Just yesterday I was in a workshop of a mining company. The mining company is winding down because of a significant down turn in the Australian economy, and there are only a couple of men working in the huge shed.
We had been having coffee at an old office desk, and had to walk some distance to the ablutions block to get water for the hot water jug. One of the workers decided that it would be far better to have the amenities better arranged, so he converted the office desk into a fully functioning sink, with an overhead shelf to store the coffee ingredients, with both hot and cold water running in the sink, in the workshop. He did so after walking around the site, scrounging bits and pieces from this and that, installing an old hot water service that he found, diverting water from a distant external tap, diverting the grey water into a drain and decorating the whole arrangement with corrugated iron to give it a rustic look.
I looked at the bloke after he had finished installing everything, and asked if I could inquire of him a question. He agreed. I said, “Did you do well at school?” His response, “I hated my teachers and they hated me. I hated school, and did not do well at school.” I then asked him, “So, what is your trade?” His reply, “I don’t have a trade.”
This man had very little successful schooling, was not officially taught a trade, but was able to apply skills from plumbing, carpentry, boiler-making and diesel-mechanics. He is holding a job in an industry that is laying off most of its higher-paid, highly qualified employees, and was able to come up with a solution to a complex practical problem by scrounging and using whatever tools were at hand.
Australia needs a lot more unschooled, creative thinking, practically-oriented blokes like this fellow I ran into the other day. He grew up on a farm, as a kid, so that could explain his familiarity with such a range of skills. However, he hasn’t been trained, and doesn’t hold any certificates – he simply thinks laterally, has a go, and accomplishes stuff.
Lots to think about.