01 July 2013

Jobs that don't go away

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.  - Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love.

I do appreciate the sentiment of the quote, but there is a problem with it, for me, in that I grew up in a socialist household and it was preached at me that an hour's work is worth an hour's work, no matter what you do.  That came from the conception of communism and collectivism that put forward a bucolic view that all work was equal and that a man should have equal results from spending a day where he fished for a couple of hours, then tended his garden, mended his clothes, shoed his horse and then went and did an hour of real work and yet would receive recompense for the entire day doing things.  Karl Marx railed against the breaking down of work into smaller processes that could be specialized and each sub-process done quickly by an individual who only had to learn one skill to work for a wage.  This is called a 'division of labor' and Marx hated it as it divorced humans from the world where they should be able to do anything they wanted and have equal recognition for that work.  As much as a number of people adore Heinlein, I hate that quote as it speaks to the division of labor and what it has allowed the world to accomplish.  It has a mistaken belief behind it that any human can turn their hand to any task and be equal in performance, results and pay.

And yet that is just not the case, is it?  You should be able to turn your hand at various things in your life, yes, but your results will vary. 

I'm a generalist, believe me on that.  Being able to turn your hand to any task requires a mindset, an attitude and an aptitude to accept failure and that failure is an indictment of lack of skill, by and large, not a lack of trying.  You don't get paid for trying, you get paid for doing.

In America, today, we have an unemployment problem and it has nothing to do about unemployment and lots to do about how our society has changed its evaluation of work.  Since the start of the Progressive Era, the one that would try to make those who went through school as unlike their parents as possible, there has been an inculcation of the meme that 'to get ahead you need a diploma' or that 'a college degree means you will make more at any job you do'.

These are lies.

I saw that directly as I took up geology in university and the US had just hit the 'oil patch': the place where geologists from the small oil companies, some with multiple degrees under their belts, were flipping burgers just to get by.  A degree, higher education as a pathway to a good job are lies.  At the same time as I was getting a degree in geology, I was putting enough course work in to nearly minor in computer science, my second early love, and that proved to be a rewarding combination.  Note that these are not areas in the 'humanities' or ones that have a racial or ethnic or gender hyphen to them: math is required.

So are labs.

The lab work is that extra credit hour that goes with the main course and without which you don't get a grade.  A putative one hour lab never lasts one hour... and it doesn't matter if they only get the room for one hour or not unless it is the strictest form of lab where you must hand in your observations and results right there at the end of one hour.  I had, exactly, one of those.  Physics, of course, show all work and hand it in as far as you can process it through because methodology means more than results: do the right method and the results should follow.  A lab for seismic prospect, however, could eat up the minimal lab time and then, as you got to keep the results to keep on working at them, you could spend untold hours after the actual lab to get results.  There, in the drilling for oil and gas realm, results matter and your methodology better be correct.  Those labs are ones where you could easily spend ten or twenty hours and be working right up to the hand-in time... and only then find out the professor didn't give out enough information at the start... yet, even for the wasted time, you learned a lot.  Ditto the chemistry labs and labs on things like sedimentation where you could get one wrong sieve in place and lose a week's worth of work that you just don't have time to go back and complete because time and gravity determines how quickly sediment settles.

You can't BS your way to lab results.  Period.  And yet lab work is just a reflection of how gathered material and information are examined, and in geology that means you get field work to do the initial gathering.  Gathering data by something other than remote sensing and actually doing 'ground truthing' can lead to jobs that take you to the middle of absolute nowhere and then involve mucking around in soils, sediment, rock, rivers and streams, and then know that the tent you brought with you is your only real form of life support and comfort.  At the end of every long, winding dirt road is something a geologist wants to look at... or at least that is the way it seemed during field camp.

What you get from the sciences, engineering, technology and machinist world is one in which your political viewpoint doesn't get results.  Results are done through procedure, process, verification and testing.  If you think just because you are of some race, gender, ethnicity or that you are 'special' in any way, shape or form: try doing some work in the fields where education only matters in getting results via proper method, not good feelings.  At the height of the insanity in the old USSR there was the actual belief... taught understanding... that Communist science was different from Capitalist science.  That what you believed would offer you an entirely different set of Natural Laws.  Scientists outside the USSR came up with a term to describe this sort of thinking (I mean that is what those in the sciences do, after all, is discriminate and define... not attempt to define and then force the world to work to the definition) which holds for the entire field of 'good feeling' above hard results via methodology:  Lysenkoism named after Trofim Lysenko.  Lysenkoism believes in predetermined results and then doing everything to prove the results, including adulterating lab results to fit the predetermined schema.  Luckily Lysenko got Stalin to believe in this process and it set Soviet genetics back by decades, which is very lucky as it set their bioweapons programs back by the same amount.

Anthropogenic Global Warming is a form of Lysenkoism.  Anything that shows contrary to the predetermined belief that the globe is warming due to mankind's industrialization, like temperature readings showing that the globe has been cooling for a few decades, is thrown out in favor of the predetermined result.

Now with students graduating with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for their higher education, we are seeing that the predetermined belief that a college education gets you a decent job... and therefore a good life... is a lie as well.  It is Lysenkoism in service of Progressivism, and when you can tell them apart, let me know, wouldya?  The result of making sons and daughters as unlike their parents as possible is the destruction of the work ethic and the understanding that there is no such thing as a bad job.  That took me awhile to understand growing up, as I also had that belief, but after temping out doing all sorts of jobs, I learned differently.  And with college graduates with hyphenated degrees, degrees in the 'humanities' that have little to do with human nature and more about political indoctrination, we now find ourselves with a decaying infrastructure and little to no appreciation of what it takes to actually have a civilized, modern world.

Mike Rowe started out with about a single seasons of Dirty Jobs to do at the Discovery Channel, and figured that would be it.  A nice program to fill up some time  after he had quit being an opera singer because, really, he was an understudy and would probably always be an understudy.  I'm sure there are films about how all you need is one Big Break of the Star Performer having laryngitis, getting a broken leg, etc. for the understudy to come forward and shine... but those are movies for Hollywood, not real life.  In real life, results matter.  Mike Rowe has a great voice for TV and his voice-over narratives on shows like Deadliest Catch, amongst many, gave him a way to feed himself while he looked for other work he could do.  Dirty Jobs let him explore that 'other' work... and then the fans kicked in for seven more seasons of the program's material.  At Profoundly Disconnected there is a graphic that sums up the decades of lies comparing the poster at the guidance counselor's office and what Mr. Rowe has learned about the world:


Photo courtesy: Profoundly Disconnected

Because of the glowing belief of the 1970's that children should be aspiring to the sheepskin and not to the factory floor, we are now at a point where the jobs of actually cleaning and maintaining our modern infrastructure is putting civilization at risk.  Our way of life depends on jobs that include: welders, pipe fitters, ditch diggers, masons, sanitation workers, and much, much more.

Julie Kantor at the HuffPo, and that is a leftist, progressive rag if they actually printed the thing, but since it is done with electrons and semi-conductors you don't get bird cage liner, was out doing her bit to help create some livable space for monkeys and ran into Mike Rowe:

Rowe with his signature baseball cap and jeans pointed out that in the '70s, colleges created a poster campaign that told us to work smarter not harder, and the campaign was spectacularly successful! Rowe also shared his view that this campaign was the worst advice ever given. Why?


Out went vocational education and skills-based learning for jobs.

In came college, college, college-bound, NCLB, college loans, and over a trillion in debt.

We shifted focus off of skills and trade and the great equalizer of our country became to get kids college bound and degreed.

We became a country where testing scores are currency and not whether a child can show up on time, a positive mental attitude, focused resume and a work ethic to become an expert in a craft or skill.

We forgot how to just make something that America could sell and many 'dirty jobs' were viewed as beneath us in our quest to work smart but not necessarily hard.

Mike and others have pointed out time and time again to us that most jobs require a two-year degree (yeah, community colleges!) or less, and technical training and certifications. Also pointed out is that many of these jobs, especially if technology or engineering are involved, can start with salaries in the late 40's and 50's. The U.S. Department of Labor shares that only 18 percent of jobs require a 4-year college degree.

"We must be prepared with the skills for America so America will be prepared," said the dynamic youth president on the podium at opening night. The event resembled a Junior Olympics or rock concert with "America Needs Me" posters abound.

I spoke to him afterwards and he would like very much to be a STEM teacher in Automotive Technologies for a few years once he finishes his two-year degree and he plans to continue his education from there.

Rowe suggests that the new motto should be to 'Work Smart and Hard.' That's a campaign we can all get behind. Whether you go to a 4-year college, or a 2-year college, or get some vocational training, know what the jobs you want requires education-wise and what jobs pay to help you map out your decisions and training. Now that's smart!

I hope you will also be touched for the very first time by SkillsUSA and groups like 4H, Girls Scouts, DECA, YearUp, Invent.org, Youthbuild, NFTE and more that teach real deal skills.

And companies... if you haven't already and your struggling to hire...

The estimates vary, but there are between 3 and 5 million dirty jobs in the US going unfilled.  These jobs impact getting construction work done, maintaining roads and bridges, replacing water mains and sewer systems, maintaining and replacing the current electrical grid... none of this is glamorous, none of this is what you would call high tech, but each and every single item in our infrastructure will not last without maintenance and repair work.

We have changed from where being a politician was a job, to one in which it is a career... and yet politicians build nothing, create nothing, and only act as parasites within the organs of the civil body.  They stick around too long with ideas that are outmoded and seek a predetermined end.  Politicians love to classify things into jobs that require government... and they can and do build edifices and those are the warning signs that we must regard, today.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.

It was, however, sacked in three.

What is the amount of time it takes to go from civilized society to being uncivilized?  Three days.

We are missing hundreds of thousands... millions... of jobs by teaching a generation that they are 'special' and that everything they do is 'special' and that Big Brother Government will always take care of them when they fall down.  From our history we can see that Rome also stood on a similar precipice, where the freeman was marginalized by the slaves and freedmen who were connected to the rich, while the citizens of Rome became marginalized.  Yet the Eternal City would not fall completely, even after sacking... that would take a later invader who understood that the aqueducts allowed Rome to be the size it was, and destroyed them.  For its day that was a complex system, and yet in mere years, Rome shrunk from Imperial Capital sized to modest town by a river size.

What killed Rome wasn't the sacking, but the aqueducts being destroyed at key points.  The sacking of Rome was a mere warning sign on the road to barbarism, and yet it was not seen as such.

That is where our civilization now stands: awaiting some key failures for vital infrastructure that we have no one to deploy to repair.  We have seen the acts of barbarism but do not understand that they are symptoms of a disease, at best, not the thing, itself.

Imagine the main water system and supply of any major city not undergoing a terrorist attack, but just failing at so many points due to neglect that the entire system begins a cascade of failures that turns a major metropolitan area into something that only the surface carrying capacity of the water and ditches can support.

The Progressives grew out from Marx's ideas.

If you adore Heinlein you are looking to become a generalist.

I'm letting you know that the good skills necessary to support yourself and others aren't hard to get... Mike Rowe understands this... but you are only special when you are doing a function that is necessary to the support of civilization. 

From Gods of the Copybook Headings by Rudyard Kipling:

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
"If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

If you don't work, you die.

Plan for a job and a life, first.  Then figure out what you need to get it.

Not the other way around.

And if you have no idea what you should do... pick up some welding skills.  Carpentry.  Brick laying.  Pipefitting.  Electrician.  Plumber.

And if you can't decide, just start doing jobs and picking up skills as they come by.  For while specialization builds a civilized society and infrastructure, the generalist survives its collapse.  That collapse is always just three days away.  You can still do other things when being a specialist on the job... I heartily recommend it!  Do not let your job define you.  You must define yourself and your job is just something you do.

The skills are way cheaper than a four year degree, and won't leave you with a mountain of debt.  And you should be able to find a job in THIS ECONOMY to start your life.  Decent pay.  Debt free.  Good job.  Do you really want more out of live.

Temp out if worse comes to worse, and get a cross-section of skills: refuse nothing from cleaning out old warehouses to setting up pools on windy days to going out in the field to collect soil samples from waste dumps.

Oh, illegals aren't doing these jobs NOW and won't be doing them if they become legalized, just so you know.

'Lose the suits, grab some boots and get a Dirty Job.'

- Mike Rowe and the unofficial theme song of Dirty Jobs.

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