Labor Shortage

mrtrudeau23

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Dec 29, 2008
Location
Chicago, IL
You've got a very good point here. We've all worked with the kid who came out of college, but still didn't know how to plug in a cable, "because that's not what designers do". There are too many programs out there that don't recognize the value in teaching and learning all levels of this business, and who completely ignore the fact that it is a business. I definitely had some serious blind spots when I came out of college, but at least I came out equipped to learn it, and with experience actually putting shows together.

I'd love to see more of the major programs offering associates degrees focused on technology and stagecraft. The engineering college I went to was going through a very similar process with engineering, and refocusing all the programs to have "technology" associate's degrees focused on the physical work of engineering. It was even a huge breath of fresh air for the engineering side, as those students got a lot more experience seeing how things were actually done, instead of just on paper/in CAD.
Agreed. My program focused on developing a portfolio so you could get into grad school. Grad school and New York were really the only things that were pushed on any of us, design/tech and performance. Not once did I hear that Chicago was an option for theater in college despite it being just a 4 hour drive away from campus. I had to learn about the Chicago theater scene at an internship after college. I probably would never have moved here if not for that internship and the people I met there. The opportunities I had in college to design and learn the install/construction side of theater were great, but after graduating, I wished we had learned about other directions we could have taken our careers besides going directly to grad school or moving to NYC to try and make it work.
 
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Starr T.

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SCC Sylva, NC
I didn't get into the field thru the college door, but have worked on several campuses & with many grads. Frankly it feels rather unfair and misleading that their programs are not more realistic about working in the industry! Everyone pays their dues by starting in some lower role than they may be aiming for, to hopefully learn the ropes in that venue, or prove themselves. It frustrates me to also hear profs talk trash about equipment, that is not top of the line; like its trash you'll never have to work with. Well, how many folks here still work/ed in venues or for performing groups who only have old gear & can't yet afford upgrades? Its our job to work with what they got & make it work sometimes; are they teaching that? So, if colleges are just taking kids money & selling pipe dreams without real substance, they deserve to close. Leaving my soap box now...: }
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
If we only train "designers" then we have nobody who understands how to make the physical and real-time things work. The idea that every tech theater major needs to be a designer does a great disservice to both the students and our industry.

Just sayin'.....

edit ps: Most theater education needs to be burned to the ground so we can start over. That's the nicest way I can say this.
 
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mrtrudeau23

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Dec 29, 2008
Location
Chicago, IL
If we only train "designers" then we have nobody who understands how to make make the physical and real-time things work. The idea that every tech theater major needs to be a designer does a great disservice to both the students and our industry.

Just sayin'.....

edit ps: Most theater education needs to be burned to the ground so we can start over. That's the nicest way I can say this.
So true with many things. Basic maintenance on anything is rarely taught. Either you send it out to be fixed, or you buy new. There is very little, "Hey, let's crack it open and see if we can fix it ourselves" these days. Or at least it feels that way.

It frustrates me to also hear profs talk trash about equipment, that is not top of the line; like its trash you'll never have to work with. Well, how many folks here still work/ed in venues or for performing groups who only have old gear & can't yet afford upgrades? Its our job to work with what they got & make it work sometimes; are they teaching that? So, if colleges are just taking kids money & selling pipe dreams without real substance, they deserve to close. Leaving my soap box now...: }
We're still operating with Altmans (mostly the brown axial ones), Colortran 5/30s (which sometimes look as good as a S4 if you can bench it right), and PAR 64s from the 80s in our mainstage spaces. While these fixtures are slowly starting to be replaced, especially with the difficulty of getting PAR lamps, they still get used in almost every show. 2 years ago we finally gave away all our radial Altmans, spare frames and extra parts that had been taking up (a lot of) space under our fixture storage racks to various groups and individuals. I think 95% of that equipment went to groups that intended to continue using them.
 

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What Rigger?

I'm so fly....I Neverland.
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Location
PPT.
I didn't get into the field thru the college door, but have worked on several campuses & with many grads. Frankly it feels rather unfair and misleading that their programs are not more realistic about working in the industry! Everyone pays their dues by starting in some lower role than they may be aiming for, to hopefully learn the ropes in that venue, or prove themselves. It frustrates me to also hear profs talk trash about equipment, that is not top of the line; like its trash you'll never have to work with. Well, how many folks here still work/ed in venues or for performing groups who only have old gear & can't yet afford upgrades? Its our job to work with what they got & make it work sometimes; are they teaching that? So, if colleges are just taking kids money & selling pipe dreams without real substance, they deserve to close. Leaving my soap box now...: }
You're describing any university that has lost track of its job. It seems more than we think have done just that. I've dealt with dozens of new hires in the last 10 years that didn't know how to load a truck, or hump feeder cable, because "I'm a designer....I'm a programmer....where's my chair?" is their default. On top of that, fault lies in our (now former) hiring manager who was more concerned with your Boy Scout rank, and whether or not you currently attended his mega-church (or might be persuaded to do so). We went through a couple of years of a number of Eagle Scouts, who ironically could not tie a bowline, with no tolerance for prevailing conditions on any given day.

The job of the university is not to train anyone for a career. The job of the university is to train people how to discern what is true. If you come out at a level to make money (at anything), that's a bonus.
 

ship

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Mar 29, 2003
Location
Illinois
Had a discussion with my #1 laid off assistant at a remote storage building today. Asked him in grabbing some lamps he wanted before trash, while purging thousands of dollars of lamps so as to make space for gear I stored just fine "Approved of the design for my area" in the main shop, than had to move in making "open area" space in my department and all others more so at the shop again. I didn't ask for or need in efficiency detrement. Purge #3 so as to make space I did not ask for and will hamper productivity. Spent thousands of dollars in going plastic bins also in removing all cardboard boxes in purge #2. Than got thrown under the buss in doing so in spending that money. Long story

So many parts of this reply deleted in pissed but keeping on topic.

My prime assistant, I need him, he is me in as smart and able but younger. He as my Wife won't come back to work at 32 hours per week and some less than 40 hour weeks given he is on unemployment. My Wife has to care for the kid now in school, but by 2PM have to be ready to receive her from shorter school hours. Not much help in after school day care not active. My assistant complies with this for primary care giver to child. Work offers show Pay and cash day rates in seperate and not complicating the un-employment system. We also both noted that before this..... we were on the every other year pay raise thing, and we got stuck with pandmic without. Me in salary that 70% pay without that raise. Others, the Wife and #2 laid off. Not cost effetive to leave un-employment.... I went fishing today. Good in general policies, but needs some tweaking in I need him back to the shop and he wants that also.
 
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ACTSTech

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Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
the draw of sex drugs and rock and roll will bring them back.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your views) the people looking for this aren't going to find it. I got called in to do a two-day (which turned into a three-day) job and the steward told me he can't find people to work the things that are getting ready now. The touring shows that were famous for their debauchery are nearing retirement age, some of the "younger" ones have new policies to keep the inebriation to a minimum, or not at all if they're dry or fresh out of rehab, and the calls for shows that don't have that lure to begin with (theater tours or dance competitions) aren't going to pull the wild and crazy set.

Not for nothing, and I'm not condoning or criticizing that lifestyle, but I've send home union people who show up unfit for work. The last thing I ever wanted was a drunk rigger flying equipment. Several houses around here, especially those on school grounds and college campuses, have begun putting in stipulations that anyone working must pass background checks and are subject to drug and alcohol tests.

My two cents, if we want to be professionals, we need to act as professionals and train our workers to be professionals. Party hard after the show, after the load out.
 

chawalang

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Joined
Apr 10, 2012
Location
Texas
I went to my union meeting this month to see what the state of things is. My B.A and President said by all indications things are going to go from 0 to 1,000 overnight some time between mid summer and early fall.

With that said he told us the over hire list is pretty much destroyed by this point. A lot of our older members decided to retire, I honestly don’t blame them. This included the entire rigging team from our busiest roadhouse.

We also discussed how we can take this time to weed out people who conduct themselves in an undesirable manner. It presents an opportunity to put the best foot forward. Way before the pandemic the age of the hooligan stagehand was coming to and end. Despite the pushback, customer service is just as important as a skill now as everything else we do with our hands.

Especially in the post COVID world organizations are going to look for reasons to not negotiate with labor. If it is between a few people guilty of non stop hoolaginism and an entire labor force, I have no problem using the hooligans as sacrificial lambs.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
I went to my union meeting this month to see what the state of things is. My B.A and President said by all indications things are going to go from 0 to 1,000 overnight some time between mid summer and early fall.

With that said he told us the over hire list is pretty much destroyed by this point. A lot of our older members decided to retire, I honestly don’t blame them. This included the entire rigging team from our busiest roadhouse.

We also discussed how we can take this time to weed out people who conduct themselves in an undesirable manner. It presents an opportunity to put the best foot forward. Way before the pandemic the age of the hooligan stagehand was coming to and end. Despite the pushback, customer service is just as important as a skill now as everything else we do with our hands.

Especially in the post COVID world organizations are going to look for reasons to not negotiate with labor. If it is between a few people guilty of non stop hoolaginism and an entire labor force, I have no problem using the hooligans as sacrificial lambs.
Your Local needs to be very careful about handling workers whose performance issues have not been reported (in writing) by employers - whether casual employers via a hiring hall or work referral system or by bargaining unit employers.
 

josh88

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Ypsilanti, Michigan
With that said he told us the over hire list is pretty much destroyed by this point. A lot of our older members decided to retire, I honestly don’t blame them. This included the entire rigging team from our busiest roadhouse.
I just got a taste of this too. We're playing host to one of the broadway tours for two weeks to rehearse and run their show before their tour gets rolling. We'd need 25 hands for 13 days and we're not sure we can fill it, so we're already reaching out for replacements.

We've got 1 other roadhouse in town and an arena and if we share a load in day with either of them, we're all screwed at this point. The most reliable members are gone.
 

SS Minnow

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Jul 8, 2016
Location
USA
Why would anyone want to return to our industry if they could have a brighter future building solar panels or learning to code? With the state of the economy, gas prices, etc, people will be looking to be secure with their weekly paychecks, benefits and perks one did not have prior to COVID and having to explore other means of employment. As a School of Hard Knocks grad /Touring Professional , I have had to go outside of our industry to make ends meet. After sending out multiple resumes and applications, and getting limited responses, an opportunity arose purely by chance with a company that used to have their shop next to ours. I am grateful for the lifeline and enjoy the job and people I work with, but also am struggling with what I will do when the gig phone rings. I know I will make better money on the road and the 75% drop in pay has hurt a bit. My heart and passion lies with our industry as well. I also hate the thought of bailing on a person, who I consider a friend, and who has provided me with income over the last 10 months and possibly putting them in a bad position as it is a small company. As far as the up and coming labor pool goes, I think there is indeed some trouble ahead. I have spent years learning, and continue to learn. I take pride in knowing I can design a rig, build it, fly it, program it, operate it, tear it down and put it in a truck and buy the beer for the crew afterwards. I will gladly do one or all of the tasks involved to achieve the goal. A lot of panty waste college kids I have seen in my travels lately are purely one dimensional cry babies with dreams of being the hot shot designer and perceive the dirty work that has to get done as being below them. Just sayin’…
 

ship

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Mar 29, 2003
Location
Illinois
Cubscout crew chiefs. Retirement age Owners and upper Managers are coming problem. More and more training necessary from laser lights to all forms of ETC protocol, rigging etc cert's needed. Mush less..., less work to get than I was able to get in the early 90's in affording donut's for dinner at best!
 

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Saratoga Springs, NY
I'm blowing the dust off my call list currently and seeing what is what. I'm finding a massive brain drain. We have people, but most of my more casual crew heads that I used when double/triple booked are out of the area or industry. I have very little depth in actually skilled positions. Our ad on offstagejobs.com has been live for a few weeks and I've gotten 2 resume's. So, while I'll be able to staff shows with bodies, I won't have the skills to do it properly. So, longer load ins and more supervision will be needed and probably additional people to cover. I had issues filling shows in 2019, this is going to be a total mess in 3 months.
 

ship

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Location
Illinois
In an overly long Dept. Head Meeting today... do you know anybody... semi-silled or best yet, at least high school educated we can train... Not even mentioned a request to find some college educated people for lighting to hire on... This is going to be worse than I experienced in 93-96. Back than in lack of work in general and my name not out there sufficiently on analogue call lists during a recession. Lots of jobs now, who will settle for them for wage? I didn't have a problem in only finding pay for food an rent back than. Now hopefully this is not a necessary verses "career" choice to build from. Completely different time than that of the 90's recession. I hope all well in new jobs if necessary, or in general recognition and soon raise.
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
In an overly long Dept. Head Meeting today... do you know anybody... semi-silled or best yet, at least high school educated we can train... Not even mentioned a request to find some college educated people for lighting to hire on... This is going to be worse than I experienced in 93-96. Back than in lack of work in general and my name not out there sufficiently on analogue call lists during a recession. Lots of jobs now, who will settle for them for wage? I didn't have a problem in only finding pay for food an rent back than. Now hopefully this is not a necessary verses "career" choice to build from. Completely different time than that of the 90's recession. I hope all well in new jobs if necessary, or in general recognition and soon raise.
crap wish you were out here. I would take shop work in a heart beat with you. My fingers are crossed we get back into the shop before everything in August is confirmed to dust off the gear and make sure it all works. A years worth of I worked gear can’t all be tested and working a week before shipping. I’ve started bugging them weekly again in hopes that they will listen. Work is coming and fast and I hope everyone will be ready across all the things we do.
 

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