Functional Iliteracy
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    Default Functional Iliteracy

    Years ago I ran an electrical contracting business and casually mentioned to someone that 60% of my 18 employees were functionally iliterate. They were shocked I could say something like that about employees but I wS being truthful. Every day I would read their timesheets and knew which ones could read or write.

    I bring this up because I was talking to a guy I worked with at my last job, and he mentions that the company has given the task of checking in materials for complex manufacturing to a young guy that is the owners cousin. They were trying to help him out, he'd been a troubled youth in school, had been in jail and couldn't find a job. He was questioning how this guy could do the job as he clearly had no idea what any of the parts were. Then he mentions the guy is always asking questions about the parts, and pointing them out on packing slips.

    Alarm bells went off when he said this! I said to him, I think the problem is bigger than you realize. He likely can't read! When he points to an item on the packing list and you tell hom what it is he is hiding the fact he can't read, and gets by with pattern matching. I related to him an experience with a guy loading a truck and filling it with the wrong stuff when the words on the boxes changed from 'green' to 'black' and he never noticed.

    I mentioned this to our shop manager who worked in a machine shop who said they had a guy who would point to a note on a drawing and say "what do you think about that?" as if he wanted an opinion. Turns out he couldn't read the note!

    So does machining suffer from a lack of good candidates because our schools encourage those at the bottom to seek jobs like electrician, plumber, carpenter, and machinist in the mistaken belief these jobs don't require high levels of intelligence? One time I hired a guy with a college degree as an electrician and he was an eagle soaring amongst the turkeys! In fact as a foreman in a union shop he was eventually making about $180K.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garyhlucas View Post
    So does machining suffer from a lack of good candidates because our schools encourage those at the bottom to seek jobs like...
    Not JUST 'manual' related skills, and not JUST reading.

    One Administrative person trying for a job as a better paid admin person?

    I dunno if I'd call it 'lack of situational awareness' or what. But here's the case:

    US-only biz unit veteran being interviewed didn't SEEM a fit for my International-only biz unit of a global company. Perhaps a third of our work - and compensation - came from representing Hong Kong Telecom to US-based customers.

    I pointed to a map that nearly COVERED one wall of my office, and asked her to point out where Hong Kong was. It did have a big red marker, as did all of our other biz units.

    She stood and stared right at that map for several minutes, then turned to me in confusion and said:

    "Well... maybe if I had a MAP I could find it!"

    As I dismissed her, I pointed to it and said "by the way.. that IS a 'map'".

    Go figure...

    Bill

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    I've had bosses from a family that were all dyslexic, and open about it. With shorter notes their wasn't to much problem, but longer papers and particularly long words there'd be garbled or missing chunks of words throughout. Between employee emails with them often read more like a text message.
    So reading skills aren't just an employee thing. It's likely a universal thing.

    Don't also forget 80% of the shop is stoned or buzzed. So reading skills dip down fast. I know BHO certainly lowers my reading comprehension to the point I'm rereading paragraphs till I have to have someone look it over.

    Quote Originally Posted by garyhlucas View Post
    So does machining suffer from a lack of good candidates because our schools encourage those at the bottom to seek jobs like electrician, plumber, carpenter, and machinist in the mistaken belief these jobs don't require high levels of intelligence? One time I hired a guy with a college degree as an electrician and he was an eagle soaring amongst the turkeys! In fact as a foreman in a union shop he was eventually making about $180K.
    Considering that many shops favor low payed McOpertors, and a number of shops even outright refuse to hire people with previous machining experience because they're no longer a blank slate, it's not hard to see why it doesn't attract career oriented talent. And the shops that do pay good to those that haven't been 10+ years with the company, as well as training programs, have a lot of applicants to pick from since the moment there is an opening everyone around town is talking about it and applying. Of course you also get stuck on the graveyard shift for several years or more.
    Then you got the older shops that are sort of ageist. Where the old guys see anyone under 40y/o as some young punk that shouldn't even be touching a machine.

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    I've seen it too. I worked in a large shop and we did a physical inventory count every year. We would have two guys count parts on a pallet and make a note. I'd say 50% of the time the numbers did not match. These guys could not count...

    Same with basic math. I would try to teach guys to read a micrometer or calculate a CNC offset based on readings from a dial indicator. About half would get it and do fine. The other half I would teach over and over and it just never sunk in. They couldn't do math.

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    Maybe 80% somewhere, but not the plant I work in. The only ones that have been problems has been alcohol related and that wasn't very many. Our pay grade is in the upper range for the area, so not exactly bottom feeding.
    Dave

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    Years ago I worked my way through college at a big grocery store. One of the other stockers was assigned to refill the soup aisle. It appeared that he randomly filled the shelves. Turned out he was illiterate. Until that point he just matched packaging. But the packaging in the soup aisle was to similar.

    From talking with high school students and teachers they very much pushed the brightest into the four year schools. Second tier military. Everyone else trades. Locally they short circuited this. The community college placed people in the guidance offices and started free college credit classes for high schoolers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    They couldn't do math.
    Early 1970's, interviewed a newly minted BSEE for a Repair Technician's position, hearing-aids. Basic battery-powered audio amp, those were, just tiny as Hell.

    In two attempts, he failed to grasp all three Ohm's law problems on my test, despite them being structured in 'tens' units so solving meant only bumping a decimal place.

    Thought mebbe his credentials were forged, so checked them with the Uni. Genuine Grad. "B" average, too.



    Bill

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    The average failure rate for our pre-employment reading comprehension and math test is 23%. When the math portion was Advanced math (trig and other stuff) the rate was 26%. (60% or below is defined as a failure, 60-80% is "OK" and may garner an interview if no other candidates arise - 80% or above will generally result in an interview)

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    About 1960 I remember being at a school assembly and the guidance counselor telling us that out of 100 there would be five left at the end of grade 12. Three would graduate and one would go on to university. The population has not all of a sudden got smarter and more intelligent. We have lowered the standards. In over 30 years of steel fabrication I have seen many illiterates. Often they made damned good welders since welding is primarily a hand skill. Put a print in front of them and you were facing disaster.

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    I worked at a place making airplane missile launchers and this older fellow was always "unique". I was told he was a good guy just slow. Was always askin' me what do you think about this? I was a newbe at the time and thought it was "training" for me to figure out the notes on the drawings.

    He got the employee of the year award and was asked to read his award out loud, couldn't do it. Big boss thought it was to emotional for him, truth was he couldn't read and was using me to read for him. Kinda pissed me off that he got $1000.00. Got layed off after a year later but still was hacked. That was 1979, I guess things haven't changed much.

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    Growing up in the Deep South, I knew many people that learned to compensate for being illiterate.. Always ordering a hamburger at the café, not having their glasses, etc... Really sad, having to hide the fact they could not read.. Many of these people were not dumb, they just had somehow fallen out of the educational system. Some I knew were quite sharp at math...

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    That's one of the saddest experiences you can have in business, where you show a supposedly experienced job applicant a print and ask him what the part material is (of course there's a section of the title block labeled "material"). When he says "Uh, I forgot my glasses" then you know he can't read. The worst thing is that past a certain age it's very difficult for a person's brain to break the phonetic code, so if he's over 30 there's not much hope. You know he hasn't had an easy life, and if he's looking for a job it means he got found out at least once and it's only going to get worse. I haven't seen that in a long time but I imagine they're out there...

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    With extra and appropriate support the vast majority of struggling readers will improve irregardless of age. Some may only learn to become functional readers. For a rare few there will be minimal improvement.

    So the good news is that most can improve their reading substantially. The bad news is that life has likely already put huge roadblocks in their way, its hard to improve without appropriate help and you have to be pretty darn motivated to go back and do something that has been very, very painful. As others have already said its sad.

    Most struggling adult readers have not had a fair kick at the can due to things like home life and the wrong reading instruction methods. Phonics are important but not so many years ago there commonly were sight reading and other reading programs as well. Some people will never be able to recall phonetic rules efficiently but that doesn't stop most of them from learning how to sight read.


    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monarchist View Post
    Early 1970's, interviewed a newly minted BSEE for a Repair Technician's position, hearing-aids. Basic battery-powered audio amp, those were, just tiny as Hell.

    In two attempts, he failed to grasp all three Ohm's law problems on my test, despite them being structured in 'tens' units so solving meant only bumping a decimal place.

    Thought mebbe his credentials were forged, so checked them with the Uni. Genuine Grad. "B" average, too.



    Bill
    The test was not 'open book-open notes'?
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by jhruska View Post
    The test was not 'open book-open notes'?
    John
    Didn't seem so, no.

    At the time, I was a mid-level Exec at a substantial national firm AND ALSO a 'Deans List' straight-A GI Bill night student, same institution.

    That combination was the reason I was able to get the Dean & Director of Admissions to investigate with the EE Department & Profs HOW it could be.

    Still and all, no 'good answers' were forthcoming.

    Ever since, I have treated Universities as I do clothing stores.

    Buy garments appropriate to cover your nakedness of the season every now and then.
    Trust them nought to be enduringly useful.
    Identify new need.
    Repeat to stay relevant and current to the job at hand.

    And don't worry about a 'Degree' any more than you'd worry about a decent meal or a healthy s**t taken many years ago. All of the above are ephemeral.

    The decades-long continuing and still ongoing education on specific needs 'sells' far better to most employers one would actually WANT to work with anyway.


    Bill

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    I moved to a new management position over some degreed and non-degreed personnel where the degreed ones weren't any more literate than the non-degreed ones. I also believe a couple of their degrees might have been faked or from some degree mill.

    One guy in particular, supposed Masters in Computer Science, couldn't spell or write a coherent sentence in a report but could code with the best of them. I think maybe he was truly dyslexic but computer code was so structured he could manage that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monarchist View Post
    Didn't seem so, no.

    At the time, I was a mid-level Exec at a substantial national firm AND ALSO a 'Deans List' straight-A GI Bill night student, same institution.

    That combination was the reason I was able to get the Dean & Director of Admissions to investigate with the EE Department & Profs HOW it could be.

    Still and all, no 'good answers' were forthcoming.

    Ever since, I have treated Universities as I do clothing stores.

    Buy garments appropriate to cover your nakedness of the season every now and then.
    Trust them nought to be enduringly useful.
    Identify new need.
    Repeat to stay relevant and current to the job at hand.

    And don't worry about a 'Degree' any more than you'd worry about a decent meal or a healthy s**t taken many years ago. All of the above are ephemeral.

    The decades-long continuing and still ongoing education on specific needs 'sells' far better to most employers one would actually WANT to work with anyway.


    Bill
    We give the same test, including the advanced math to prospective Engineers also, but the math portion does include a few engineering questions (a vector problem and some other stuff), the same failure rate applies to those applicants also, who are mostly fresh out of University. The issue is that our school systems in the US no longer teach practical application of learning. They have transitioned over the years to teaching all theoretical stuff (including K-8 and high school). This is a bad thing. At least here, they don't even teach kids how to read a ruler now - it isn't included in the curriculum in these days - it was removed during the "no child left behind" days.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garyhlucas View Post
    Years ago I ran an electrical contracting business and casually mentioned to someone that 60% of my 18 employees were functionally iliterate. They were shocked I could say something like that about employees but I was being truthful. Every day I would read their timesheets and knew which ones could read or write.
    Shortened your post but what I'm getting from it is that unless someone shows up with a white cane and a seeing eye dog you'd hire on sight? Apology for pun. You don't have a simple test before hiring someone?

    2� Best Education Systems In The World — MBC Times

    I'm not getting from that link that the USA is as bad as you indicate so there must be another reason you get the employees you do.

    Ever lose any customers or were they just too "shocked" to complain?

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    Quote Originally Posted by garyhlucas View Post
    Years ago I ran an electrical contracting business and casually mentioned to someone that 60% of my 18 employees were functionally iliterate. They were shocked I could say something like that about employees but I wS being truthful. Every day I would read their timesheets and knew which ones could read or write.

    I bring this up because I was talking to a guy I worked with at my last job, and he mentions that the company has given the task of checking in materials for complex manufacturing to a young guy that is the owners cousin. They were trying to help him out, he'd been a troubled youth in school, had been in jail and couldn't find a job. He was questioning how this guy could do the job as he clearly had no idea what any of the parts were. Then he mentions the guy is always asking questions about the parts, and pointing them out on packing slips.

    Alarm bells went off when he said this! I said to him, I think the problem is bigger than you realize. He likely can't read! When he points to an item on the packing list and you tell hom what it is he is hiding the fact he can't read, and gets by with pattern matching. I related to him an experience with a guy loading a truck and filling it with the wrong stuff when the words on the boxes changed from 'green' to 'black' and he never noticed.

    I mentioned this to our shop manager who worked in a machine shop who said they had a guy who would point to a note on a drawing and say "what do you think about that?" as if he wanted an opinion. Turns out he couldn't read the note!

    So does machining suffer from a lack of good candidates because our schools encourage those at the bottom to seek jobs like electrician, plumber, carpenter, and machinist in the mistaken belief these jobs don't require high levels of intelligence? One time I hired a guy with a college degree as an electrician and he was an eagle soaring amongst the turkeys! In fact as a foreman in a union shop he was eventually making about $180K.
    .
    .
    basic pre employment test with sheet with questions you have to answer showing basic reading ability and trade knowledge is standard. any company that did not do this i have no sympathy for

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    boss wanted to hire deaf people for cnc operator jobs
    .
    had to mention often you go by sound or noise if their are problems like dull cutter getting destroyed or part loosened up in fixture during heavy roughing.
    .
    they put the one deaf person on a laser engraver where he does a very good job. so they did match his abilities to a more appropriate machining process
    .
    still just saying often boss hiring does not always see if person being hired can do the job. like has basic abilities to do the job


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