Archived Story

WorldSkills Olympics grab attention

Published 5:59pm Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An email has me wondering why I have never heard of the WorldSkills Olympics. People from all over the world compete in 35 vocational skills ranging from aircraft maintenance and autobody repair to cooking and hairdressing. If you are Internet-capable, you may want to type “WorldSkills” into your browser.
I did see a U.S. flag briefly in the video, but I did not see any U.S. winners in any category in a quick perusal. The emphasis in our public schools today is on college prep and sports; blue collars seem to signify persons of limited scholastic ability who must learn their skills elsewhere. As an airplane design engineer I was keenly aware that you cannot fly blueprints… for me to see my creations fly, a lot of very skilled people had to make the parts and assemble them.
Superintendent L. K. Singley introduced mechanical drawing and woodworking shop during his tenure and my attendance at Tryon High School. I was able to take those classes because the only course I needed for graduation in my senior year was English! I learned the printing trade by working after school at the Bulletin office for Seth Vining Sr. I learned how to build houses by delivering materials to nearly every construction site in the county for a year after I graduated, sans funds for college. In mid-life I became a registered piano technician as culmination of my efforts to get my Steinway to “play right.”
After a stint in the Air Force and school on the Korean GI Bill, I went to work as a designer of airplanes. Hey, white shirt and tie, nice slacks and dress shoes! “Salaried” badge gave me free run of the entire plant! Shop rules required that I not touch anything, but I always wanted to pick up my new part and enjoy examining it. When I reached for one, the shop guy would whip a rag out of his pocket and throw it onto the part quick as a flash, so I would not get my hands oily! We reached some sort of understanding as one mechanic to another, I guess, because I never heard of a grievance being filed against me.
One of my machinist friends had reached the top of his pay scale as probably the best in the shop, and the company created a job for him in the High Speed Wind Tunnel modifying models on site instead of having to send them back to the machine shop. The new position was salaried, so friend Earl was sporting his new badge, similar to mine, when I went to congratulate him.
Earl stuck his chest out and said to me, “Look! I’m equal to you now!”
I quickly told him, “No way, Earl!” His face fell. I continued, “You are at the top of your profession, and I am near the bottom of mine. I may never become your equal, for I have a long way to go!” Smiles all around.
I had the greatest respect for their abilities, and still do. I am probably more blue collar than white! As was Mr. Vining, who usually wore dress clothes as editor and publisher, but I guarantee that he was proficient at every job and chore involved in the production of a newspaper every working day!
Now, does anyone know why we are not winning any medals at the WorldSkills Olympics? As a nation we seem to value athletic, management or acting skills a whole lot more than the manual skills that we all depend on. Some of us enjoy watching skilled workmen on HGTV or cooking on the FOOD channel, but most people of whatever collar color probably prefer to watch athletes or actors!

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