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Tom & Andy Pattantyus: What our workforce needs, part I

Right Here, Right Now!

Posted: October 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Politicians, from the president down, all say “job creation” is the most important task of the moment Jobs seem to be evaporating rather than being created, and recent job-creation measures have consisted of inefficiently throwing many billions of dollars at the “problems.”

The Republicans see the solution in the reduction of taxes and the many thousands of regulations imposed by the federal and state governments. Those measures have been successful in the past, but they are only part of the solution.

We have also heard about investments in education, which might help as long as the investment is aimed at the right schools. Investment in vocational schools might not only yield short-term returns, but are likely to have lasting effects. 

We illustrate the point with two shining examples.

One of Tom’s grandsons, Adrian, is presently going through the training in the special operations of the U.S. Navy in San Diego. During his senior year in high school, he worked as an intern for a division of the BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. He got the recommendations from different school officials; most importantly, from the shop teacher. In a highly competitive field of several hundred students, four were selected, Adrian was among them.

He worked at BAE as a machine operator in the prototype shop for three hours per day, four days a week and received regular assignments. Though he had a job offer after graduation, Adrian did not join the company, instead deciding to sign up to serve in the Navy.

Adrian spent months on conditioning and training to be able to pass the entrance tests. He was accepted, and successfully completed both the basic Navy training and the selection training required by the Navy’s special operations, lasting for 22 weeks. He was one of the 13 young men who finished out of a group of 57 starting.

We asked him how the internship at BAE helped him in the military service.

His short answers were: discipline, precise execution of the tasks and attention to details. 

Isn’t this what every employer wants?

The second example is from Győr, Hungary. In Győr, just like in other industrial cities, there are vocational high schools. General high school subjects, such as math, physics, chemistry, Hungarian language, foreign language, etc., are taught, as well as vocational subjects. The name of the particular school is PÁGISZ, and it specializes in electronics, electrical engineering and automation.

Students start in the ninth grade; the matriculation is after the 12th grade. There is an elective 13th grade leading to a professional trade license. Between the 11th and 12th grades, students have to work as interns during the summer vacation. Selected students might also have internships during the 12th grade.

The school is maintained by the city (salaries, operating expenses) and sponsored by the various private enterprises. Students are admitted on the basis of merit, and the tuition is free. It is difficult to get in and easy to drop out. The school, founded 48 years ago, has earned nationwide respect for its scholastic excellence and its well-qualified graduates.

Half of each graduating class continues in the 13th-year program or at engineering universities, and the other half are employed in businesses. Graduates after the 13th year enjoy immediate employment.

Two large manufacturing companies are in Győr: the RÁBA and Audi Hungary Kft. Both companies are major sponsors. RÁBA manufactures heavy vehicle parts, while Audi makes four- and six-cylinder engines for most Audi models and assembles the Audi 3 and TT models. Together, with the two large companies, there are many smaller companies also providing work opportunities.

The school typically has 500 or so students from ninth to 13th grade, each grade consisting of three parallel classes (electronics, electrical engineering and automation).

In the course of several personal visits, I have found the school well-maintained, the teaching staff dedicated and the students well-disciplined and polite.

In Part II, we attempt to put the examples in Californian and American contexts.

Tom, a retired electronic engineer can be reached at:; Andy, owner of his business Strategic Modularity Co., at:


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