Wednesday, December 14, 2022

So, what happens if we re-shore the economy we gave away?

One of the problems I am gnawing-on involves the challenges of getting the grizzled and scarred veterans off of the bench and back into the game.

It is my perception that a vast amount of talent hit-the-silk during Covid. Some was over the fact that Covid was far more often fatal for older employees than for those who were fifty or younger. Another group left, or were forced to leave, because of inflexible mandates that were put into place by employers.

All of this is against a backdrop where employers were actively purging payrolls of high-seniority employees who may have been "grandfathered" expensive, legacy benefits packages to avoid law-suites.

There was also a "fad" that swept the business world where it was believed that all work could be "standardized" and anybody who was functionally literate could be handed an 8-1/2"-by-11" sheet of paper with everything they needed to know to do their job. Why do you need experienced employees when you can capture that expertise and clone it via standardized work?

Thus we find ourselves standing on the threshold of the future with experienced workers stacked like cord-wood in an unused corner of the barn. Furthermore, the future MIGHT include a massive re-shoring of vast amounts of the industry that was off-shored to take advantage of lower costs in other countries. If that happens, the mobilization of resources within the economy will equal the post-Depression mobilization the US experienced during World War II.

Getting the Tom Bradys of the 1990s and 2000s out of retirement will require more than "the economy" crooking its finger and calling "Come hither". But what WILL it require?

Issues that come to mind:

Stale skills

The conventional wisdom, back in the day, was that six months of unaccounted time outside of your career-path was fatal. That hoary chestnut has been consigned to the scrap-heap of history unless, perhaps, you still aspire to become the CEO.

Some of the softer-skills may need brushing up. Being able to work ten hours. Being able to show up every day you are scheduled. Those might be harder now than they were in 1995.

Accelerating technology

I don't have a good answer for this. In my generation The Company sent us to training on the software they had selected to run the business. Now it seems less likely to happen because employee mobility means that the company is likely to not be able to capitalize on their investment as their newly trained employees move to another company that will pay them more for their newly acquired skills.

One professional told me that his company LOANED him the tuition to the training and told him it would be forgiven if he was still with them after three years. That seemed like smart business on every stakeholder's part. 

The loan was structured as a "balloon" where the employee paid just the interest for the three years. If he bailed out before the three years was up or was fired(!), he had to borrow the cost of the loan from a bank and settle the balance.

If he stuck around, his paycheck increased by the amount of the interest payment that the company had automatically been deducting.

Social Engineering

This is another tough issue. Co-workers made allowances for people after they had worked together for years or decades. Today's workplace seems to have all of the mutual loyalty of a group of strangers riding the same elevator.

Many workplaces seem like grim and joyless spaces where "grievances" are stored up like Get-out-of-Jail cards, to be played when they offer maximum advantage. The concept of Statute of Limitations does not seem to apply to those grievances. Statute of Limitations falls within the basket known as Due-Process and it is sorely missed by those who get accused LONG after the presumed transgression occurred, which makes it almost impossible to defend one's self against those accusations.

Wait...there are advantages to going back to work...

Few things boost one's self-esteem more than bringing home a paycheck

Paychecks are likely to track increases in the cost-of-living more closely than pension payments.

There are major social benefits. You get to meet new people and learn new skills.

You can offer younger employees perspective they cannot have. "It takes 'stupid' seven years to walk around the block. You haven't seen the end of it, just its backside."

Twenty-seven year-old Tory Bristles tells us that never letting go of a grudge is the key to maintaining one's youthful outlook on life

Actual screen-shot of professionally developed training approved by the State of Michigan. Tell me if the text makes any sense. If you are mathematically inclined, check their calcs (hint, the fundamental unit of Mass should be slugs or 3000/32.4) and tell me if their units ("force of impact" as a unit of energy) are appropriate.

Those of us who have been around the block a few times don't take it personally when we are asked to check our work because we know we make mistakes. It is part of the human condition.

Asking for feedback

Suppose that you had a chance to share a table with a world-class, executive recruiter. What questions would you ask him? What concerns would you want him to pass on to the companies looking for you, the Tom Brady of 1995 or 2002?


  1. I am so glad that I sold my business and retired. What you are describing is a very understated situation all businesses, and especially small ones, are now facing. There is a shortage of skilled help in all fields now and the employees learn all they can from you and put themselves up for auction and move on to the highest paying bidder. Over and over they exploit their employers and care not about the investment the employer made in them. Basically it is theft and breach of promise. This will not end well. ---ken

    1. There is no such thing as skilled and unskilled labor; all labor is necessary. There is no shortage of labor, just a shortage of employers that pay their employees; they have earned their retention problems. Rather than learn a very simple lesson, they would rather scream "No one wants to work anymore!", which is only half the truth. No one wants to work anymore FOR SLAVE WAGES.

      You speak of loyalty, yet employers have none. They will punish employees for using THEIR earned PTO, demand employees work while sick, show up after totaling their vehicle, and through family emergencies; they demand a two week notice but will dispose of employees when convenient. They often lie and try to worm out of paying unemployment and dodge workplace injuries.

      Big business often said labor is a commodity, well, the people aren't selling anymore. If you want labor then pay the market rate for it or do it yourself. We move at market speeds, keep up or get left behind; you aren't entitled to another person's labor. Older generations made their bed, now they get to sleep in it. My generation moves at market speed and we take the highest bidder.

      - Arc

    2. If the employer's attitude is that they are doing you a favor, it's no wonder the employees jump ship. If it wasn't written out in an employment contract, it's not theft or breach of promise (contract?).

      Employees are investing in a job just as much as employers. If anyone is being exploited, then someone made a mistake. You hire someone for their work and time, and in exchange you pay them. Nobody is getting something for nothing. Each party gets the benefit of their bargain. Employees get work experience, employers get managerial experience.

  2. Personally, to get me back into the game means flex hours. I'm not interested in 10-hour days anymore. Goodness in the Operating Room I've worked all night on call between cases and cleaning up-setting up for tomorrow mornings cases. All to find out someone called in and I needed to "Cover" part of that shift.

    OT isn't that interesting when I need two days to fully recover from a 30+ hour shift.

    Speaking of that the TAX system needs reworking. Why should I find my OT taxed into nothingness AND then my Social Security check dinged for working?

    Spending every other weekend on call in small hospitals is very uninteresting.

    Wokesim also needs to go away. I'm NOT playing with your mental diseases. In the Real World(tm) 2+2 = 4 no matter how raycesst that is. You don't fudge surgical counts, that's how things get left inside your patient.

  3. Big issue to me is snowflakes who expect to be coddled, and the big meanie old white guy is the one who should suffer consequences when some random 'flake gets their binky out of joint after overhearing some comment that appropriate for that moment with the actual participants.

  4. As far as I am concerned they can all fail and rot in he$l. I applied for over 200 jobs across a 4 year period and not 1 single job offer due to my age. I started working at the age of 11, working with my hands, and learned many skills across my life - efin them all

  5. I'm still working, for a little while longer. As long as the paycheck comes, I'll keep drawing it. Unless they come up with some new mandate. Big government and big business hate you, and want you dead. Try to be a net drain on them.

  6. I’m like anonymous above, I have a very extensive background in multi-site construction project management with project budgets ranging from 10-800 million dollars. After an early retirement I applied for 40+ jobs all well aligned with my salary expectations, experience etc. I got zero replies, a professional recruiter felt my resume was too high powered and helped me tone it down.
    Most of the feedback she received was along the lines of we need a more energetic applicant, or we need more recent education credentials or we’re trying to diversify our management ranks…
    So, yeah, ageism and a bias against “old white guys” is a real thing.
    I’ll be fine if I never work a day again but so miss the mentoring and coaching aspects of what I did.

  7. Get rid of the biases in hiring against us!

  8. When it comes to specialized training, then yes, SOME companies still send their people off for training and keep a prudent string attached to the funds. Employee gains training and higher pay; company gets a return, everyone wins. Many companies now expect the employees to be gaining skills on their own time and dime to improve the companies bottom line for FREE. That doesn't fly with my generation and upcoming generations. If I bust my ass for new skills, I'm marketing them and taking the highest bidder; either pay me what I'm worth or or lose me.

    I'm currently studying general chemistry on my own time because I'm headed to college in 2023. I settled on biochemistry and it's likely to be a very intensive path. After graduation, I expect $70,000 - $85,000 starting pay and those not willing to pay the market value of the skills can go pound sand. My labor, skills, and most importantly, TIME, are a commodity and I'm not selling for cheap. I'll go spend my TIME living and enjoying life rather than working for someone else' slave wages.

    I would tell the world-class executive recruiter that pizza parties, ping-pong tables, and the usual propaganda will not get people to work for him; workers want to be PAID and they their work/life balance respected. Work from home is now a standard expectation and people will pass his offers without it. People are not interested in making friends at work and co-workers are some of the first to backstab. Companies have no business calling their employees off-hours unless they are paid to be on-call and are provided a company phone; we won't subsidize your phone service. Not everyone is a morning bird, I personally thrive late at night and into the AM; offer flexible hours.

    I was born in the very late 80s (30s now) but I'm still classified as a millennial and my generation is pretty much black-pilled for employment and home ownership. The system has to burn before it can be fixed. Bai-Lan, let it rot.

    - Arc

    1. Oh, so you *expect* $80K/year out the door, eh? And for biochemistry specialization? And with just a BS degree and basically zero experience??? Level set your expectation by taking a look at what is so special that you would have to offer a very specialized field, and even more rare demand, and do take a look at your competition in hiring in that area.

    2. Maybe he can. You are assuming he has no other experiences which are multipliers for the base BS in biochemistry. If memory serves, Arc is a business owner so he has management skills.

      In general, wages of biology-type majors are depressed because they are safety-nets for the thundering herds who assume they have what it takes to get an M.D. Those majors are over-subscribed relative to the market as +90% of the students who think they are heading to medical school as freshmen look for ways to salvage their credits and turn them into income.

      Almost zero of those safety-net refugees have any other "multiplier" skills.

      I don't think Arc falls into that category.

    3. I think Anon would have failed the attitude test during the interview with me. The little company I worked for when I retired could not compete on a pay scale with the big dogs but it was generally a great place to work. It more than made up for it in flexibility and loyalty to its employees. It was Us and not I.

    4. There seems to be an assumption that I want a BS degree when the best that will get me is a common lab tech position and would be ~half the starting pay I listed. A master's is the sweet spot between resources invested and payout; anything higher is allegedly academia and grant chasing. Although I will likely start as some level of lab tech anyway.

      Pay for a fresh graduate with a masters in biochem was 55-65K nearly a decade ago but today it IS $70,000 - $85,000. Seniority positions with 10+ years pop the 100K mark. These are observations for Houston and YMMV. Yes, I EXPECT 70-85K/year starting because that is what the market will bear. Reddit and other forums are a good tool to find out what people made in the past and currently make in any given field; likewise, current job listings and pay scale aggregates. A lot of business still haven't learned the simple lesson of "You get what you pay for.".

      The GI bill pays for everything and Texas has its own benefits. My crappy, old, car is paid for and I have a good roof (no rent). Most of my family and extended family landed in military, medical, legal, and chemistry; I come from good stock and have no illusions about attrition rates. There is no reason for me not to go all the way since the taxpayers are paying for it.

      As for side skills: I can puff up my time in the 03s as team management experience and claim my tiny plant nursery as basic book keeping. My artistic skills and software knowledge count for little on their own but they do help paint my personality and perspective; creativity is essential to solving new problems with no known solution. The love is in the wording on the resume.


      I probably would have. My tolerance for other peoples crap shrinks the older I get. Holding hands and singing around a camp fire doesn't put food on the table. A business can remain competitive with lower wages if it has a shorter commute, work/life balance, WHF, etc. I wouldn't mind something local myself but it must be balanced.

      - Arc

    5. A lot of STEM bachelor's first jobs are in the $80-$120K range these days, if they are in the right area and find the right employer. And biochemistry just might fit into a good pharma position.

      Someone hasn't been keeping current.

    6. 75-80K is subsistence wages in many areas of the country. I don't understand why so many don't get this. Seriously, spend the 20 minutes putting a model budget together in Excel. Grab a basic starter home price off Zillow, plug that into a mortgage calculator, groceries, liability only auto ins. for a 20 year old Corolla, auto maintenance, fuel, etc. The financialization of everything has driven the cost of necessities up to the point where a lot of would be good employees are opting not to play the rigged game.

    7. @Anonymous December 16, 2022 at 11:13 AM

      In some areas, yes, mostly NY, NJ, CA, and inner cities. A "starter home" and 20-30 year mortgage are inviting struggle, they are designed to turn people into debt slaves. If you buy a scrap of land and build a tiny house on it, then 75K can offer a lavish lifestyle.

      My tiny house got flooded a few times before I started interior work and it became a gym. $10,000 was my estimate for interior completion. A tight tunnel can also be converted into a temporary home while saving money for something nice. There is also van life and if I end up commuting to Houston in the future (1.5-2hrs from here) then I may get a van to sleep in during the work week since gas could easily run $1,200/mo, $14,400+ a year.

      - Arc

  9. While pay is very significant, respect and wise flexibility is vital.
    Last year I left an employer who seemed bent on destroying itself at all levels and who now brags about having women at all levels of management.
    My new employer focuses on getting the job done and has minimal diversity references. My boss respects me and we work well together.
    My pay is the same but the environment is much better and I'm learning a useful new subject area.

  10. After all the abuse? The mandates, low pay, high taxes, the masks, the name calling, and now all the "woke" new post-merit hires, hired for their gender/race/pronouns who do shoddy work at best, and will never shoulder the blame. It's the white male old folks you want to hire back who will be expected to take the blame for the inevitiable failure of post-merit hires. NO THANK YOU.

    It was all built on trust. The trust is *dead*. The medical industry, the science community, Universities... they've all suicided. TWO GENERATIONS will pass before that trust is rebuilt.

    Once you've gone Galt, you don't go back.

  11. There need to be reasonable accommodations regarding driving when it is dark.

    Many of us are in some form of care-giving for spouses, parents, grandkids and, yes, kids. Sometimes it is something as easy as a regular doctor's visit where our spouse wants us to be both transportation and a second set of ears and to collect care instructions.

    Accommodations must be made for caregivers. Those accommodations are likely to change over time and younger workers are likely to resent those extra accommodations.

    But if the senior workers are needed, then having them for shorter hours (in the winter time) and working around our other responsibilities is the price of getting us back.

    1. I believe successful restoring will likely happen, if at all, under new entities free from the weight of current troubles, or ones that are gutted and rebuilt the way Musk is trying at Twitter.
      I'll be following his attempts; I'm curious to see how successful he will be. The way he handled the back and forth of the acquisition reminds me of Trump squeezing a deal and being very public about it.

    2. I left the medical clinic (dialysis) in November of '20. I was very happy to leave because that is "get your forced shot or wear a mask all winter" time.

      Big one for me is NO forced medical treatments.

  12. On the lighter side, referring to your last slide (age showing there, I know), speed doesn't kill! It's the sudden stop!

  13. I'm 74 and not that vigorous. A 8-10 hour shift would be too much. I've actually been giving a little thought to checking out the local gun shop/ range for part time work when I get to Florida. They have such a shortage of staff that they cant keep the range open. I really enjoyed their range.

  14. Some part of the resistance is they wear it like a badge; that even the Cook, 2nd Class claims to be weary of a war he never saw. But he was 'there', so he legitmately (in his eyes, to his cohort) stands on the claim.

    Dont ask me what I think, you won't like what you hear.


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