Monday, October 8, 2012

Is my kid the future?

A year ago, June 2011 to be exact,  I had the great privilege to travel to Germany for a conference hosted by an organization call the Small Giants Community.  The idea of the Small Giants Community is to help companies build lasting relationships with like-minded individuals who understand that there’s more to running a business than just making money. (It's a great org to belong definitely take some time to check it out and explore)  The participants were from every industry and came from all around the world, so there was plenty to learn and share. Since we were on the cusp of emerging from the valley of the global recession everyone seemed to carry an optimistic tone, offering glimmers of hope with excitement about that year's final revenues.  But in all that optimism one dark stain continued to bleed through the sessions and round table discussions - the lack of good young talent.  It was just astounding that no matter what industry, country or company size my fellow participants were from, they all lamented over the lack of young talent to choose from.  Although I felt that Atlas had been pretty blessed over years in hiring talent we really weren't going through a growth spurt so I didn't have many "horror" stories to offer of my own. So I just listened and soaked it in. 

After the conference finished, a colleague and I finished up our trip by visiting some surrounding mills and manufacturing facilities throughout Europe.  As we walked through the various plants and spoke at length with some of the employees, I again would hear the struggles that these various mills were having in raising up and training young new talent.  It was such a problem that they were basically importing talent from surrounding cities or even countries.  Everyone was concerned to say the least.  From the stories I heard, it was quite clear that the tone of the younger generation (ages between 10-20 years old) was that they just didn't have an interest, a desire, or the educational tools needed to enter into the traditional Metals Industry.  And the local early elementary / secondary schools are not very supportive of the Manufacturing sectors as they once had been back in the 1950's & 1960's.

It's 2012 and this global dilemma has continued to stick with me, I keep thinking "What are we going to do?".  And not just as a company but as an industry.  Although we are a distributor I think about our future - in technical terms.  We have some amazing resources with Tom (Smith) & Eric (Grabowski) who have each been in this business for over 30+ years and either started in a foundry or a machine shop.  This of course is of great value because it enables them to truly understand what they are selling and enables us to help our customers in ways others can't. 

Sure as our kids get older and enter the workforce some could acquire skills and take a job on a desk as a Lead Supervisor or as a Sales Representative in a mill or a distribution center. But what about a career as a Foreman, Foundryman, or a Machininst.  Nowadays, how many kids dream of working in the hot and dirty foundry every day.  Especially when they aren't being taught about the value of foundry work and the contribution it holds to every industry in the world.  After all, when preparing the Sophomores and Juniors for college bound careers they usually aren't looking at the Metals Industry as an "exciting career field". 

Are we in America, going to let every other country rise up and develop all the new young talent and become the world leaders in new Casting Methods or Machining Capabilities?  Or will we decide as a nation, state, community or heck even household to expose our children and local schools to the amazing wonders found within Metals Industry.  I would love to see us engage, excite and encourage our kids to enter fields such as Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.  Recently, I read an article where a professor of Mathematics at La Salle University laments over the state of our US educational system:

DR. STEPHEN ANDRILLI, professor of mathematics at La Salle University, supervises the student teaching for mathematics education majors and is the author of an algebra textbook: "The decline in the number of math and science students is based on several factors: the standard of family living has gone up so much that most American children have cable TV, cell phones, computer games, etc., and are spending all of their time on these things rather than ‘hitting the books.’ Second, students are finding much of current education ‘boring’ because they are used to watching fast-paced videos where the picture changes every one or two seconds. Third, students on the middle-school and high-school level have no real idea, in most cases, what scientists actually do, and how much research is actually being conducted on a daily basis — that is, they do not know enough about the science professions to find them attractive. Math and science are generally considered harder than most other subjects, and students generally take the ‘path of least resistance’ as they move through high school and into college."  News Contact: Jon Caroulis, (4/20/05) redOrbit (

So going forward, I am pledging to introduce this great industry (which I do find fascinating, exciting and rewarding) to my kids and beyond.  I am hoping to teach them to think beyond becoming a doctor, a teacher or a business person (which are all great professions) and maybe just maybe consider a career in metals.  A career that supports just about every industry imaginable and touches every area of our lives.  Now I have been accused of being over dramatic in the past (as my husband says) - but I think this topic is indeed a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.  What do you think?

If you or anyone you know are already engaged in a program that educates or introduces the metals industry to today's young people - I'd love to hear your story!