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Vocational Training for Foundry


By J. C. WRIGHT, Washington, D. C.

Is the foundry industry one which lends itself to a program for vocational training--a program which permits of a permanent scheme of training and from which we may expect a reasonable return-or is the nature of the industry such that recruits for the trades are usually drawn from men who have been inducted from unskilled occupations and then have advanced from positions of helpers to those of journeymen ?

Do young men seek entrance into the industry as a means of earning a living? If so, to what extent does a system of apprenticeship provide an adequate supply of skilled workers?

It is estimated that there are employed in the United States as molders, founders and casters around 200,000 persons. A survey of the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, shows 38 foundries with over 5000 employes under normal industrial conditions. Of these approximately 50 per cent are classified as skilled labor with 50 per cent as apprentices.

Old System Unsatisfactory It is generally agreed that the old apprenticeship system will no longer meet the demands in the industry for skilled labor, nor do working conditions encourage young men to take up the molder's trade. The desire for higher wages and for “silk shirt" jobs where the work is not so heavy, causes many to seek other fields of employment. Hence, how to meet the need for molders is a problem of no little concern to the employers of today. While out of sheer necessity negro and foreign labor has been inducted into the industry, they cannot satisfy the demand for men who will enable the employer to keep up production and meet competition.

Foremen, and assistant foremen, are usually selected from the personnel of skilled labor and hence are almost entirely dependent upon training by "absorption" in preparation for their responsibilities for production, for care and use of materials, for handling men and for the instruction of green workers.

It is to be expected that the foundry industry finds present conditions unsatisfactory. The supply of skilled labor is inadequate, many workmen are lacking in technical and mechanical skill, and many of the foremen they are forced to select are short in the technical information relating to the business and an ability to supervise production, handle men, manage their departments, and in a knowledge of plant practice.

A Field for Training The foregoing statements are intended to point out the field for vocational training and to determine the aim of any training scheme which may be set up.

In formulating a vocational program for any trade or industry the responsibility rests with those in charge to determine the possibilities for training, the kind of schools, and the character of the subject-matter to be given in the course of instruction.

That there are few jobs for which effective training cannot be given is shown by a study of the job characteristics which may be used as a "measuring stick” to determine the need for vocational training. These characteristics have been set up by Mr. Charles R. Allen as:

1.-Anybody cannot learn to do the job. That is, in

training, it is found that certain natural qualifications
count, as quickness, neatness, a good eye, physical

strength, weight, etc.
2.—The trade recognizes jobs of different degrees of

difficulty in the same line, as, for example, in ma-
chine shop work or in making paper boxes there

are recognized grades of jobs.
3.-- There is a best way of doing the job.
4.- It is recognized that an appreciable period of time

is required for a learner to reach maximum effi-
ciency-in other words, a man cannot do the job
as well the first time as he can after a period of

practice. There are but few jobs that do not meet these conditions. Is the job one involving the training of workers for service or is it one which must be limited to the improvement of those already in service?

It is generally recognized among those engaged in vocational training that certain industries, due to the conditions surrounding the workers, are not such that the novice may be induced to accept training for service. Is this true of foundry occupations?

What kind of vocational schools or classes should be provided to meet the needs of foundry occupations? What is the nature of the subject-matter which should be included in courses intended to prepare new workers for service? What is the subject matter which should be included in courses intended to improve the efficiency of those already employed in the foundry trades? What are the qualifications of teachers who will be able to "put over” the subject-matter selected for instructional purposes? Can the shop training be given in a school or should the courses be carried on in co-operation with an industrial plant?

Some of the Questions These are some of the questions which will confront school officials charged with the responsibility of planning schools and classes to give vocational training to those who are preparing for employment in that occupation, or for the improvement of those who are already employed.

While foundry work has oftentimes been included in engineering and mechanical arts schools, it has seldom functioned as a part of vocational training. In most cases the foundry equipment has been installed in order to supplement courses in patternmaking and to equip the metal working shops in the institution to more readily obtain castings for their own use. The pupils enrolled in these courses have not, except in rare instances, engaged in employment in the industry. The courses of instruction have in most cases aimed to give the pupil an appreciation of working conditions in foundry occupations and a general knowledge of the processes involved. Even if the character of the instruction offered had been of such a nature as to adequately prepare the individual for efficient work as a molder, coremaker, or cupola tender, it would still be impossible for them to function as trade courses, since the pupils enrolled in these institutions are not selected from those who naturally seek employment in these occupations. In some instances evening schools have utilized these equipments for supplementary instruction given to those who have already sought employment in the occupation. This instruction has been much more effective.

As an indication that the industry is suffering from a lack of adequately trained men, inquiries are being received by the Federal Board for Vocational Education from employers, and organizations of employers, as to the possibilities of vocational training for their employes. These inquiries have to do not only with the improvement in efficiency of journeymen workers, but also with such trade extension instruction as will enable men, straw bosses, and assistant foremen to be promoted to positions of greater responsibility within the plant. One of these inquiries for definite information which would be of aid in the preparation of a plan states:

We have nine plants, each plant being divided into a number of departments which have to do with the preparing of molds, handling of castings, cleaning and machining of same, the repair and upkeep of plant equipment, operation of unloading machinery and locomotives, etc., in the yard, making of patterns, etc. The question of foremen and heads of departments is one of considerable moment with us and while it has always been our scheme to make advancement from the ranks we feel that considerable special effort should be made to train certain of our men, straw bosses, assistant foremen, etc., so that they can become heads of departments. We wish to prepare a plan of education for this class of men, such a plan to be so arranged as to properly grade the men as to their various qualifications which in turn will result in advancement being given to the men who are best fitted for positions which we may have open from time to time.

While these inquiries indicate that industry has generally come to realize the need of vocational training to reduce the cost of production, to maintain a sufficient supply of trained men to meet the new conditions through increased scientific information and through the invention of labor saving machinery, some employers yet disregard the need of training and like Topsy the men "grow up." Others place the entire responsibility on foremen for production and such training as is necessary. Under these conditions workmen

apt to belittle the value of vocational training.


Cannot Rely on Instinct Since the old apprenticeship system has fallen down, training for industrial occupations must be given in some way. People are not naturally prepared by instinct or environment for efficient work in modern industry. Training must therefore be secured by the individual previous to his or her employment or must be taken after the individual is on the job.

The first condition cannot be relied upon, since most people are unable to predetermine or choose their vocation long enough ahead to enable them to secure preparation for entrance into employment. It then falls upon the employer to provide some method for training his green men a scheme which will promote training by "intention" rather than by “absorption."

If the men are absorbed in the force under the present status of apprenticeship a long period will elapse before the novice reaches a fair degree of perfection. Many will quit and seek other fields of work where the work seems easier and the pay better. Quantity production will suffer, quality of workmanship will be affected and the cost of production, due to increased overhead expenses and loss of material, will further reduce the profit.

Suggested Program for l’ocational Training Any plan for vocational training must be concerned with either the preparation of new workers for advantageous entrance into an occupation, or the improvement of those already in service and should be based upon a careful study of the foundry occupations for the purpose of setting up:

1.—The aim of the courses of instruction to be given. 2.-A statement showing the type of schools in which

instruction may most efficiently be given, the character of the equipmet required for the instructions,

and the qualifications of teachers. 3.-First hand analysis of the working conditions af

fecting individuals employed in foundry trades treated

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