This is Interesting

UpSmith is a startup focused on solving the shortage of skilled workers, as seen by employers, by addressing the problems of skill development and career mobility, as seen by employees.  As part of this effort, UpSmith wants to work on improving the image of skilled-trades jobs.

Can make an important contribution if it succeeds.

7 thoughts on “This is Interesting”

  1. This is basically a matching system: puts together employers seeking skills, individuals seeking to learn those skills, and training providers specialized in that skill area. These kinds of critical-mass systems (or ‘network effect’ systems) are hard to get to the critical mass point at which you start getting matches…but once they’re there, you have a huge advantage against new entrants.

  2. (Are there really a large enough number of people in HR organizations to absorb a significant % of the workforce, either male or female? I certainly hope not…HR can be a valuable function (Really….I’ve seen it with my own eyes), but should be small in proportion to other functions. (And, too often, now positioned as enforcers rather than as assistants to managers and employees))

    Worth thinking about: what are the skilled jobs that are (a) likely to appeal to women, (b) require significant training, and (c) don’t absolutely require a college degree???

  3. In answer to David’s question, one big one, is and has been nursing. Hospitals managed very well when nursing education was run by the hospitals themselves, with nursing students splitting their days between the wards and class rooms. It worked for my mother then, and it puts bodies in the hospitals and the students come out with an R.N. and wages instead of debt.

    Modern machining is an especially poor candidate for off site training whether at a community college or commercial “school”. And didn’t he government just get done putting all the trade schools out of business? How many 3/4 to 3 million dollar lathes will your community college have in their “lab”? Of the dozens of variants between manufactures and controls, will any of the graduates match any of the prospective employers. If you look around, it’s not hard to find YouTube channels dealing with machining parts where the bare slug of material might cost $15,000 or more. How do you work that into your budget? How many hours a week will a student get on one of these very expensive machines. Don’t forget that the tooling probably costs as much as the machine and is very job specific. Where do you get teachers with real world experience? They’re not going to have degrees and teaching certificate.

    In a way, machining is in the same bind as the air lines. They desperately need new pilots but the only way to train new pilots requires very expensive simulators and planes that are far too expensive to operate without paying customers. The military isn’t retiring nearly enough pilots to fill the need.

    There are plenty of machine shops (calling them machinist shops grates on the ear of anybody in the business) that have in house programs to train novices on real machines and real parts. There’s always been a track from starting loading machines and performing simple operations to operating machines to setting up to programming and building tools. All it takes is management that’s willing to look past the end of their nose and this quarter’s numbers to build for the long term. How many of those shops moaning about finding qualified people laid off all their prospects the last time business got a little slack?

    HVAC is probably an easier fit for an academic model but still requires good real world teachers and early and constant exposure to the real world. Trades naturally can be taught best by working on real jobs alongside knowledgeable and skilled workers. on second thought, I’d challenge someone to come up with any skill or job where that wasn’t true.

  4. Count me as an enthusiastic supporter of vo-tech schools.

    There is a fairly good sized one here in Prescott. Called the CTEC campus of Yavapai College. It is housed in a former Ruger manufacturing facility (the address is 220 Ruger Road :). In years past, when the Ruger family still ran the joint, they did contract manufacturing for a lot of customers. They were big in titanium investment casting (golf club heads & etc). When they closed out that effort, they sold/gave the facility to Yavapai College, who then transferred their Career & Technical Education Center there. I have not paced off the building, but I’d guess something like 100,000+ SF, 25+ ceiling height. Very nice facility with all sorts of utilities piped everywhere.

    In pursuit of my hobbies, I have been taking classes there for the last 6 years- welding, machine shop and auto body paint and repair. For me, all very basic stuff. Much more on offer to younger folks. A great deal of recruiting occurs there. A team from Drake Cement (a local Portland Cement plant) came by the machine shop class one afternoon to recruit entry level machinists. Very many fields of study yielding certificates. The welding department is large and graduate certificate holders are readily hired. Welding graduates are maybe 10% female. Those who get work as field pipeline welders make excellent money.

    No 1-3$ million lathes or machining centers, but lots of lesser CNC stuff. A good place to learn the basics to get an entry level job. A large percentage of the students here are on the GI bill, with tuition in the range of 100$-125$/credit hour, with a select few higher. Good value.

    Here is a link that lists all of the certificates available in the different departments. Included are all 6 locations where Yavapai College operates, not just CTEC.

    I will add that Yavapai County is large in land area (8,128 square miles), and of limited population ( 236,209). We are very fortunate to have this asset here.

  5. Raymondshaw,
    Yes to everything, especially the fortunate part.

    I probably overstated things. I still use some of the things I learned in Shop class in Junior High more years ago than I really want to think about. There is room to teach the basics in a classroom setting.

    Even a decent manual lathe costs $10,000+ with tools and material on top. There’s a lot of difference between making “a” part and producing hundreds or thousands.

    There were lots of entry level jobs in a machine shop, things like running a drill press or sawing blanks out of longer pieces of stock or even cleaning machines. It’s been a long time since I was in a real machine shop except as a customer and some of the simpler jobs have probably been automated out of existence.

    Still, the most important thing the schools can do to prepare their students for trade jobs is to make sure they are fluent readers and proficient in math. That they know when and how often to come to work and pay attention once there. All the things they were supposed to be teaching them all along for success in anything from collecting trash to rocket science that seems to have been lost along the way.

  6. MCS…”Still, the most important thing the schools can do to prepare their students for trade jobs is to make sure they are fluent readers and proficient in math. That they know when and how often to come to work and pay attention once there.”

    And that’s what will limit the number of people able to benefit from even the most-effective skills training program. I’ve talked to a carpenter who said new guys had trouble learning to read a ruler because they never learned fractional arithmetic, and a machinist who said new people had a problem learning to use a micrometer, because they didn’t understand decimals.

    There’s only so much a job-training program can do to make up for what the schools should have been doing over 12 or more years. Still, there are surely millions of people who can benefit from good skills-development programs, especially when those programs are closely linked to actual employers.

Comments are closed.