It takes two

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

Business was booming at the small to medium-sized engineering firm. In fact, orders for new products were coming in so thick and fast that the engineering team was having trouble keeping up with them. So the engineering manager approached his managing director to see if he could hire a couple of new recruits to help out.

Realising that he desperately needed some assistance, the managing director swiftly gave the thumbs-up to the head of engineering, who immediately telephoned the local recruitment agency to help him find two suitable candidates. But being a wise old chap who had hired many personnel over his long career, he did not look to fill the positions at the firm simply by roping in two new graduates with degrees in mechanical engineering.

While he did indeed hire one mechanical engineering graduate to help out with the immediate needs in the design office, he also employed another less academically qualified, yet no less enthusiastic, individual as an apprentice that he put to work on the factory floor.

Now I must say that some members of the design team did think that the engineering manager had made a rather peculiar decision. They were under the impression that both the new hires would be put to work in the design office where they would instantly be able to help with the backlog of design orders. They didn’t for one minute think that their boss would hire a trainee without a decent four-year degree.

But the old engineering manager was undeterred by the opinions of his colleagues. And while the young mechanical engineering graduate quickly set to work contributing to the efforts of the design team, the less academically qualified individual spent his first 12 months at the company learning the exquisite details of each and every manufacturing process.

Nevertheless, both during and after the 12-month period, the engineering manager ensured that both the graduate and the apprentice spent a lot of time together. In those meetings, the graduate bounced his new design ideas off the apprentice who in turn suggested the optimum way that they might be realised on the manufacturing line.

It was a marriage made in engineering heaven — both individuals’ talents complemented one another, ensuring that the design ideas were appropriately revised to take advantage of the appropriate manufacturing processes.

To ensure that the apprentice would not become bored with his role at the company, the engineering manager also dispatched him off on several engineering design courses for one day a week. And, after a number of years, he too gained a degree in mechanical engineering, after which point, the wily engineering manager transferred him into the design office.

Now, the business is even more successful and the engineering manager is once again looking to hire two new members of staff. Needless to say, I think we can be sure that he’ll be following the same strategy that worked so well for him before.

David Wilson

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