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Series conclusion: There's room for improvement — Period.

August 3, 2000
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Thanks, Larry Johnston, for sending the Business section of the July 4 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Interesting reading.

Thanks, Ken Justo, for giving me (and contributing editor Joanna Turpin) an earful. That earful, by the way, has equated into another soon-to-be published Turpin article.

Thanks, John Britz, for supplying us with a follow-up letter/clarification. Apparently, you received more heat for your comments than the South and Southwest (combined) are currently experiencing (humidity included) this sweltering summer.

Thanks, period, to all who have responded to The News’ recent three-part series, entitled “Why Techs Leave.” It’s safe to say that not all agreed with what contributing editor Turpin uncovered or what was published. However, we expected as much once the comments started flowing from the mouths of techs.

Yeah, we hit a nerve or two. Or three. Or four. And, if Joanna or I had been standing in front of some of the contractor callers, well, a few jaws may have been hit.

Our intentions, of course, were not to tick off contractors. Our intentions were to point out why techs leave. We did not make the comments. Technicians did.

Views vary

Johnston, of Madison, MO, did not say much. Instead, on a small, bright-colored Post-it® note, he simply wrote, “This article reminds me of the people problems in hvac.” The note was slapped above an article entitled, “Digital dropouts trade Internet jobs for low-tech peace of mind.”

In a nutshell, the article stated that in a wired world, the space between work life and personal life is collapsing — and many workers don’t like it. Quoted in the article is Alvin Toffler, whose book The Third Wave chronicles the computer age.

“We’re busting up all the old industrial time principles,” Toffler is quoted. “Now, in the middle of the night, we’re online doing our job.”

One response, he said, is to drop out.

“You discover life isn’t all about money,” said Toffler. “You need a sense that what you’re doing is of social value.”

Hmmmm. Interesting. Is this why techs are leaving, too? It’s possible.

Meanwhile, Justo, president of ASI Hastings Inc., San Diego, had plenty to say. He didn’t care for the articles because he believed they only served to reinforce the belief that techs do — and should — receive low wages.

“This whole industry is sort of a joke,” he told Turpin. “Your article says that technicians are greedy, and they’re making $15 or $17 per hour. I live in San Diego. In my mind, I don’t know how a guy lives on $40,000. I think our guys should be making $80,000 to $100,000 a year, and I think we should be charging our customers for it.”

Britz, on the other hand, wanted to clarify a few comments he made in the series’ second installment. “When I read the story,” he said in an e-mail, “it made me feel like I have a bad attitude about the profession I work in.”

Instead, “What I wanted to come out of the story was: Companies these days need to show some respect and commitment to the working men and women at any level in the company and learn that employees are not just numbers. On the flip side, employees need to have pride in themselves, produce quality work, and care about what they do for a living. …In the end, if the job doesn’t fit, find another one and grow from your experience.” (For Britz’s entire letter, see page 4.)

Let's keep improving

We are glad that a few contractors were angry — angry that there may be, as one contractor put it, “so many backward contractors out there.” Many, including Justo, said they’d like to see The News be more of a catalyst for change, rather than “just printing negative stories about the downsides of the business.”

“I wonder why The News doesn’t mobilize the industry,” said another caller/contractor. “Rather than being a chronicler of events, your magazine might be qualified to provide more leadership and create a summit conference to deal with this and perhaps raise the stature of the industry by the topics discussed, the results, and the recommendations that come out.”

Consider this on our “things to do” list, sir. After all, The News is always trying to help the contractor succeed in his/her business. That’s what we are all about.

At the very least, our “Why Techs Leave” series made contractors and techs think — and, hopefully, improve.

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