Find Your Fortune in a New Career (Jul, 1952)

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Find Your Fortune in a New Career

America is back to the era where that knocking on your door could be opportunity.

By Lester David

NOT too long ago, Mel Hedrick was a gangling farm kid who rose sleepily way ahead of the sun to do the chores on his dad’s farm in West Salem, Ill. But Mel had an idea that he wanted to be a scientist. So he went to grade and high school in his home town, then to the state university.

Finally, as a full-fledged man of science, Mel got a job with the central research division of the Monsanto Chemical Co. in Dayton, Ohio. Right off the bat, he was asked what he’d like to do most. “Something helpful to farmers,” Mel replied. So he was signed to research work on soil conditioners.

A few months ago, just four years after he started, came the payoff. Monsanto proudly announced a development which stunned the scientific world—the invention of a synthetic resin called Krilium for the conditioning of soil. A small amount of the substance will convert impoverished land to the consistency of rich loam. It was a gold mine for farmers, with undreamed-of possibilities. Co-developer with Dr. D. T. Mowry was the young scientist, Ross Melvin Hedrick, who milked cows and lugged wood on his father’s farm not many years before.

The story of Mel Hedrick is being written many times over with a variety of different plots in the country’s industrial establishments. Because industry is hungry —voraciously, unappeasingly, continually hungry—for job hunters.

Look at the picture: the greatest wave of industrial expansion in the U.S. history is under way right now. This year, companies are laying out over $21 billion in capital goods—more than ever before. Mobilization for defense has a lot to do with it, but a continuing boom is forecast by economists after the leveling off comes.

That means just one thing—jobs, plenty of them, at good pay and for a long, long time.

Where are these golden opportunities? What’s the pay? And the prospect for the future?

Well, the first big, almost desperate need is for engineers. There is a serious shortage which will become more and more acute as time goes on. The Aircraft Industries Association of America has just tossed this bombshell: “The greatest long range threat to aircraft production is the engineering shortage; it may seriously impede future production rates.”

Recent studies indicate that 30,000 new engineers will be needed each year by the government and ‘industry, and that less than half that number will be graduated by engineering colleges in the next five years. During the school year, companies scrounge like mad, sending recruiting officers to the colleges before graduation to snap up likely prospects. A panel of eight General Electric engineers recently revealed at an educational conference in Schenectady, N. Y. that all industries are bidding at a high competitive level for engineers. They are even promising bright students funds with which to continue graduate studies. Westinghouse and Bausch & Lomb are just two firms which have scholarship plans.

According to most recent reports, the average monthly starting salary for engineers is between $300 and $400 per month. Starting rates, however, differ widely according to the type of engineer, and they climb steadily and steeply as experience is gained.

How steeply? MI checked a number of employment agencies and here is just a smattering of the jobs open: chief electronic engineer, $12,000; production engineer, $12,000; chemical plant engineer, $15,000; assistant chief engineer to design heavy machinery, $9,000; mechanical engineer to supervise industrial plant design, $20,000; steam power plant superintendent, $14,500; mining engineer, $15,000.

Aircraft employes are in tremendous demand too, with many jobs going unfilled. The industry is short between 30,000 and 60,000 trained technicians, in addition to engineers. Recruiting efforts are under way in every state. Companies are unable to find enough screw machine operators, turret lathe men, production planners, foundry workers, grinders, inspectors, model builders, painters, radio and radar technicians, research lab mechanics and a dozen other specialists.

Many of these jobs require only two years or less of training and average weekly earnings, according to the Aircraft Industries Association, are $78.68. Pay zooms much higher for experts. And you don’t have to worry about how long the job’s going to last—it will last as long as man’s desire to surpass the speed of sound, to send rockets into space and as long as aggressive nations are on the prowl.

Here are other job opportunities in the country’s big plants—jobs waiting to be filled. This dope comes to you straight from the most official source you could desire— the U.S. Department of Labor which, in cooperation with the Veterans Administration, has gathered the latest data on the occupational outlook.

Tool and die makers: excellent long-range employment prospects. This is the highest paid machine-shop occupation in the nation, averaging about $2 an hour. Tool and die makers often rise to better jobs such as shop superintendent or tool designer, says the Labor Department. And still another avenue of opportunity is to open, after a while, your own small tool and die shop.

Chemists: tremendous demand, with earnings ranging to $400 for beginners and limitless opportunity for advancement. Total expenditures for research and development by government and private industry are expected to remain high indefinitely. Employment in the chemical manufacturing industries is also expected to stay well above pre-World War II levels. Corporation executives are frequently culled from the ranks of the chemists —I. M. Colbeth, for instance, president of the Baker Castor Oil Co., was a chemist for many years.

Shipbuilding and ship repair men: in view of the military procurement program, employment is expected to rise substantially. Nearly two-thirds of the shipyards are on the Atlantic coast. Every yard of any size offers employment in a wide variety of crafts, chiefly metal working and woodworking. In July, 1950, according to the last survey taken, the average production worker in shipbuilding and repair got $64 for a 37.8-hour week. Since then the pay has gone up—high up—for the more skilled and supervisory personnel.

Seamen: an official of the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy declares fledgling seamen have no trouble landing berths. “All they need do is go down to the shipping companies and ask,” he says. Senior year students, he states, have jobs even before they graduate. Starting pay is high—the academy reports that seagoing grads can expect paychecks of $400 a month to start, with quarters and board.

All-round machinists: job openings will be plentiful dueling the next few years. Average straight-time earnings are $1.72 an hour and prospects for promotion are good. Many advance to foreman of a section in a shop or other supervisory jobs, some develop into tool and die makers and others open and run small machine shops of their own.

Boilermakers: they’re the ones who fabricate, assemble and repair boilers, tanks, vats, smoke stacks and other products made of heavy steel plate. When the latest survey was taken, earnings ranged from $1.74 to $2.39 an hour—but that was a couple of years ago and wages have risen quite a bit since.

Instrument makers: small but growing field of skilled mechanics who build scientific and industrial instruments, including optical, electrical, mechanical, aeronautical, electronic and gyroscopic. The development of new and improved instruments for industrial and military purposes is of vital importance to defense. Earnings vary widely because of skill differences. In the last survey, hourly earnings averaged about $2, and the annual salaries in the Federal government ranged up to $6,400.

Radio and television technicians: a strong demand exists and will increase. Men are needed to repair home- radio and television sets and in manufacturing and servicing military, industrial and other types of electronics equipment. Apprentices and helpers earn up to $60 weekly while supervisors and foremen get up to $120.

Lens grinders and polishers: they grind and polish optical elements for binoculars, microscopes, range finders, photographic equipment and other highly accurate optical instruments such as spectrographs and contour projectors. The degree of skill required varies widely. Hourly rates range to $2 and higher and many highly skilled workers go into business for themselves, doing custom work for various industries.

But, the list of jobs hunting for people is long. Bosses are also seeking physicists, mathematicians, geologists and geophysicists, social workers, technical librarians, maintenance mechanics, tinsmiths, miners, coppersmiths and sheet metal workers, stenographers and secretaries, electricians, pattern and model makers, draftsmen, lumbermen, raftsmen and woodchoppers.

If you want the full dope on any of these occupations—exactly what the job entails, whether the work is available near your home town, how you can break in, what apprenticeship or training is required, what your earnings are going to be—get the Occupational Outlook Handbook (Bulletin No. 998) published by the Department of Labor (Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.). It contains almost 600 pages of vital information. Price is $3. If you are interested in scholarships offered by industry to bright young men, send the Government Printing Office 55 cents for the fact-filled Scholarships and Fellowships (Bulletin 1951 No. 16) of the Office of Education.

But, suppose you’re a fortune hunter who is aiming real high, seeking new frontiers to conquer in a business of your own. What are your chances? Well, Lowel Wakefield of Seattle, Wash., went fishing. He hooked a fortune, too.

Lowel knew that king crabs, many up to six feet across, lay in abundance in the Bering Sea. But the sea is 5,000 miles from American markets and the waters are mean and cruel. He got plenty of sage advice to stay away, but Wakefield was obsessed with the idea of bringing them to U.S. tables in ocean-fresh condition. So, he borrowed capital and set up his Deep Sea Fishing Company.

Wakefield installed the latest mechanical and scientific equipment and fought the problem for four tough years. Finally, he licked it. He caught crabs by the tens of thousands where nobody had ever fished before, and he froze them the moment they were pulled from the ocean, thus preserving their freshness over the long voyage home. So, Wakefield found his fortune in the ocean.

In Boston, the Fulham brothers also found gold in the briny. After their father died and left them a small, struggling fishing business, the boys held counsel. There were thousands of commercial fishermen. How about thinking up something new? And then came the idea— wouldn’t customers jump at the chance of getting neatly packaged, frozen fish, untouched by any hands from the time they left the processing plant? The customers would and did. The one-pound packs of frozen, boneless fillets they put up are now selling by the millions. Today, the brothers own a huge pier in Boston and have opened a new plant in Portland, Me.

If you want to find your fortune in the ocean, the U.S. government is now going all-out to help fishermen find new commercial areas of conquest. A fleet of U.S. Fish and Wildlife vessels has been exploring the high seas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico. One craft recently found red shrimp in large commercial quantities at depths of 1,000 to 1,500 feet. No one had ever known they were there. Another ship located new tuna schools off New England.

Wilbert M. Chapman, U. S. fisheries expert and a special assistant to the Under-Secretary of State says, “The vast ocean expanses today offer a new frontier as fabulous in untouched wealth as the old frontiers of the West.”

There’s still fabulous wealth in the earth of these United States, too. Sure, big time mining companies of every kind have dug and scraped for generations, but they haven’t taken everything that’s there by any means. Charles F. Kettering, the famed director and research consultant of General Motors Corporation, says that only five per cent of the coal has been taken from our mines, 90 per cent of the petroleum is still underground. The same is true, he declares, for natural gas.

Dorcie Calhoun found that out. Calhoun, a 45-year-old farmer, convinced that there was natural gas under his mother’s farm not far from Renova, Pa., got hold of some secondhand drilling apparatus and convinced some of his friends and neighbors to back his ven- ture. Month after month they drilled. The rickety rig broke down constantly, but Dorcie patched it up and kept going down.

Once a representative of a big gas company inspected his machinery, laughed raucously: “Why that thing isn’t designed to go down over 2,000 feet,” he scoffed. One of Calhoun’s friends remarked: “That’s funny. It’s down to 4,000 feet already.”

And then it happened. Calhoun struck a gusher and became wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. There’s a fortune underground—maybe under that little campsite you bought for a few hundred dollars, maybe under your farm. Dorcie Calhoun found natural gas. What can you find?

Fortunes have been made in plastics, and many more fortunes will continue to be made. Don’t get the idea that plastics are old hat— new synthetics are being developed all the time. One man is now experimenting with an all-plastic refrigerator; an Ohio firm is talking about making plastic house trailers. There is a new crab trap of wire mesh coated with plastic resins that resist corrosion by fresh or salt water; there are even small boats made entirely of reinforced plastics.

What uses can you dream up for plastics? They may be your future.

The magic word electronics has brought new empires into being. Waldo Kliever of the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. declares that before long, practically everything people do will be done, or at least assisted, by electronics. He envisions electronic thermostats that will detect temperature and humidity changes in the air-conditioning equipment. Dr. Moulton of the Brookings Institution believes that through electronics we will be able to increase the yield of plant seeds, produce smoother milk, ice cream and mayonnaise, and also help to age whisky five years in a matter of days.

Electronics will bring fantastic changes in people’s living and working habits, and whenever such changes occur, there lie opportunities for fortunes. If your aim is big money, heed the advice of General Sarnoff of RCA: “Hitch your wagon to an electron.”

These are just a few of the opportunities that lie ahead for you. This is the age of new careers, of new fortunes in the making. Dr. Karl Compton of M.I.T. says: “I believe that the man of ideas, ability and ambition can look forward to the greatest opportunities in history.”

You’ve heard the knocking before—if you listen, you can hear it now again. Are you going to do something about it?

  1. Kosher Ham says: January 10, 20122:09 pm

    I have one word for you, “Plastics!”

    What is not said in the article is how painfully close for some technical fields are with respect to defense spending. In industries that depend on that government spending it is either feast or famine.

  2. Stephen says: January 11, 20124:08 am

    Electronics certainly was the explosive growth area of the ones mentioned here – though not every company went on to make fortunes. Krilium, mentioned at the beginning of the article, is polyacrylamide:…

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