With scarcely an exception the occupations are of a nature that require the worker to learn through actual experience in the mills. Theory and practice must be learned at the same time. Even the supervisory and executive positions in which a technical education is of considerable value require a long and arduous apprenticeship on the job before the worker can compete with men who have started with the scantiest educational equipment, but have picked up a knowledge of the processes by experience and observation. Below these positions the work rapidly grades off to various kinds of machine operating in which not even the ability to read or understand English is required.
No plan of vocational training is presented, because at present the mills recruit almost exclusively from foreign labor, and only a very small number of boys from the public schools are likely to seek employment in them. The technical content of the work which might conceivably be given in evening classes, except in the case of the few directive and supervisory positions, is so small that continuation instruction offers but meager hopes of success. Under present conditions the long working day and the necessity of changing from the day to the night shift, or vice-versa every two weeks, constitutes an insuperable obstacle to the organization of night classes.
The principal need of the rank and file is a speaking and reading knowledge of the English language, so that the workers can be taught to avoid and prevent accidents, and give themselves the necessary care when they occur. Instruction in English with possibly courses in accident prevention and personal hygiene represent about the only training possible that can be said to have any real vocational significance.
A careful estimate places the number of men engaged in building construction in Cleveland at the present time at about 30,000, comprising more than one-fifth of the total number employed in manufacturing and mechanical occupations. About two-thirds of these workmen are skilled artisans, distributed among some 20 different trades. The estimated number in each trade is shown in Table 22.
The building trades get their workers from four principal sources: immigration, native journeymen from outside the city, helpers, and apprentices. Immigration contributes the largest proportion in both skilled and unskilled work, practically monopolizing the latter. Over four-fifths of all cabinet makers, more than two-thirds of all brick and stone masons, and nearly two-thirds of all carpenters are foreign born. Plumbers and steam-fitters show the smallest proportion of foreign labor.