Last week I talked about the incredible performance improvements brought about by blade-control systems, and for sure I’m a true believer in their value, but that’s only part of the story.
Despite all the machinery involved, dirtworking is not merely 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 did all the work. Instead, machine productivity starts with the operator’s underlying knowledge of dirt, without which all the skill in the world at video games doesn’t mean squat. This brings us face-to-face with the human resource element.
Some fundamental changes have been taking place to our entire society ever since the start of 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, one of which is that we are approaching the point where two-thirds of our population is now 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, dirtmanship in the US is fast becoming a lost art.
Additionally, as well you know, a decreasing number of those entering the workforce (1) have English as their native language, and (2) bring with them cultural and educational backgrounds similar to those of their predecessors. As we’ve pointed out numerous times in the past, while this is surely a challenge, it carries with it the seeds of opportunity.
What machine-control systems are great at is making good dirtworkers better and more efficient, but while they can give a novice a hand up, they can’t give him what those with a rural/farming background bring with them their first day on the job. Even less so can they supplant the years of experience enjoyed by those who have grown old in the profession.
So what was the epiphany? Simply that, faced with a looming crisis in the skill sets of people entering the workforce, we have an opportunity with many of those coming from south of the border to build on the agricultural background many of them bring with them to put our wonderful technologies to better use than ever. It seems to me that investments both in training and technology are the surest path to future success.
What percentage of your equipment operators came to you from south of the border, lacking a formal education but having overcome language and educational deficiencies by dint of concentration and hard work? What factors have helped in this process?