The government has just unlocked the industry's "Gold" reserve, according to Paul Ridilla.

America's gold bullion is locked up securely at Fort Knox. There is no doubt all of us would like to get our hands on a couple of tons of that gold, but this isn't much more than a wishful dream.

Meanwhile, the gold reserve our government has just released to contractors definitely will help you accumulate your own supply of gold bullion. The gold reserve I'm talking about is our industry's Gold Mentors - older experts who are far more valuable in today's critical craft crisis than any precious metal.

When America's Social Security Act was passed back in the Depression, it limited the earnings that retirees could collect while working. Last March, however, the legislation was rescinded, allowing retired and semiretired seniors to stay involved on the job while collecting benefits.

I am not sure how many of you actually realize how much this will affect our industry.

Make A Wish

This new government policy is one of those wishful dreams come true. The security gate to all of America's retired or semiretired Gold Mentors not only is unlocked - it is now wide open. This is a win-win-win-win situation you can simply call "sharing the wealth."

1. Our Gold Mentor wins because he now has an opportunity to give something back to the industry, sharing all his years of education, experience, wisdom and morality with another generation

2. The Gold Mentor's spouse is possibly the happiest winner since she gets him off the couch and out of the house. Having a lifelong construction man cooped up in his own house every day is parallel to having a wounded tiger in a cage. Zookeepers at least have the option of throwing food through the bars and walking away, but these poor spouses have to sit at the same table and listen to the growling.

The spouse also wins with newly found income that helps make their golden years even more precious.

3. The apprentice, intern or protégé is naturally the biggest winner. Apprentices desperately need the knowledge, experience and wisdom, otherwise they would have to spend years painfully trying to learn it.

4. Our construction industry and every contractor in it also wins big. Gold mentors assure our customers a quality mechanical product. To them, quality is not just a word. Quality is their personal commitment. They meet or beat every schedule. They came from the proverbial "old school," where a man is only as good as his word. When they tell you it will be done on a certain date, you have their word, and it will be done.

Gold mentors are also ultraconservative penny pinchers. They survived a major economic depression and learned the value of a dollar the hard way. They take vigilant care of tools, trucks and equipment because they know the cost involved with repairs, inefficiency and replacement. They also carefully use every inch of material and save every nut, bolt, gasket and fitting.

Your Green and Gold mentoring program would accelerate every willing apprentice's learning process and pay increases. In addition to the positive effects on apprentices' morale and attitude, your greatest benefit would come from protégés bragging to their friends and relatives. This immeasurably attracts new, young craftsmen to our industry.

Our nation cannot survive without skilled, dedicated and qualified craftsmen to build, maintain, repair and replace all of our necessities and luxuries. The good Lord may have created heaven and earth, but He did not build any roads, bridges, homes, schools or hospitals, or the automobiles, refrigerators, air conditioners, water and sewerage systems, and electrical power plants that accompany these accommodations.

Cashing In

Today's skilled-craft shortage is only a temporary misuse or misplacement of many proud and talented individuals. America has not and never will run out of these craftsmen. We have millions of willing and capable, natural-born craftsmen, who are frustrated and seeking employment in other occupations, hoping to find someone who will respect, appreciate and properly reward their efforts and abilities.

Our industry's failure to properly train foremen, project managers and superintendents in human relations issues exposes these "green" newcomers to an occupational image that stinks. The most critical element for any good craftsman is pride. This pride naturally is dependent on producing quality workmanship, but you cannot overlook the critical importance of respect.

Untrained foremen, superintendents, project managers and contractors unknowingly abuse this desperate need in many ways, which we will address in next month's issue. For now, let me remind you, the security gate is wide open. All you have to do is go get yours.