Hiring a well rounded shop tech - a change in how to evaluate is needed.
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  1. #1
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    Default Hiring a well rounded shop tech - a change in how to evaluate is needed.

    Hiring a skilled shop tech has proven to be a bit of a challenge and I am beginning to see a trend.

    We have received well over 100 resumes for this position. We have started bringing in the "best of the best" so to speak as far as resumes are concerned when looking at job history, skills listed, etc.

    We decided to have a simple written / hands on test and a simple welding test - if you pass these, you get an interview.

    Here is what we have found for people who report that they have done machine work on a lathe and or milling machine, handled measuring instruments, Mig and Tig welded, etc.

    Some candidates are easily confused when asked to use a steel rule to measure the length of a piece of bar stock to the nearest 16th inch. It is painful to witness them count tick marks on a scale for 5 full minutes before writing the wrong answer down.

    Most candidates are unable to measure the diameter of a piece of bar stock using a micrometer - often writing down answers that are off by well over an inch. (can you not see that this rod you are holding in your hand is not 3.000 inches in diameter? . . . or they write down the length of the sample instead of the diameter). When asked the pitch length of #40 chain . . . 20 degrees?

    The test included things like identifying a grade 5 bolt and a grade 8 bolt from a box of bolts, what is a typical cutting speed SFM for 1018 steel, stuff like that. (and they get a machinists handbook . . . open book test). Best score so far is 6 out of 30 questions.

    The welding test results are even worse - candidates have each done enough damage to the TIG / MIG torches to necessitate replacement of components between tests. On the MIG weld tests, none of the welding candidates properly selected an appropriate voltage / wire speed setting for welding the sample parts - and we gave them a practice part and a test part.

    Today - a friend that owns a local glass shop that does work for us asked if he could use our welding area to do a small home project - he brought along a buddy of his "who could weld" to help set things up and do the actual welding.

    When I asked his buddy if he could weld for a job he said "well, I don't really consider myself to be a welder as a trade" - the quality of this guy's welding was superior to any of the candidates who indicated "YEARS" of welding experience. When I asked him where he learned to weld, "well when I was younger I worked for Linde / Union Carbide on welders and taught distributors how to set them up, service them and sell them . . . but I never really have done a lot of welding"

    So now to my theory - the less you know about welding, machining, basic shop practices the more of a "professional welder / machinist / shop tech" you can be in your own eyes. And - since you have a completely unrealistic idea of your talents - you can state your professional capabilities with complete honesty and even enthusiasm.

    Conversely - the more you know about each of these disciplines, the less apt you are to tout your abilities in these areas as you realize that there is a hell of a lot more to each of them than meets the eye.

    In other words - when you are incompetent, you lack the skills to know that you are incompetent - thus you can with complete honesty and integrity state that you are "a professional" welder - machinist - shop tech.

    I wonder how many resumes we tossed because they stated in their cover letter that "I can weld, but I wouldn't say that I am good enough to do it for a living"

    This proves the maxim that "enthusiastic incompetence is to be feared"
    Last edited by motion guru; 12-12-2009 at 12:14 PM.

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    Damn, I wish you were in oHIo!
    I'd like to take your test!


    Rex

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    ''So now to my theory - the less you know about welding, machining, basic shop practices the more of a "professional welder / machinist / shop tech" you can be in your own eyes. And - since you have a completely unrealistic idea of your talents - you can state your professional capabilities with complete honesty and even enthusiasm.

    Conversely - the more you know about each of these disciplines, the less apt you are to tout your abilities in these areas as you realize that there is a hell of a lot more to each of them than meets the eye.

    In other words - when you are incompetent, you lack the skills to know that you are incompetent - thus you can with complete honesty and integrity state that you are "a professional" welder - machinist - shop tech.''

    As a theory Motion, I'd say that's 100% watertight.

    Brit saying;- A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

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    [Conversely - the more you know about each of these disciplines, the less apt you are to tout your abilities in these areas as you realize that there is a hell of a lot more to each of them than meets the eye.

    In other words - when you are incompetent, you lack the skills to know that you are incompetent - thus you can with complete honesty and integrity state that you are "a professional" welder - machinist - shop tech.
    Some truth there. Skilled guys are apt to know that "the more they learn, they less they know" and to not be good at selling themselves. Especially if they are multi skilled generalists who haven't done a lot of one thing.

    I don't know how to find them other than word of mouth/networking. Maybe a current employee has worked with someone in the past who would be a good candidate.

    Good luck. I saw the ad you posted and from your postings you run a good company to work for, I too wish I lived closer.

    On the flip side, this gives me hope as I have directed my career toward the small shop/repair/R&D machinist side of the spectrum. I am gambling on the belief that as the baby boomer generation retires and the new guys don't get a wide variety of experience by pushing the green button, there will be lots of opportunities for those that do have the skills.

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    on any test like that.

    pull a few of your best people (and yourselves) and have them run the test. while it sounds like an easy test, error and lack of doing the basics in a long time can make people fuzzy the first 30 mins. If your experienced guys can score 90-100% then expect that of your new hires, if not. keep looking. Also nerves play a role. But what type of references do these people have? even coming out of 12 credits of machining classes I would of felt more than comfortable doing everything you described.

    I'm a professional welder, and I would be embarrassed if I couldn't weld a simple joint on demand on any manual process, as well as setup a machine. However it's an unfair stretch to expect people to have proper WFS and voltage remembered. I'm a welding engineer now and I create welding procedures for MIG and TIG on a regular basis and I still couldn't ballpark good welding variables off the top of my head without a reference or my notes and maybe 36" of weld to practice. Most welders aren't expected to know weld parameters off the top of their heads as there's too many variables to take into account. Also I've been caught scratching my head trying to figure out how to turn on, and setup a plethora of different machines over the years luckily in job interviews they used machines I'm familiar with.

    calipers, micrometers, steel rules etc. That's frighteningly scary as that's all rather basic fabrication and machining equipment.

    Anyways I suppose your learning the first lesson,that people LIE on their resume, I bet some of them would be up and going after a week or so of refresher, but why compromise?

    on my resume I state what I know and what I would be comfortable being called out to demonstrate. even though I'm an engineer I do a lot of welder training and procedure qualification so when i say I can pick up any torch and weld, I have to back it up. I did enough machining to know the basics and be confident in measurement devices but I don't list my former machining experience cause I don't want to be called out.

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    I have actually hired a LOT of guys over the years who could actually weld- I hire the best students, as recommended by faculty, from the local welding programs at community colleges- but its much rarer to find somebody who can cross over from machining and precision measuring to welding.

    I think welding and machining use different parts of the brain, and often, but certainly not always, somebody is either good at one or the other.
    Welding is more hand eye coordination, and intuition.
    Machining is more about learning how to do things the right way, as per feeds and speeds and other acknowledged, universal standards.

    I have had some incredible intuitive welders, who could become one with the weld puddle, who just couldnt measure below an 1/8" of an inch, who couldnt read a table from Machinery's Handbook. Then, I have had some very skilled machinist guys who found welding a mystery- no rules, like in machining.

    Usually, the guys who are good at both tend to rise quickly, as they can master both sides of their brains, and become either the boss, or self employed.

    But really, there has got to be SOMEBODY out there you could hire.
    Have you checked the local community colleges?
    Dont know whats down there.

    You might even call up BTC (Bellingham Technical College) as they have very good courses in both welding and machining- maybe they have a crossover kid. Wouldnt be expert in machinery, of course, but I find competence in actual tool use means somebody can usually learn faster than someone who spent 20 years on the day shift, to misquote Bob Dylan...

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    I feel your pain Motion Guru

    Even down among us production types, we still get the operators saying ' Ohh CNC programing looks easy" as I solve a complex 3 D rotation via a notepad and a trusty FX6500G, then program it into the machine to rotate the A axis according to :-

    FN 0: Q1600 =+0
    LBL 9
    Q1603 = 1.28 - ( 1.28 * SIN Q1600 )
    Q1602 = ( 360 * ( ( 1.28 * COS Q1600 ) / PI * 47 ) )
    Q1602 = - 23.68 + Q1602
    L X-Q1603 A+Q1602
    FN 1: Q1600 =+Q1600 + +1
    FN 10: IF +Q1600 NE +181 GOTO LBL 9

    (its part of a program that engraves circles onto cylinders )

    Then you give them a simple trig question to solve such as

    Sin 30 = 5.765 / X, solve for X
    And they sit there for ages...( but at least it keeps them out of my way for a bit )

    The depressing thing is when as you say the resume comes in full of 15 yrs experience of this and that and you decide on the 5 guys to interview (or at least the boss shoves 15 resumes under your nose and he asks "which 5 look the best?" )
    And with out fail none can describe what command is tool compensation left and which is tool comp right

    I guess most likely because they themselves believe that being able to change a tool and change its offset to the one provided with the tool makes them a CNC setter
    After all, CNC is just a matter of pressing buttons.

    But out of the 8 agency operators I've had the dubious pleasure of working with over the past 2 years, only 2 have shown any potential, and only the last one has any real potential... even if he has broken 2 electronic edgefinders this year. (he's a permie now)

    I would say perhaps your best hope is not to interview the guys with the 'super' resumes, but look for the 'ordinary resumes' and see if the guy is honest about his skill level
    Ok yes there will be training involved, but you can train him/her upto the level you want.

    Boris

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    Motion, I am impressed with your testing as VERY few companies will do anything like that and then wonder why they have so many bad apples. I used to do just that for an aerospace company but only "after" they friggin hired them. I now will only hire people through others that I know.

    Here is my recommendation. STOP with the fundamental testing and focus on "smarts". I really feel a 2 page book test should be done WAY before you let them near your welding equipment. I personally am a "cleanliness is next to godliness" kind of person but that is just me.

    Here are some questions that I usually asked on my "competency" test. These positions were relative to yours but not in a machine shop.

    What is a hemisphere?
    How much volume is in a 2in cube?
    What type of paint is water based?
    What is 1/16" + .0625"?
    What is DC power?
    If I put two 9V batteries in parallel, what do I get?
    How do you calculate surface feet for a drill or end mill?
    what does surface feet mean?
    How many centimeters are in a mile?
    Which is harder, concrete or steel and why?
    What is a "rip cut" in the carpentry industry?

    Level 2.....

    What is a polygon?
    What is a trapezoid?
    What is a right triangle?
    how much does the moon weight?
    what is the force of gravity?
    what is force?
    what is motion?
    What is air?
    If I wanted 2 magnets to stick together, how would I configure them?



    Basically what I did was start with easier questions and then got harder. dumb asses would literally get up and say " I don't know any of this". The good ones would either ask for help in understanding or write something down that half ass made sense. It did two things for me. Told me what they knew and did not know. Also told me who was a quiter and who was resourceful.


    I guess what I am getting at is build a better book test and book test ALL of them and bring the ones back that look good on the book test. Just easier to sit them down with a pencil and walk away rather than babysitting them in welding tests. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that if someone knows what "the puddle" is, what the electrode in a TIG is made from, what an alloy is, etc, they are more likely to fall into the "good guy" class.

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    How much does the moon weight? ;-)

    Give me a lever long enough and I shall move it out of your "whey":

    Without a pencil and paper, cm per mile is just too much thinking.
    2.54X12X5280 ....

    common sense is highly undervalued by those with little.

    CalG

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    Wow.........good luck in your search

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    Default yes

    There is a lot of evidence to support your theory. I know some who only use dial calipers for everything. Good luck with the hiring.

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    As my Physics teacher finally pounded into my head "it is not the answer that is important, but how you arrived at your answer". See, with things like the moon weight, I am looking for "smart answers". Hell, I don't even know and technically, it does not have weight, it has mass because weight is a function of gravity. I could spit ball that since it is roughly 1/4th the size of earth, it would be about 1/4th the weight.

    I think I got too many of these types of questions in school. It finally made it into my head that NO ONE could really know the precise mass of the moon without core drilling that beeoch. Best we can do is guestimate it....

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    back in about 1996 i was living in missoula, montana. i plugged in with a temporary agency to find work. they sent me to the local pacific steel sales center. i talked with the manager for a while then he handed me a tape measure and asked me to read a few distances off on the scale. i don't even remember how it went. i sort of left feeling that he must have thought i was as dumb as a box of rocks to be asking me if i could read a tape measure.

    a day or two later i got the job. i talked to the woman at the temp agency and she told me that pacific steel was using them to screen potential employees. even with the screen it turns out that i was one of the few if not only person they sent that could correctly read the tape measure in a few spots.

    a problem i have noticed in the many times i have had to take time off of school and go out and get a job to make money to go back to school is that people tend to think i am lying on my resume or application. no one has ever said that directly but it is just a feeling i have gotten both from places that hired me and places that i never heard from again. i have had people say if you can do all this stuff why are you coming here to interview for this low paying job. i would simply tell them that i needed to earn money to go back to school. often they didn't like that because they wanted you to promise to work there for ever but be able to let you go when ever they wanted.

    one example is a UAW fastner manufacturer that i interview with back in 2000. sent my resume and they called me up to come interview. the interview consisted of a written mechanical aptitude test. i don't even remember what was on it. they asked me if i could wait while they graded it. they came back about 5 minutes later and told me that i had scored the highest of anyone they had given the test to. never heard from them again, however they guy interviewing me made a face as it told him i could only work there until i earned enough money to go back to school which would be 4-9 months.

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    Jeez.

    Looking for someone in the Bay Area?

    I'm not even a professional and I could pass the test. Wanna know why? Because when I fail to read the stupid ruler correctly *I* have to buy the replacement material. I am motivated to "take ownership" of the problem, i.e. to measure correctly.

    It sounds like those who failed the test are not motivated to "take ownership", and ought to be avoided.

    IMHO, start looking at the middle of the barrel. It's always hard to test for aptitude.

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    "In other words - when you are incompetent, you lack the skills to know that you are incompetent - thus you can with complete honesty and integrity state that you are "a professional" welder - machinist - shop tech."


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    Quote Originally Posted by Limy Sami View Post
    ....Brit saying;- A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,
    drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring,
    there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    and drinking deeply largely sobers us again.

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    Viper

    Actually, the mass of the moon can be calculated by it's path in orbit.
    I think they use "astronomy" in the calculations ;-)
    I do know that volume follows the "cube" of size. so 1/4 as large and ......how much material?? ;-) (V=4/3 pi R ^3) grrr! Volume and mass are related somehow. Think Bosco think! ;-)

    More to the OP, from a Colvin and Stanley reference:
    "using the term machinist to apply to the man who can not only operate the various machine tools, but who also understands why they operate and can detect trouble when they fail to function."
    And:
    " Competent men of this type have seldom received the recognition the deserve, either financially or otherwise."

    And that is 1936!

    I have one son, sharp as a whip around mechanical things, Just graduated ME from Northeastern last spring.
    My other son, final year of high school. Ahhh.... he has other strengths! ;l-)
    But still posseses common sense, I think they got it from thier mother!

    Both would make great employees for anyone wanting to make a fair buck!

    CalG

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalG View Post
    common sense is highly undervalued by those with little.

    Cal, that is signature material right there. Nice.

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    It is hard to tell the difference. Some of the best are sometimes "overly modest". You ask them if they can weld up something little and they do it and it looks superb. They'll tell you "It might hold" . Later, you find out from a highly reliable source that he used to weld on the space shuttle.

    There are a lot of " procedure men" around here. They follow a procedure they were taught years ago. They can cut a keyway a certain way and if anything changes it messes them up. They are parts makers, not machinist.

    It is amazing how many can't read vernier calipers. There is a local shop manager that brags about having 32 years machinist experience, but can't read a vernier scale. If you give him a shaft with more than 5 fits on it, he is lost.

    Good luck in your search,

    The right person is out there, if you hire the wrong one you may never get to meet the right one.


    JAckal

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    Motion Guru

    To your post.
    The typical interview and application process FORCES those looking for work to extend themselves beyond realistic abilities.(Reference thread on Peter Principle)
    You stated that "only the best of the best" were brought in for interview. The friend of your friend would have never gotten in your door. Where are the odds in that?

    Matching gainful activity to each inclination is difficult, but it is a social responsibility.
    I appreciate your giving it an honest go. So many "interviews" are more like a "first date". "Each side trying desperately to fall in love".

    CalG


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