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Exactly 46 years ago, I chose not to go to University of South Carolina, but to go to Midlands Tech to begin my journey and become a tool and die maker. I come from a long line of hard-working farmers and carpenters. My grandfather and father taught me at a young age how to build and repair things with my hands. I have never, for one minute, regretted the decision to become a tool and die maker because it allowed me to learn a skill that will always be needed.
My profession began when civilization came out of the Stone Age and started making swords and plow shares from iron. In perspective, before Jesus Christ was born, there had been people in the metal working trade. However, we have reached a point in America where working in manufacturing makes us appear to be less valuable than a college graduate. Being a blue collar worker causes some to look down on others and making the assumption they could not get into college and were forced to take a mediocre job. But I tell you that only a few in America have the talent to work on a $20,000 to $50,000 piece of material and hold tolerances that have allowed America to send a rocket to Mars, build wind turbines or race engines that turn over 10,000 RPM.
Our public schools and tech schools have deserted us. They have convinced the younger generation that a college degree is what they need. How’s that working out for our current college graduates?
The skilled manufacturing sector in America is begging for top-notch employees and having no luck filling the empty positions. Meanwhile, we are tunneling our young people off to college with no idea what they will do when they graduate.
Look around, where do all the things we use in life come from? More than half the people you would ask that question to would say Wal-Mart or Best Buy. But they came from manufacturing plants which have highly-skilled machinists, fabricators, machine operators and assemblers.
Those who are the very best and choose a career in manufacturing will continue into the future with the ability to earn a very good living. I, for one, cannot understand why we blue collar workers get such a black eye from schools and guidance counselors. Apparently, they haven’t done their research to see how many of these high-paying jobs are coming back to America.
Lancaster County will continue to struggle with a high unemployment rate until we build a skilled and technical work force. When we begin to train our young people with skills that manufacturing can use, then good jobs will come to Lancaster County.
I still believe in America. Do you?
Gary C. Horton