John Ratzenberger Brings His Summer-camp Initiative to STCC
By GEORGE O'BRIEN
John Ratzenberger says that, when he speaks to groups of manufacturers, which he does often, he likes to hang around after the microphone is shut off and listen to what his audience members have to say.
And he's generally alarmed by what he hears.
Such was the case at a recent gathering of machining company executives in Chicago, where Ratzenberger, best known to most as Cliff, the postal carrier he portrayed for more than a decade on Cheers, spoke about the perilous state of the sector, which he says is seriously threatened because young people don't want to get into it anymore.
"I stayed and talked to some of the people there,” he told BusinessWest in a phone interview from his hotel room in the Windy City. "Every single one of them was worried — really worried. I was talking to one guy with an aircraft-manufacturing company who said most kids coming out of high school can't even read a simple ruler. You ask them to find 3/4 of an inch, and most can't do it.”
Beyond their lack of ruler-reading skills, most young people simply don't have an appreciation for how to make things, or, equally important, how making things can be an attractive career, said Ratzenberger, who has made enlightening them a passionate endeavor for the last seven years or so.
His vehicle for getting the word out is an organization he founded calledNuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, or NBT. That agency is now partnering with the Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Assoc. Intl. and the National Assoc. for Community College Entrepreneurship to develop a national program that builds on a summer-camp initiative blueprinted by NBT.