Industrial Insight

we need artisans… | December 16, 2011

Casteel Commentary

The SFSA Board of Directors is interested in exploring the possibility of establishing an apprenticeship program for skills needed in a steel foundry. Many companies had apprenticeship programs prior to 1980. The dramatic drop in business and the lack of any near term need for apprentices cause most of these programs to be eliminated. Our industry to grow and prosper will need skilled workers.

Unfortunately, our North American culture has the conception that everyone that fails to graduate from college is a failure. Why we consider a librarian with a BA degree in humanities making $25,000 a year a success and a welder making $70,000 a failure is incomprehensible. This bias against learning artisan skills is unprecedented. No culture can survive without retaining the basic skills required to support the economy.

Austria and Germany slot young people into these skilled professions at an early age. By 15, those selected for skilled artisan trades are in apprenticeship programs. They are actively learning their craft in an industrial environment. They believe that manufacturing is the only sure way to maintain prosperity.

In North America, we think manufacturing is undesirable and want our children to work in a clean, safe, office environment. We need to recognize the need to improve our facilities to be clean and safe. Watch this video to see the factory of the future:

If a young person at age 15 is not academically inclined, we as parents and teachers require that they stay in school and finish their high school degree. Then we insist that they go to college. Often they do badly lacking interest in school. It is common for someone who wanted to be a mechanic or welder at age 15 to be required to go to school and so they do poorly and develop self-destructive habits. Then when they are a college drop out with a failed marriage and have sobered up from a drug and alcohol problem, they can become a welder or mechanic. This is crazy.

Our initial idea is to develop an apprenticeship program that companies could adopt and have national certification and recognition. Some apprenticeship programs have on work experience requirements, some have only classroom instruction, and others have a combination. Our thought is to have both and require a final demonstration of competency. The certified skills program at NAM already has worked with WS to establish a welding program. NDE is done through ASNT. Our program would train melters, molders including coremaking, finishing, and investment casting.

You do not have to wait for SFSA . The US Department of Labor already has a registered apprenticeship program. Details are at, Individual companies can register their own program. This allows you to start apprentices at age 16 in your facility. The requirements are at the website.

Artisans are valuable people who should have our respect. They are not failures. Not everyone wants or needs a college degree. Hopefully we will see a swing back in our appreciation of these creative people. We need them.

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About author

I'm the executive vice president for a steel casting trade association, the Steel Founders' Society of America. I've got a crazy wife, five crazy children, three crazy people that married into the family, and two crazy fun little grandsons.







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