The study of industrial conditions conducted during the survey left every member of the Survey Staff firmly convinced that the industries of Cleveland have little or nothing worth while to offer to boys under 16. Very few of the skilled trades will accept an apprentice below this age. The general opinion among manufacturers was unfavorable to the employment of boys under 16. “They are more of a nuisance than a help,” said one; “they are not old enough to understand the responsibilities of work.” “They break more machinery and spoil more material than they are worth,” said another. In several of the building trades apprentices must be 17 years old, as the law forbids boys under this age to work on scaffoldings. The new workmen’s compensation law exerts a strong influence in favor of a higher working age limit, owing to the greater risk of accident among young workers.
The fact is that the law is still about one year behind the requirements of industrial life. If a vote were taken among employers who can offer boys the opportunity to learn a trade it would be found that a large majority favor raising the working age to 16. Employment before this time usually leads nowhere, and the pittance the boy earns cannot be compared with the economic advantage he could derive from an additional year in a good vocational school. The average boy who leaves school at 15 spends a year or two loafing or working at odd jobs before he can obtain employment that offers any promise of future advancement. These years are often more than wasted, as he not only learns nothing of value from such casual jobs, but misses the healthy discipline of steady, orderly work, which is of so great importance during these formative years of his life.
The two technical high schools, the East Technical and West Technical, occupy an important place among the secondary schools of the city. At the present time the two schools enroll nearly two-fifths of the boys attending high school. The course comprises four years’ work. In the East Technical the shopwork includes joinery and wood-turning during the first year, and pattern making and foundry work during the second year. In the West Technical the first year course includes pattern making and either forging or sheet metal work; and that of the second year, forging, pipe-fitting, brazing, riveting, and cabinet making. During the remaining two years of the course the student may elect a particular trade, devoting about 10 hours a week to practice in the shop during the last half of the third year, and from 11 to 15 hours during the fourth year.