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What do you know?

This weekend, the DH, our son and I went to see the newly released film, ‘Defiance’ with Daniel Craig, Leiv Schreiber and Jamie Bell, which is about the fantastic and almost unbelievable story of a family of brothers who escaped to the woods in Belarussia in 1941 and managed to save over 1000 Jews from the Nazis by hiding underground, creating a series of communities in the woods, and frankly stealing and attacking the German army and collaborators wherever they found them. One of the most interesting scenes in the film is one where a great number of Jews from a town are rescued and are asked, while they stand in line in front of a make-shift registration area in the woods, what they know how to do. A watchmaker demonstrates that his skills can be turned to repairing a rifle. Others announce themselves as nurses, dressmakers, boot makers and so on, worthy additions to the Bielski Brothers’ ever expanding world.

While I sat there watching the story reel out, the thought occurred to me that we really don’t know what we can do if we try. There is one character in the film who when asked what he did in his old life, announces himself as ‘an intellectual’ – yet, not to much farther in the story, we see this man perched on the top of a shelter hammering away to help put a log roof on which will be covered with branches so that the Germans cannot see it from the air.

I think before we see genuine improvement in the economy, a lot of us are going to be faced with this same situation: We may not be able to earn a living with the skills we have; we will have to learn new ones or add more depth to the skills we have. I’m not saying that we should all run out and attach ourselves as apprentices to shoe makers (if you could find one who would take you on). What I am saying is that it might be a very good idea for us to look ahead and think, “What skills can I learn or add which will make me more valuable at work – that will help me not get fired or laid off?” Or, what if my company just decides to go into Chapter 7 – straight for bankruptcy – not into Chapter 11 (reorganization). Looking in my local area, will my skills still be valued or should I start thinking about adding some skills that more companies in my area are hiring for?”

At the moment, I’m working on learning Access 2007; my current company uses this program a lot and other companies use it also. If I were a younger person, I’d think seriously about taking some technical courses because we have a large percentage of our manufacturing base locally which uses those skills. But the important thing, I think, is to think ahead – how can I turn my skills to a new situation if, like those people in the woods, I’m asked “what do you know how to do?”

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  1. Miss Janey says:

    Excellent suggestion… Miss Janey’s Papaw taught her and her sibling from a very young age to be very handy and to do things for themsleves. Miss J remembers him buying them all bicycles, from the Pennysaver and after much haggling- one of his favorite things to do. He showed Miss J to use steeelwool to take the rust off the chrome of her bicycle. When Miss J got out on her own in the world, there were a great many things she had to do for herself- apartment repairs, refinishing old drawers. Miss J has almost NEVER tackled a project without thinking of her Papaw Doug and his steel wool. We are all capable of much more than we are usually tasked with.

  2. htwollin says:

    Hey Miss Janey!! The ability to de-rust metal objects with the vigorous application of steel wool followed by paint etc. is a terrific skill to have. My boss at work learned just such a skill from his own father while growing up in the the same time he learned how to take apart cars and motorcycles and put them back together again. One of his hobbies currently is doing this with classic motorcycles. There are many things that we can learn how to repair, replace and rehab – yes, they save us money and also recycle something into something useful, thus keeping it out of the landfill, which is always a great idea.

  3. cidell says:

    I’ve had this same thought lately since I’m not a trained anything. I’ve been wondering what would I do if my position were cut (which has a 50/50 chance of happening). It’s one of the reasons I decided to take up the dressmaking courses. It was either that or nursing. I tend to think of nursing as recession proof.

  4. htwollin says:

    Yep – almost anything health related is a good choice, though if I had to go with something(and I know this sounds weird), I’d go to my local BOCES (that’s our voc tech in New York State) and take the machinist course. I used to do economic development for a local gas/electric utility and that was everyone’s big beef, that they could not find enough machinists. They were willing to take kids straight out of the BOCES program(and this was 10 years ago), pay them $35,000 to start. The whole thing these days is CAD driven, so I see it as a very creative mechanical thing. The teacher at the program told me that women are really good at it because they don’t come in with any pre-conceived notions.

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