From our very first issue, we’ve focused on those areas we feel are most important to the long-term success of your business, chief among which are safety, regulatory compliance, technology, and, most importantly, your workforce.
Partly because it is the nature of the medium but also because it’s the way we’ve approached information throughout our lives, the majority of our articles present these elements as separate entities, only occasionally ganging two or three together under the same banner. In general, this approach is effective in terms of passing along information, but it worries me that the process leaves something on the table…the knitting together of the big picture.
It starts with the fact that, despite all the machinery involved, dirtworking is far from a mechanical exercise. If it were, we could go immediately to robotics and spend our time shuttling back and forth between our favorite fishing hole and bank while legions of little black boxes do all the work. Instead, machine productivity starts with our workers—their underlying knowledge of dirt, their understand of the construction environment, and an appreciation for how their efforts relate to successful conclusion of the tasks with which they’re involved and for your company’s continued existance. Absent these, your high-buck equipment along with their skill in the world at video games don’t mean squat. This brings us face-to-face with the workforce element.
While there have been changes of all sorts taking place to our society ever since the founding of the Republic, perhaps the most fundamental has been the dramatic shift in living patterns since World War II, when roughly two-thirds of our population was rural. The transformation of so much of our population and production to the wartime effort introduced changes to society that continue to today, where more than two-thirds of our population is urban. An immediate upshot is that, with fewer family-owned and -operated farms, our access to people who know dirt has dwindled to a trickle over the years. So while there are millions of Game Boy wizards out there, fundamental education skills along with dirtmanship are fast becoming lost arts.
So, what solutions can we bring to the situation? For starters, a demand that our education system, which in many cases appears to place more value on behavioral objectives than in the basic knowledge and skillsets that made our nation the envy of the planet. Like it or not—ready or not—the responsibility for inculcating the fundamental knowledge and skills has passed from the classroom to employers, and while twittering and tweeting might hack it back at good old PS 102, their value on any job site I can imagine is less than zilch.
As the economy improves, and with it the need for an expanded construction work force, what will you do to ensure that the knowledge and skill-sets of your employees are up to the challenges of a work environment vastly different from what it was fewer than five years ago?