, even if it was a simple job like pickup up roadkill or scrubbing out horrible dirty boilers.
- There was a natural and clearly defined boundary between work and daily living. Once you strip out of your incredibly filthy work clothes and shower, you are definitely off the clock. No one is calling the guy who picks up dead cows at midnight; they know he comes by twice a week.
- That natural boundary creates a work/life balance that fosters better relationships, better home life, more time for relaxation and hobbies, and so forth.
There is an acute and growing shortage in trades of all kinds. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics, brick layers, and many more. These jobs take a bit of training and those with aptitude will always do better. They also pay quite well.
Construction equipment dealerships across the nation have openings for heavy equipment mechanics. These jobs have a jack of all trades aspect. You have to know engines, hydraulics, a little bit of controls and computers, and most of all be able to troubleshoot, which means observing, thinking, trying, and observing again.
Classic OODA loop stuff. These jobs start with a pretty good salary, and while they require travel for the first few years, that also means expense accounts and overtime. Someone who applies themselves will be making a comfortable six figure salary in a few years when they are ready to buy a home and start a family. By that time they are the old hand that helps the youngsters who call in from their remote locations with the toughest problems.
Data centers are exploding, and while there is a large admixture of fed-induced bubble, our society is transforming itself and that is unlikely to change. Data center operators also are jack of all trades, they need to know electric power, heavy duty cooling, controls, networking, and computers. The pay is good and the hours fairly fixed, with occasional overtime in the wee hours.
All of the big companies are struggling to fill these positions, and there have been multiple presentations at industry conferences discussing the problem and possible strategies to
People like the Wandering Monk are also a useful role model. They set their own hours, charge what they please, turn down difficult customers, decide which jobs they like and which ones they don’t. The Monk will have work even in the depth of a collapse. He might get paid in produce or chickens but he will get paid. Not everyone has the necessary skills but that is true for anything real.
I’m afraid entrepreneurship and small business ownership as role models have become grossly polluted. The hard truth is that being an entrepreneur means being an employer, and employers will always be a tiny, despised minority. There is hardly a peep of protest when a new regulation or tax is imposed upon employers. We should be warning kids about that trap rather than telling them it is the way to happiness. It can be, for one in a thousand, but for most it is a path to bankruptcy and despair.
A retired friend of mine volunteers for a program for mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. They tell staggering tales of entitled, ignorant, mooching kids who refuse to write a business plan but think they deserve government grants to start a web page building service or a cupcake shop. It’s not entirely their fault. Too many “entrepreneurs” are people who dream up what is generally a foolish idea with no chance of making a profit. They find some greater fools to part from their money, burn it up, fail, and repeat. One in a hundred survives 3 years, one in a million makes a fortune, but that one gets all the publicity.
People who have the knack and the fire in the belly will figure out HOW a business works, which is different than the trade skill. Whether they are fixing trucks or pumping septic tanks, the ones who learn how to find and keep customers, hire and supervise employees, and save enough to buy some tools and train can build a successful business.
A successful bakery owner is rarely the best baker; they are the ones who understand how to tell that they need 25 dozen donuts today but only 14 dozen tomorrow because it is raining and a Wednesday.
You can hire young people off the street and supervise them as they mix dough, but the successful owner knows which dough to mix and how much, and how much to charge so that they sell all but one donut.
You can have a fine life as a baker without the heartache of owning a bakery. We need to help the younger folks to understand the difference between honest hard work and the tiny minority of people who are naturally cut out to run a successful business, despite the near universal prejudice and hatred awarded to employers.
There are places for factory workers and big firms; the people I see at US factories are
fairly well paid, seem happy, and are proud of what they do. The world needs doorknobs, and toilets, and bricks. Factory work is hard work and often more than a little dirty, and those dirty jobs can produce happy people.
So maybe what we need to teach the entitled, trained to be helpless infants in colleges is that they need to get a lot more dirty every day. It not only helps in all the ways I listed above, but for those who really are smart enough and driven enough to earn STEM degrees, a summer casting porcelain toilets will remind them for the rest of their lives why it was worth the time and sacrifice to get that education.