Recently I received an anonymous call from a mold maker who took company owners to task for whining about the lack of skilled employees. ``It's their own fault,'' he said. The work is tedious and boring, and there's no room for advancement in the mold-making industry, the mold maker said.
``You get burned out, doing the same thing day in and day out for 50 hours a week,'' he said.
The result, he added, is that there's no incentive for employees to work toward other than a raise. Then mold-shop owners wonder why mold makers move to another shop for a dollar more an hour.
``Owners should look to circulating the employees around from job to job to keep their brains sharp,'' he said.
Getting an education is also more difficult, he complained: ``Many shops don't want to train you because it's expensive.''
Large companies have money budgeted for training programs, but smaller ones don't, something that prevents mold shops from getting good employees, he added.
``You don't just get a mold maker, you have to train them,'' he said. ``If they want people, they have to spend the money.
``My boss complains that he can't get good apprentices. I asked him how much he started them at. He said $6 an hour. I can go to Osco and stack cans on the shelf for $9 an hour.''
This young man had some good points, but stacking cans probably gets boring after a while, too.
While the role of the mold maker has changed rapidly in the past few years, many mold-shop owners continue to be stuck in a mind-set of 20 years ago. This is unfortunate, because the result is people like this young man who called me to complain.
Some of the more progressive mold-shop owners do allow their mold makers to oversee several aspects of a job, including working with designers.
They let machines handle the mundane, boring aspects of machining, while their mold makers take on the more creative parts of the job.
Getting an education is becoming increasingly easy. The American Mold Builders Association can tell callers about programs in a particular area.
If mold making is boring, get into a program and learn mold design. Take the initiative to learn something new. Not only will you broaden your skills, you'll be a more valuable employee.
While many mold-shop owners still try to solve old problems with old solutions, there are many more engaged in finding new solutions to the old problem of, ``Where do I find skilled employees?'' These shops hold the future of mold making - and mold makers - in their hands.
Goldsberry is a Plastics News correspondent based in Phoenix.