Saturday, April 8, 2017

Interesting Career Advice From Mike Rowe

Dirty Jobs host, Mike Rowe, really has a very interesting message which goes against the sacred cow notions of a 4 year college degree.  It is this.  As a country, we have glorified the value of a college degree which has put young people into $1 trillion in student debt loans and does not really leave them with much more employable skills than when they left high school.  Meanwhile, there are 3 million, good paying trade jobs that go unfilled because there are less and less people available with the skills to do them.  These jobs do not require a 4 year degree but do require some sort of meaningful skill training.  He calls this "The Skills Gap".

I realize I have to approach the subject cautiously, since Mike Rowe is backed by Caterpillar, Direct Energy and other corporate sponsors who know it is in their best interest to throw the best light they can on work that they desperately need labor for.  Mike Rowe is the lead recruiter and a very effective communicator. 

I would agree that are many myths about trade jobs or jobs labeled "blue collar".  If I were starting again, I would definitely learn a trade like welding, plumbing, Heating-Ventilation-Air conditioning (HVAC) or electrical wiring.  You go where the opportunity is and right now, opportunities are in the trades.  Why?  These jobs require work to be done that cannot be outsourced.  Opportunities to branch off and start your own business are there for those with that drive.  Americans love indoor plumbing, temperature controlled environments, smooth roads and electrical power.  There has to be someone who knows how to build, maintain and repair the infrastructure that provides everyone with what we take for granted.  You can pretty much relocate to any state and be in demand, assuming you are good at what you do and have a professional work ethic.  

It is supply and demand too.  High demand jobs with a small pool of skilled labor drives wages for that skill higher.  Likewise, low demand jobs with large pool of people drive wages lower.  Each year, more white collar type work is going away due to automation.  Even high prestige work like engineering can be outsourced to a low bid overseas worker via email, Solidworks and Skype.  I have often heard it said that white collars workers are "screwed" for future career opportunities.

Are students really learning anything of value anymore in college?  College professors need to "publish or perish" so they need to be involved in research where they are likely to become inaccessible to their students.  Meanwhile, students are taught by the professor's graduate assistants or adjunct part time professors.  Also, professors are now rated online by students which means the professors that are easy and less demanding will get the highest scores.  This is what a student pays $120,000 for and which is projected to double that amount in 5 to 10 years?  I cannot see this lasting for very much longer.  There is a need for education reform more than ever.

Education in a school building is one of the only industries where there has been ZERO productivity gains over the last 100 years.  A teacher teaches a class of students the same way they did 75 years ago yet gets paid more.  That does not make sense and it not sustainable. 

It comes back to this - enormous amounts of money is borrowed for students to go to college with no hope of paying it back so they get a degree for a job that no longer exists.  This is the "Skills Gap" Mike Rowe is talking about and and I agree we need to address the whole topic of education, training and skill building.

"Learn a skill, get really good at it and work your ass off" is sound career advice even if Mike Rowe is paid to say it.

Mike Rowe's message on not following your passion, but bringing your passion with you is worth a look:
Don't Follow Your Passion

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Carving Wooden Spoons

I made 2 spoons out of wood.  They are very easy once you get a nice sharp gouge.  That is the secret.  The curved hook knives don't cut very well when I see demonstrated.  They do cut, but it seems to take a very long time with the little cuts here and there.
Paul Sellers has a YouTube video on making wooden spoons.  He recommends the Hirsch #7, 35mm gouge for spoonmaking.  I decided to get one.  Although it is not cheap at $50, it is a lifetime tool that I can pass along for many generations.
Here are spoons that I recently made.  The large spoon was made from an antique pine board that was passed down from my grandfather and the second was from cherry.  They are actually very easy to make.  A sharp spokeshave makes the shaping work quick also.  It only takes about 5 minutes or so to carve out the bowl with the Hirsch gouge.  It is a great tool.  It takes no more than an hour to make and you have something really nice for the kitchen or a gift for someone.  The finish is mineral oil.

Whittling With Chris Lubkemann

I discovered a book on whittling and woodcarving by Chris Lubkemann.  For some reason, it really interested me so I ordered it on Amazon.  I had been looking a different pocket knifes but he recommended carving with the small knife on a Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army knife.  For around $18, it is a bargain.  Victorinox knives are very high quality.  I really love them.  I did get the book and I found out Chris holds carving workshops at his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the wintertime.  I checked his website, and about 1.5 weeks later I went to one he had scheduled.  I got the last open seat.
Chris is a real inspiration.  His workshop class was excellent.  I learned the proper way to sharpen a carving knife and whittle a wood knife, rooster, flowers and an owl.  He also is very entertaining with stories, and showing little items he has gathered over the years.  He even demonstrated his large slingshot on top of his van.  He shot an apple about 350 feet.  Carving is a great pastime since it is very low cost.  You can find free twigs and branches almost anywhere.  You can make a leather strop from an old belt.
The first picture shows some of Chris' roosters.  The second picture is a rooster he carved in class that I won. The third picture is his large slingshot.

Car Stereo CD Player for the Shop

I wanted to get some music in the workshop but did not want anything big and bulky.  Ideally, it would be nice to get wifi and hear music from the computer but inside the garage does not get my wifi signal.  I will have to run a cable out there sometime.  Since I already had some nice speakers, I decided to just get an inexpensive car stereo and pair it with an old computer power supply.  Then I made a dovetailed box out of pine and put it up on a shelf I made.

Modifying A Kobalt Handsaw

I watched a YouTube video where a man recommended getting a Kobalt handsaw from Lowes for $11.  It is a saw blade that can be resharpened too.  He demonstrated how well it cut versus some other low cost handsaws.  I decided to try it out.  It is 12 teeth per inch and I sharpened the teeth to a rip cut profile.  He was right, it was terrific!  What a great deal for $11!  With care, this will last for a very long time because it can always be resharpened.  The only thing I did not care for was the plastic handle so I made a wood one.
I got a pattern for a Disston miterbox saw handle from tgia.  Here is the result:

Building A Tenor Ukelele

I got the idea to build a tenor ukelele from Matthias Wandel's YouTube channel.  For many years now, I had thought about building a guitar, but never took action on it.  With a ukelele, the project seemed less intimidating.  I decided to do it starting in November 2016.  I had a nice piece of close grained redwood for the top which I was able to quarter saw into nice bookmatched panels.  I used walnut for the sides where I glued to thin laminations.  Cherry was used for the neck and walnut for the fingerboard.  It was a fun project and I am glad I did it.  It is quite an art to build a nice sounding instrument though.  With all the work to build a ukelele from scratch, it did not compare as well in sound as a Makala Dolphin ukelele I bought for under $50.  I am not sure if I will build a guitar now, but I would not rule it out.  I have construction photos of the whole ukelele build here.