Why Older Fab Shop Workers Are Essential | RMT

The Modern Concept of Retirement

During most of human history, people just kept working on the farm or in the factory until they were too old to be of much use. The lucky ones were taken in by family members while the rest might have been put in the poorhouse to live in squalid conditions until they died.

As early as the period of the American Revolution ideas were floated that older citizens could be given a pension, but nothing ever came of it. It wasn’t until the late 1880s that Otto von Bismarck’s plan for the world’s first old age and disability insurance was adopted in Germany. In the United States it took the arrival of the Great Depression to trigger programs to help move older workers out of the far too few jobs that were then available so that more of the jobless could be employed.

As the quality of healthcare improves in the 21st century, seniors can now live more active lives, making many hesitant to give up working entirely. Add to that the fact that traditional manufacturing jobs are getting harder and harder to fill by solely drawing on the up-and-coming generations, and new possibilities are arising for making use of older workers to help keep metal fabrications shops viable.

Advantages of Hiring Seasoned Fabricators

Many businesses seek to hire younger workers for a variety of reasons, such as knowledge of technology, enthusiasm, eagerness to please, and innovative thinking. However, folding older workers into your metal fabrication shop workforce may prove to be more advantageous to your operation. Some of the qualities that can define these senior staffers include:

  • Affordable. While conventional wisdom suggests that it costs more to employ an older worker, that’s often not the case. Insurance costs could go up, but retirees usually seek part-time work, eliminating that expense. Even with some increased costs, the benefits of having elder staff mentor younger employees can far outweigh losses over the long run as you build a dedicated team.
  • Confident. Years spent in an industry can build confidence, and confident older workers can inspire self-esteem in the younger members of the operation, furthering their commitment to sticking with a job and employer.
  • Detailed. Senior workers habitually have a greater attention to detail, something learned over years of having to rely on checking and rechecking results and not just depending on digital readouts. Being highly detail-oriented also generally translates into better quality control.
  • Ethical. Older employees learned to work during an era that valued the concepts of personal responsibility and commitment to principles. Unlike younger workers that may look for a shortcut or quick fix, mature fabricators, shop workers, and office staff should be more dedicated to following company ideals and rules.
  • Experienced. Veteran fab shop employees have real-world experience that can’t be learned in the most extensive training courses. They also bring their personal experience to the team along with their professional knowledge, adding depth to their interactions with others in the shop and office. Knowledge can be picked up rapidly if someone is motivated enough, but wisdom comes only with time.
  • Hands-on. Younger employees are a great asset in both shop and office when it comes to working with computer-related technology, but mature employees who’ve had to work their way up through years in the trenches know the importance of hands-on work, a vital component in even the most high-tech shop. Not being afraid of getting their hands dirty is a quality that they can pass along to newer hires.
  • Hard Working. Senior employees generally aren’t afraid of hard work. They know the value of putting in a good day’s work for a fair wage. Chances are that older workers won’t be trying to find excuses to slack off or always be watching the time clock.
  • Loyal. Mature members of the staff are prone to be more dedicated to the company and not looking to find something better down the road. They will be grateful for the opportunity to find work in their golden years and want to prove themselves by sticking with the company.
  • Reliable. Older employees are habitually reliable. They are more likely to be on time and less likely to call in sick to avoid work than their more youthful counterparts.
  • Teachable. Seasoned workers are usually very willing to learn. Even though they may lack the technical expertise of younger generations, they can readily be taught how to work various controls once managers understand and adapt training to their specific learning styles (such as visual learning).
  • Trustworthy. Older workers may be viewed by many customers as more dependable and trustworthy. In addition, their years in the industry will likely have helped them establish relationships with past customers of theirs that you may be able to add to your own clientele.

As the twenty-first century progresses, human resource officers in manufacturing firms report that it is becoming more difficult to fill open positions. A significant reason for this is the negative stereotype manufacturing jobs have in the eyes of those just entering the workforce. While job fairs and social media can help alleviate that negative image among younger workers, metal fabrication shops can bridge the gap by hiring older fabricators and shop helpers with industry experience. Doing so can aid in keeping the doors open while more youthful potential hires can be shifted from their mindset that such work is somehow a lower occupation in society. Then, once the younger workers come on board, the mentoring influence of the older employees can convey a love of the industry to them that they might not otherwise have found on their own.

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