The UAW.and have just completed negotiating a new contract. and each has provisions for increased job protection.
This will be very workable if the business climate remains as strong as it has been for the last few years. When times are good, people think this time it's different, and it'll just keep rolling on. But it wasn't that long ago that the Big Three were really struggling. Sales were down. there was plenty of red ink, plants were closing, andCorp. was on the verge of bankruptcy.
You can't have job protection if a company is in danger of going out of business.
There's only one way to achieve job protection, and that's by keeping the company competitive. It has to develop innovative products that people will buy and have manufacturing processes capable of producing cost-effective and quality products. This can only be achieved b a ca able and well-trained work force.
Unfortunately, our base of such people is deteriorating. Just look at our trade balance, which has been unfavorable favorable for years. This means only one thing: Overseas seas manufacturing sources are becoming more competitive in our market.
In short, if you want job protection, you must be competitive, which means, we must increase our base of skilled tradesmen, technicians and engineers. It doesn't mean creating more MBA's. Right now, it's easy for business schools to tempt young people to pursue a career in business. All they do is point to the big money being made by people with business and financial backgrounds.
I just read that the top five officers of a major investment house made over $80 million between them. Can you imagine the outcry if the same thing were to happen at some auto company? As it turned out, there wasn't a murmur.
Is it any wonder that the best of our youth are so easily lured into business schools? They're not dumb; they go with the money.
But this is not good for the country as a whole, and I hope eventually it will change. Unfortunately, the environment is not conducive to getting young people to pursue careers in, manufacturing - but there are ways to improve this situation.
I still think a properly designed apprentice program to train the required skilled tradesmen has merit and is best spearheaded by the union. When it comes to training engineers, it should be strictly management's responsibility. This requires more than conversation: Management must get much more involved A good place to start is with recruitment of high school students.
Some people may feel there are higher priorities than encouraging students to attend engineering schools. They think the emphasis should be put on college seniors about to graduate. I disagree. Look at it this way: Recruiting the best high school talent for sports programs such as football, basketball and baseball is given the highest priority at many universities. Why shouldn't we put the same emphasis and effort in recruiting engineers?
Many managers probably feel they can make better use of their time, yet I'm willing to bet that plenty of managers find the time to recruit a hot high school running back to their alma mater.
I know football is important, but maintaining the long-term viability of a company is infinitely more important. This attitude has got to change. It's no longer acceptable for companies to sit around and cry that the engineering schools aren't doing their jobs. Besides encouraging the best and brightest high school students to go after engineering degrees, I would urge companies to provide guidance, loans, scholarships, speakers for student rallies and other resources.
I also would encourage co-op and summer intern programs in the plants. They enhance academic training and give students real hands-on experience. Companies can upgrade a co-op program by exposing the more advanced students to research programs such as electric cars or alternate fuel programs.
These ideas are not as far out as they might seem. Not long agoCorp. had such a school that operated very much the same way.