My first wife, Teryl, had an uncle, whose name I forget, but who lived in the Baltimore area if I remember correctly. I do remember what he did for a living. He wrote books. He wrote training manuals for the military services.
I was a 2nd Lieutenant, US Army, at the time. My occupational specialty was Engineer Equipment Maintenance Officer. My job was not to torque bolts, replace parts, or make adjustments, but to insure that such actions were taken properly and equipment kept running and available for use. Teryl’s uncle wrote the maintenance manuals which described care and maintenance necessary to keep such equipment operating.
In military training I’d been taught that training manuals were written at sixth grade level. They included lots of pictures and illustrations with ample simple written directions. Teryl’s uncle took written material from engineers who designed and built dozers, cranes, generators, and boats and turned that technical material into simple language nearly everyone could understand.
In Vietnam I spent most of my time in an office working with depot stockage levels of spare parts for engineer equipment. At one time we supported up to 350 D7E Caterpillar dozers, fifty each 20 ton American Hoist and Derrick rough terrain cranes, numerous rough terrain fork lift trucks and innumerable generators of all sizes. A lot of equipment, maintained by a lot of maintenance personnel at various levels of support activity.
On occasion I was sent out as part of inspection teams to battalion size units which had whole shops dedicated to various types of equipment. One of my first stops in engineer equipment shops was the library of training manuals. Were they available to mechanics? Were they complete with books for each piece of equipment the shop supported? Most importantly, were they grubby, filled with greasy fingerprints. Dirty books indicated how much they were used by mechanics doing the actual work.
[private] Based upon my army experience, I’ve had thoughts about America’s systems of education for both basic knowledge and job skills. Public schools are continually pushed to produce college students. Higher percentage of graduates accepted by colleges is considered a strong indicator of public school efficiency.
But what about students who want a good job out of high school and don’t want to owe tons of money on student loans for college? What about simple entry into highly skilled occupations which begin paying wages instead of demanding payment? If graduates can read and calculate competently, skills they can easily learn in 12 years or less of public school, they have skills necessary to learn most decently paid occupations during on job training.
Besides solid grounding in basics necessary to most jobs, early education should concentrate on what occupations are available now and how those occupations might change in foreseeable future. Give students the very basic skills while showing them the world as a job fair.
Students who want to be anthropologists can move on to higher education in biological sciences and history. Students who want to design space vehicles can concentrate on engineering and mathematics. Students who want to build houses, wire electrical control circuits or be plumbers can offer themselves to employers as workers already skilled in basic calculation and reading.
Employers can offer practical training in skilled occupations more efficiently than can public schools. Army mechanics who could read repair manuals and torque wrenches advanced much faster through skill levels and pay scales than those who had little basic background knowledge to begin with.
And then, there is the thought that you could join the Military Services and let them pay you to learn the higher skills as well as provide food, clothing and shelter while you are learning.