The Job Hunt: What are employers looking for? Work ethic

09/04/2014 6:57 PM

09/04/2014 7:16 PM

Ask employers and job consultants what kind of education you need today and they tell you first that there’s college.

And there are tech schools.

But then they get more animated.

Work ethic, they say.

Showing up on time. Poor attitudes.

The stuff people should have learned at home.

And they didn’t.

“It’s simple,” said Dana Pfingsten, who handles human resources for JR Custom Metal Products. “If you want to do well, you have to come to work on time.”

Good welders are in short supply and much in demand, said Patty Koehler, JR Custom Metal Products president and CEO.

The company nurtures good workers, hires them young if they are trainable, pairs them with skilled workers, she said.

“We are as loyal to them as they are to us,” she said. “I’m proud to say we have people with many years’ service with us … guys with us 25 or 20 years.”

But the workforce has changed, she said. Not all, but some younger people tend to think less of work.

“Maybe they are teaching us a few things about balance,” Koehler said. “When I first went to work, it was all about work, and you’d call home to say you’d be home late, in an hour. An hour later, you’d call again.

“Some young folks today won’t do that,” she said. “They say … ‘the work will be here when I come back tomorrow.’

“It’s hard for some of us to accept that,” she said.

Educators have long noticed some decline in overall work ethic, said Jill Pletcher, the career services director at Wichita State University.

It’s not all across the board. But there was more work ethic when farms were more plentiful, rural small towns were more heavily populated, and rural kids started work at an early age. But rural America has emptied.

Some younger people, she said, “seem to expect to put in minimal time and effort and have it be rewarded,” Pletcher said. “That’s not how life really works.”

Have we turned kids soft?

“I think there is some truth to that,” Pletcher said. “But it starts at home. You can have them clean up, do the dishes every night. You start with the simple things, tell them, ‘we will feed and clothe you, but you do this work. Because you are part of our family.’”

Employers have said for years that work ethic is a huge problem in Wichita workplaces.

“We would much rather spend our time on plumbing,” said Ray Frederick, president of Frederick Plumbing & Heating. “But sometimes you deal with people who can’t get up and out of bed. They can’t get there on time. They are not willing to represent themselves in a respectful manner.”

He sometimes weeds these people out even before they ever meet at the job interview.

“People set a time to come see me and don’t come on time,” he said.

“Good grief, I won’t even talk with them.

“We are done.”

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

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