Blue-collar jobs deficit

BEGINNING machinist Tyler Beckmann, on the job for two months, moves a ma-chined part that is ready for finishing. – Standard-Radio Post/Ken Esten Cooke

By Ken Esten Cooke

Dave Campbell of Heartland Enterprises can’t just consider potential sales when he competes for additional for work. The leader at the precision machining shop in Fredericksburg must also consider if he will have enough people to fill the additional jobs necessitated by taking on additional work.

With American schools stressing college-track study for most every student, the unintended consequence is that programs and tracks for skilled trades have been “de-emphasized,” and there are fewer machinists, welders, carpenters and overall blue collar workers in the market.

“These are not ‘low-level jobs,’” Campbell said. “In our plant, our average yearly compensation exceeds $60,000 a year — a good middle-class income.”

Heartland makes custom machined parts for the oil, gas and aerospace industries, among others. Their customers are demanding, Campbell said. Parts that have tolerances down to two 10,000ths of an inch are scrapped if they miss measurements. His company has invested millions in the machinery needed to produce the parts, and he needs skilled people to run them. 

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