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I think it is important to note that the fast-food jobs with comparable pay are low level managerial positions, not entry level ones. You can start working for minimum wage at a fast-food job without any previous experience and/or skills. These jobs require very little training, and allow employees to add value almost immediately (and well before promotion to the $15-$20 an hour positions).

Contrast this to the skilled manufacturing jobs which require up front experience. Though many blue collar fields offer entry-level positions with on the job training, apprenticeships, and opportunity for advancement, this doesn't appear to be common practice in manufacturing. Why not? I think the main reason is that it is very hard for a low skill worker to add value to a manufacturing company. There aren't any comparable entry-level positions that allow the employee to learn while still being productive.

Because of this, hiring an unskilled employee for the purpose of training them is a huge risk, since it requires a significant investment. And since this industry is already very unstable with razor-thin margins, it's not something many employers seem willing to do, which is unfortunate.

So maybe the solution is coming up with better training programs, so that manufacturers can hire new employees without taking on such large risks?




I think the main reason is that it is very hard for a low skill worker to add value to a manufacturing company. There aren't any comparable entry-level positions that allow the employee to learn while still being productive.

And that is an artefact of industry killing on-the-job training and apprenticeships in any meaningful way.

My dad went from sweeping the floor to designing satellite test rigs with on-the-job training. My partner's dad went from painting ships to designing nuclear reactors with on-the-job training.

My dad never went to university. Started off helping out at my granddad's shop. Moved from there to an apprenticeship scheme at a local engineering firm. From there went into the drafting room. From there learned more engineering. When I was in my teens he was designing satellite test rigs for BA. Ended up a very expensive contractor specialising in conveyor systems of all things.

My partner's dad never went to university. Entered an apprenticeship scheme at Chatham Dockyard. Started off painting navy ships during construction. Moved into drafting office. Started doing more engineering work. Became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers as a Chartered Mechanical Engineer in 1966. Worked on the design and building of early UK marine nuclear reactors, nuclear containment facilities, etc. He ended up working in nuclear medicine before he retired.

On the job training is possible. Just nobody in the US and UK seems to want to do it any more ;-(

(Favourite "I wish I knew that at the time and kept it" moment from my youth. My dad always brought home used A1/A0 paper from his design work for me and my brothers to scrawl on. I remember one when I was about seven or eight that was of this massive array of tiny ovals in a mesh of wires. I though the pattern was cool and stared at it for some time, before turning over to try to improve my drawing of Spider-Man. I now know what I was looking at was an A0 schematic of some magnetic-core memory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic-core_memory). So wish I had that now so I could frame it for the wall ;-)


Who wants to enter a one-to-two-year unpaid training program for the privilege of getting a $10-15/hr position that's probably going to be gone in five years?




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