The right tool for the job depends on you… and if you can use it as a hammer

Hammres 2


“The right tool for the job.” It’s a saying that my father used quite a bit.

It’s a saying, “the right tool for the job,” that’s so popular it’s been co-opted by other, non-trade industries, but I never fully appreciated it until recently.

From experience, I’ve learned it basically means “If you have the correct tool for the job, you probably won’t ruin things, and you’ll curse much less.” For my decades of putting tools to the test, it all comes down to one thing… can I use it as a hammer?

Of course, by that I mean, “Which tool will be the highest quality, most durable and the best bang for my buck?” But also, I’m probably going to use it as a hammer eventually, either because of frustration, rage or pure necessity. There are so many places to find yourself the perfect pipe wrench, drill press, or miter saw for whatever job you’re tackling, that it’s mind-boggling to think about. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 categories to help you decide not what tool is best, but what tool is best for you.

Homeowner tools

Congratulations, you just bought a house! You’ll need tools for up-keep, and repairs. Just go Craftsman, hit up Sears, or find a nice K-mart special-30 piece tool set. That’s all you really need. No need to spend a Corvette’s worth in tools for light-bulb fixtures and table leg repairs. Done.

DIY / hobbyist / garage-r tools

You’re a serious DIYer. You need a quality tool for the job but you don’t need the best tool on the market. I’ve worked on my car since I Corey's Dad-Tool Box purchased it at 14 using whatever tools my dad had. They usually weren’t the best quality, but I still use some of them to this day. Go Craftsman for hand tools or better. Their wrenches, pliers and hammers are perfect for everyone from the weekend track racer to the most Ron Swanson of us all. The higher initial price is out-weighed by the lifetime use of the tool. Just check for the warranty so you can replace it if necessary.

Full-time trade and craftsman tools

If you make a living off your tools, you’re going to want something that will pay for itself over the years. You need power, precision, and durability. The hands down consensus is that if you want the best tool that’ll last a lifetime, you want Snap-on.  If your company is paying, or if you can afford it, Snap-on is the best bang for your buck for any dedicated, daily wrench jockey. They have consistently beat any challenger for best in the business. If that isn’t a possibility, brands like SK, GearWrench, Matco Tools and Mac Tools offer replacements with warranties that are just as good with only a minor sacrifice in strength and durability.

Still not sure which tool is right for you? Start simple and build up from there. You may find that, most of the time, you need the basics but for a few specific jobs, it’s worth investing in the right tools. Like my dad always said, “The right tool… “

How the Shortage of Skilled Trades Workers Hurts Manufacturing

A recent study from the Washington Post found that as many as 600,000 manufacturing positions may be languishing for lack of qualified applicants. And things may get worse before they get better: Forbes quotes figures from Manpower stating that the majority of skilled laborers in this country are aged 45 and older—and as this sizable population retires, the gap between need and capability will widen even further. As Tulsa Welding School points out, the economy continues to recover and grow, and manufacturing sales have become steadily healthier. With such growth, the manufacturing industry is now focused on finding sufficient numbers of skilled tradespeople to keep up with the rising demand.

Specific Examples

While the general lack of skilled labor is hurting manufacturers across the board, some specific manufacturers are particularly starved for certain necessary types of expertise. For example, Louisville Business First noted that GE Appliances is spending more than $1 million to construct its own technical training center simply to cope with the company’s desperate need for machinists and electricians. A lack of skilled welders on the Gulf Coast has severely crippled the oil and gas industry in the midst of the shale boom there, according to Bloomberg; the industry has an urgent need to hire approximately 36,000 new welders by 2016. That’s a lot of available work—and no available workers. In the construction sector, the National Skilled Trades Network reports that a lack of skilled labor is stretching the workforce to the point that on-the-job injuries are on the rise.

An Image Problem for Skilled Labor
Why are manufacturers finding it so hard to fill these jobs? The answer may lie partly in the way young working-age people view them. The image of hazardous, dirty facilities and backbreaking, low-paying work requiring little skill or smarts continues to linger, despite the fact that modern skilled trades careers vary greatly from their predecessors.

ATS cites a national poll in which more than half of all the teenagers surveyed expressed little or no desire to take up any manufacturing trade. These individuals have no exposure to or understanding of the modern manufacturing environment, in which tradespeople use state-of-the-art equipment, computer programming, and the latest in robotic technology every day—opportunities they’d never receive working in a “cubicle farm.” On the other hand, the fact that these jobs require training in such skills means that high-school graduates can’t just leap into them; in fact, many interested parties may have no idea where to pursue such training even if they knew they needed it. This, too, adds to the recruitment gap.

Awareness Could Be the Answer
What can manufacturers do to reclaim their missing skilled trades candidates? It’s largely a matter of encouraging people to consider vocational training and a career in skilled labor. Shop teachers, school counselors, and anyone else in the position of guiding tech-minded kids should at least mention the possibility of a career as a welder, electrician, or other skilled tradesperson. Interested graduates should also be told where they can receive the instruction they need to qualify for the many jobs out there. Major manufacturers could launch awareness campaigns, including referral bonuses, new-hire incentives, and a public relations effort to let the world know just how rewarding and exciting a career in skilled trades can be. The jobs are there—all that’s needed now are the right people to fill them.